dinsdag 19 juni 2018

Into Valac's Realm (2018)

Hi Everyone!

Every once in a while i have the urge to talk about the process of my artpieces. In this blog post i will talk about my newest image called Into Valac's Realm. My goal is to teach, inspire and simply guide those interested into my process as an artist.

The image is made as a part of a series, with an emphasis on the Indo Scythians/Biblical Lost Tribes, which delves into their tales of war, heroism and falling from grace through occultism.

Into Valac's Realm

The Goetic Memoires describe lands parallel to ours in ancient Arabia that is home to Valac, the Marquis of Snakes. Those daring to travel the lands bringing offerings and sacrifices can expect to be thaught the powers to find treasures and transmute simple minerals to the purest of gold, creating a pilgrimage for alchemists, magi and adventurers alike.



Inspiration:


1. Oxen, by Sebastiao Salgado.

When i saw Sebastiao's photography at his exhibition ''Genesis'', i liked everything about it. The atmosphere, nature and the in depth traversing into the lives of various african Tribes. Various of his imagery have been a major inspiration to my latest art pieces, and also this one below.




2. The Hamaxobii Scythians
I always like to do my research on the history of various outlandish tribes around the world. Thats where i stumbled upon the Hamaxobii Scythians. Descendant of the Persian Medes who, instead of other Scythians being horselords, they traveled and lived in their tents, pulled by Oxen. This proved to be a major selling point of the painting.


3. Medes and Scythians

After doing a bit more research on the Hamaxobii, i learned they were descendants of the Medes, who were a persian people, and Scythians (who were a mix of various people in the middle east, caucasus and levant). So i did some research on key elements of fashion from that time, and i found various elements that triggered my interest. One is the Mede gown, which had an interesting fold pattern, and the other being the Archetypical Scythian hat, staff and boots, which i applied to the painting later on.











Process

 

Stage 1: Block-in and finding a narrative

 This is the stage where i attempted to blockin the comp and narrative. I still wasn't sure what the story would be about and i let myself be carried away by the placement of the objects.

Stage 2: The Magus and the Worm

This is the stage where the image would have been leaning towards a magus with his entourage delving into a Lovecraftian Landscape after hearing a calling (hence the magus influencing the tentacles/worms), something i ditched for the most part due to conflicting narrative elements.


Stage 3: Reference for character + Polish

This is the stage where i applied reference shot for the character (Cheers Jesse!) I attempted to replicate the foldings of the Mede Robe shown earlier with clippers. Furthermore i recommend using the Auto Tone function once in a while to get some color contrast fixing in your image. (The image was mostly brown first, but right now it has blue on the light parts and red on the shadows.)


Stage 4: Almost finished the image. Not!

As i almost finished the image and showed it around, most people told me the same thing: The aesthetics work, but the narrative doesn't resonate. Mostly due to the following reasons;

The man, the cart and the oxen don't interact with their surroundings. They just walk like nothing happens and the tent on the cart doesn't tell a specific story. I had to push deeper. The tentacles don't seem to be adding movement or narrative to the image.

It seemed like i still had alot of work to do after all!

 

 

Stage 5: Lambs to the Slaughter

I decided that the image is about a Magus bringing human sacrifices to a Lovecraftian Entity. I changed the tent/cart to hold human prisoners and the oxen to be more afraid of the tentacles.

 Stage 6: Almost finished!

Besides the fact that the oxen and the cart have more narrative, the character felt a little stiff/lacking a story. I decided to have him interact with the oxen more, and have him push one annoyed. I re-shot reference for the face, looking towards the oxen, and the hand being in a more pushing motion. I also made the tentacles more aggressive and darkened the sky to decrease contrast and emphasise mood.



 

 Stage 7: Into Valac's Realm; The Goetic Alchemist

In this stage the image is finished. I finalized all the little details and i even added a final push to the story:

I changed the narrative to something more occult/mythological rather than Lovecraftian. I have always been intrigued by the lore of the demons of the Ars Goetia, the way they look, what they offer, and what they take from their victims.

The Man, descendant from ancient tribes mentioned earlier is a wandering alchemist (See the ornate jewelry and the pouches filled with coins), delving into a parallel universe (see the outlandish structures and turbulent sky), who is home to the fallen angel Valac, also known as the Marquis of Snakes (see the tentacles from previous iterations being turned to snakes). In return for Human sacrifices the demon teaches those who manage to get far enough with knowledge of finding treasures, and transmuting mundane materials into gold.

 



In this image i learned a lot regarding the use of deep narrative. I need to get more extreme with gesture and interactions rather than only making a ''nice picture'', to make memorable imagery. And also very important: i need to dare more

I hope you found use in this blog post. Please comment and let me know what you think!

All the best,

JCH

www.joelchaimholtzman.com










zondag 3 december 2017

Mjolnir Coil (2016)

Hi Everyone,

Every once in a while i would like to talk about the process of my more succesful pieces, made around 1.5-2 years ago. Besides the fact that i hope to help and inspire those who are reading, its a great way to delve into the realm of Nostalgia.

The piece itself was made within a series, of historical characters interacting with supernatural beings.

The painting depicts Nikola Tesla, having Captured the Norse God Thor and using his anger and hammer to fuell the Tesla Coil. These series were a great vessel to increase my inspiration for further painting i would make.

Mjolnir Coil
 
''As a human race we are weak. Countless Philosophers, conquerors and inventors did not change that fact of the matter. But look at us now. Together, we can make so called ''gods'' kneel, and serve as the footstone of our civilisation.'',

-Nikola Tesla's Pitch of the Mjolnir coil to Thomas Edison


 Idea Sketches
 
Here are a few sketches of ideas i had in mind, trying different POVS. I decided to go with the second POV however i changed a few things:

1. The manner Thow was chained to the coil, looks too much like a crucific. I did not realise the resemblence up until i made the sketches, and i decided not to go with this subject matter. Mostly because of the fact that the theme of a christ like figure being chained is overused/cliché and could be perceived as offensive. Furthermore it didnt add any interesting design or narrative to the story i wanted to tell, to i did some research about Tesla, and decided to use a full Tesla Coil where Thor is chained up to.

2. Thors Hammer, Mjolnir as shown in the Mythology (and the Marvel Cinematic universe) can only be wielded by Thor himself, so it wouldnt make too much sense for a skinny guy like Tesla to wield it. Even though Thor is held in submission. From this point i decided to make Mjolnir the main part of the Tesla coil, and let the viewer decide how it got to be a part of that contraption.

In this image i wanted to emphasise that Tesla is in a large ball room kind of area with thor. the setting, while wanting to show alot of energy, seemed a bit stiff and could have alot more power. Thor wasn't struggling, and the setting seemed a tad dull and boring.

So this section is a significant improvement. It shows alot of dynamics, where the lines of the ballroom, add depth, as well as pointing towards the Coil. There were still a few problems. There were a few perspective issies as well as Thor still needing a bit of Work. The tension of being bound was still missing!

Design wise i went slightly different with Thor. I really, really, didnt want go for a Marvel/winged helmet kind of look so i just took my liberties with the fact that he is the god of fertility too besides being the god of Thunder.





 Photos by Jimmy Nelson's ''before they Pass Away''. A must include if you are a character designer.


As you can see here, these are obviously not norse characters, but African. However, i thought it would be cool to combine the two elements. Part A of how we know Thor, and part B of something completely new. Adding two unrelated subjects together is a major way of creating cool and unique characters.




At this stage things are starting to come together. Thors hands tell alot about the Tension he is enduring, and them wearing metal gauntlets also give a nice contrast to the organic and shamanistic objects he is wearing.

Regarding Tesla and his consorts i wanted to go for a steampunk look, to make them look mighty enough to be able to challenge an entity like Thor.



At the finished piece, i played alot with the lightning from Mjolnir to show depth, action and movement. Thors red hair and yellow flowercoat prove an interesting focalpoint against the general blueish hue of the image. The lightning also connects the two main characters of the image. Thor and Tesla.

It was a challenge for me to utilize these aspects back then since i was mostly proficient with more static characters, so this piece proved a milestone for me using various elements to enhance the dynamics in future paintings.

I hope you enjoyed this blogpost, please let me know if you found any use in it and if you have any comments.

All the best,

JCH



maandag 11 september 2017

Promise of Power: My First Expo

Hi Everyone,

In this blogpost i would like to talk a bit about my experience on my first expo, especially the opening, and i hope it encourages you to set up your own!




How it all started

I went to an exposition of friends, around a year before i decided to do mine. They were present at a local art collective and they invited friends and family. Food was present, music even and a general good vibe. I wanted to try something similar.
So i am a regular customer at my local American Book Center and i noticed that they organize various expositions upstairs. One day i just asked the store clerk if i could enter, and after showing my work he was excited and then the preparations were being made.


First steps

At first i decided to just use prints and frame them, invite a couple of friends/family and generally have a good time. The news came to my dads ears, and as a man who was a succesful artist back in the day, with expositions around the world of his photography, he implied i should take this more seriously. I should ditch the paper prints for this purpose, and he would help me get some proper prints. 

The more we worked on this, the more serious the entire idea became! I decided to invite alot of people. Print flyers, ask friends, friends of friends, old friends, and future friends. Family and in-laws.


Ordering prints


I went to the local print stores and noticed a few options that caught my attention:

(I do not own any of the 3 images shown as example below)

Option on wood:  Artwork would be printed on wood. Either with or without white colors (so that the wood would replace everything that is white) I did not choose this option because my work contains too many value ranges on different places. It would be a mess. This option, however, would work on media with strong contrast and a limited valuerange.


Museum glass: This is the most aesthetic pleasing of all options. It is something, as the name says, that could hang in a museum. The colors come out nicely and the print has a nice coating of glass for an extra professional feel. I considered this option but it was a tad too expensive. I do not have an audience that generally collects more expensive artwork/originals, mostly prints, so i should find a nuance for now.


Forex print: This is the option i decided to take. Its a high quality form of cardboard which is very light. the colors come out extremely nicely even though the print is extremely matte. However, since the material was so light/fragile it couldnt be fastened with a hanging device. This proved to be a pain later on, since i had to fasten it myself!



Opening

 


90% of the effort was aimed towards the opening. The most people would be there at once, after that the expo would be present for a month where only a trickle of people would be there at the same time.
I invited everyone i have and had contact with, the latter aiming to reconnect and hopefully rekindle old friendships. In many cases it happened succesfully! I am working with old friends now to expand my business and i had great talks too with people i didn't see for a while! People who were important in my life connected with each other as well which was great to see.



To backup the costs of the event i had a booth selling prints, as well as showcasing work not hanging at the expo itself.



The most important part of this expo was not to sell prints necessarily, but mostly for the reasons mentioned above. its a great experience, and it adds alot to a professional atmosphere around your work in general.



I recommend every artist take a stab at this. Invite your family, friends, old and new, fellow artist and print alot of flyers! Spread the world and who knows who will come to check out your work. It's a great reason for you and enthousiasts to look at your work in a different light.




Hope this was interesting and even inspired you to take a similar initiative as i did! To this day i even hear at conventions that people saw my artwork IRL at this exact expo and i connect with them immediately. If you have any questions regarding setting up your own expo, make sure to message me!

All the best,

JCH




zondag 6 augustus 2017

The Resurrection of the Ouwlaw King (2016)

Hi everyone,




Here is another Walkthrough from one of my recent more succesful paintings (1 yr). It depicts William Wallace, After being slain by the english. His king makes a pact with the Gwyllions of Wales to resurrect him, by stitching him while he is nailed to trees. Just playing around with history and myth around the same area and time.




Resurrection of the Outlaw King


''The Guardian of Scotland is Dead; Betrayed by our enemies, branded traitor and mercilessly executed.''

Hope is lost among the Clansmen, but I, Robert the Bruce, Heir to the Scottish throne did not. The Gwyllions of Wales want to play.They have recovered William's dismembered bodyparts and restitched them together for our cause. They even clothed him in old scottish manner and donned his warpaints.

With their unholy blessing our hero will lead us to victory once again, but at what cost? When we win this war, what will these hags do once they have access to the Throne of England? '' 

 Idea sketches

 In this painting i wanted to depict the battle fought when WW is already been resurrected, as some kind of frankensteins monster, next to Robert the Bruce, the future Scottisch King. I liked the motion but i didnt use it because it wouldnt emphasise the entire selling point, which is that WW is resurrected by a mystical power.
 
 
In this painting i wanted an stoic scene where WW and Robert are ready for battle. As with option 1 it just didnt emphasise the selling point, and just wasnt that spectacular in general. The background seems a bit weird as well (doesnt fit the mood and narrative)

This is the sketch i eventually chose to pursue. It has an interesting angle, it tells the story in a clear way, and it has the best mood of the 3 sketches. I also chose to retain humanoid proportions for WW because i didnt want the character to look too comical.

Here is the chosen sketch after some work. It looks pretty decent so far, but the more i worked on it, the more i got overwhelmed by the piece. It was all to blame to not using the proper reference or only using it halfway.


 
I used my girlfriend as reference. As you can see this doesnt look like anything i am painting. She doesnt wear the clothes of WW. she doesnt have the body type of WW and her arms arent leaning on anything. This reference is 99% useless besides the pose perhaps.


Here is when things are starting to get hard. I started to lose control of the values when moving to color (Thats why you should check your values at ALL TIMES through a Hue/Saturation layer). The piece lost its mood from the sketch and i did not use proper reference for the kilt/body. I just grabbed something from the internet and tried to integrate it on the pose of someone lying down, which i can guarantee you NEVER looks 100% natural, as you can see above.
Here is a comparison of the greyscale version from before and after i added color (so you can see how it went wrong)

Left piece has a pretty intense mood, accompanied with a wide value range, while the right piece (where i started to add color) started to look messier in general, while losing the sinister vibe the first sketch had.


This is where things started to become frustrating. I started to render only realising after a while i am not anywhere near a realist level. The mood is still missing (its a tad better due to the darker background) the folds are slightly better but not perfect (as i will show you later) and the anatomy is so, so. Alot of guessing again from reference that isnt in the same pose whatsoever, and no time is spent emphasizing the muscles.


   
Here is a reference piece use for the piece above. I shot a photo of a male friend to better suit the subject. Its slightly better than the first reference but again, not there at all. The cloth is just strewn on his body, not wrapped around like a kilt, nor does it have the same pattern as a kilt. The upper body of my pal should have been exposed to show muscles to help me paint them.





At this stage things are starting to look brighter. I used proper reference on the clothing and it shows. The background is painted decently but the mood has been lost again after a 
while of painting. Always make sure to check earlier stages of your painting to find parts you lost but could use again!



At this stage i started to take things way more seriously. I asked another friend to tie a sheet around his middle and a another sheet around his torso/hips (fastened with a belt) to make it as realistic as possible. Too bad i didnt take the time to find a checker sheet to emphasise the kilt itself, but the largest part has already been done. However, i still needed to find reference online for prominent muscles (no offense to my buddy ofcourse!) but at least right now i knew where to place them. 


At this stage things are starting to look more finished. Rendering to its fullest, as well as finding proper reference for the little Gwyllions for which i used my girlfriend. She wasn't comfortable with doing nude shoots so we shot the photos with stretched clothing. The lady sitting bottom right was hard for me to do with clothes, i couldnt see certain muscles bending with the movement properly, so she agreed to take one photo without clothes.(which i am not going to share for obvious reasons :-p)


At this point the piece if finished. I emphasised the focal point to be the center of the image, where all the seweing is taking place. The golden beltbuckle serving as a bounce light source to light the gnomes and part of WW's face. When characters are lit from below it always give you a more dramatic and foreboding vibe, so i took full advantage of that. I darkened the surrounding area of the image to get the sinister feel back, but i had to watch out to not get TOO dark. The most important part is just to have the gradiation going of the values (from dark to light).

This piece took alot out of me; It was hard, challenging, but i learned alot when it comes to preparation and proper reference usage. Taking things to the next level so to speak.

I will try to make these blogpost a 1/2 week thing. I really like to share knowledge and hear positive things from people. Sharing is caring after all!

Please let me know what you think of this post,

Have a great one!

JCH