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Analysis / Process / Research for Paintings

Finished Japanese Koi Pond Image

In the past few days, I developed, over 6 hours, a painting called “Japanese Koi and Pond’. I posted some details on the brushes and program I used (Procreate) but I wanted to add that a lot of work went into researching and analyzing this painting. Here is that story.

Firstly, before I paint a digital or acrylic painting, I research the subject. In this case, not knowing a great deal about Japanese gardens, I needed to know about the trees/shrubs, granite materials, foliage, etc. In order to find brushes that can duplicate these textures.

Reference-Koi Fish

I created mood boards (created in Pinterest) of Japanese monuments, pagodas, and gardens. This allowed me to accurately sketch garden layouts and create plants that looked like they belong. Additionally, I started mocking up colour palettes that would work for me. All part of the process.

My next research task was studying plants from Japanese gardens using my trusty Google search, with a focus on image search. I do not believe in copying but needed to recheck my research on plants and foliage leaf patterns. Nothing looks worse than painting a plant or tree that does not exist in a Japanese garden.

Reference – Japanese Maple

I also researched on Youtube, painting Japanese gardens in Acrylic and Watercolour to see what others had done and to watch tutorials to learn techniques. I also searched through dozens of artists’ sites to see examples of garden paintings in this genre.

At this point, I easily have 8-11 hours of background research completed and I have yet to start the painting!

Before I go much further, I needed to determine a layout and chose a square layout. Using the rule of thirds, I drew in some lines to break the painting up into 3rds. At this point, I determined the stone pagoda structure would rest on the right side of the picture, 2/3 rd’s across the page. And about 1/3 rd down the page.

Reference-Koi Fish Example

Once I placed the pagoda (I also refer to this as a monument/cairn), on the right. I wanted to balance this with foliage on the left side, tiered like stack stones. With a red coloured Japanese maple. Above this foliage “stack”, I sketch in some grass, going from left to right, with a downward direction pointing to the pagoda, as a visual cue for the eye to wander.

Below the foliage stack on the left, I placed a series of horizontal granite blocks with cool textures and light illuminated faces (on the tops) pointing towards the pond on the right. This pond would have a series of Koi fish swimming in circles to add to the picture. They would be created in the water, surrounded by reflections of the pagoda.

The water in the lower 3rd of the image would be made up of dirty water with mud, debris (leaves, flower petals), along with reflections and some blue tints above the fish. The koi fish would be below the water only a few inches, swimming by the surface. This would allow the viewer to see the outlines/shapes of the koi. But more of a suggestion they were there.

Reference – Targetting how people move through picture
  • I have attached a drawing on the general directions my visual elements would take in the image.

As part of my research and planning, I like to list the steps I hope to take in building the fundamentals of the image. So I block out larger areas of colour and shape with custom brushes. I start with shadow colours (in this example, for foliage) and then layer in brighter shades of green and browns/yellows.

After I sketch out the solid colour blocks and shapes (and they look appealing and balanced), I will experiment with some textures. It is critical at this point I determine where my lighting is coming from (sunlight). Garden’s are lit by the sun outdoors, reflected light by the sky (with a blue colour cast), reflected light by other plants as well as water reflections. Lighting a garden image can be very complex and involve a lot of colours.

My painting progresses and starts to take shape. In some areas of the painting, I may copy and paste an area of the picture duplicating the textures to save me some time. I can stretch or manipulate that layer as I see fit. I also review the painting to ensure the leaves and branches do not look perfect. I need to ensure they look random, include discoloured foliage and broken, deformed sticks, chipped stone. As an example when I paint on acrylic paintings, When I paint rocks like granite, there will be cracks, chips, and odd colourations just like in nature. We have to remember to duplicate the “chaos” of nature for it to be believable.

Reference – Granite Textures

I want to add that I am not striving for perfect painting and foliage/plants. I want to create a suggestion of moss, leaves, and stone textures. The human eye fills in the rest and if you are really creative, you see aspects of this painting that do not exist.

As I continue to finish this painting, not unlike a game concept artist, I flipped the canvas to see how it looks in reverse. You can find many mistakes or problems in your drawings/paintings doing this.

Once the painting is getting close to completion, much like acrylic paintings, I will create and layer “digital glazes” to accentuate shadows and colour casts.

The last step, and its a tough one for many, is determining when to stop. On close to 90% of my paintings, I create a signature layer at the top of the painting and then see spots that need extra work. One likes to think you’re signing the painting, it is complete. Rarely is this the case!

Reference – Foliage Examples and Color Palettes

Hoped you like my explanation on how I paint and research a painting. A simple 6-hour painting can easily take 20-30 hours of work. Be sure and check out my Facebook page and Instagram page for more art posts.

Cheers

Gordon Currie

Japanese Koi and Pond Update

Today’s blog post covers some of the software I use for my digital painting. I also talk about brushes I use to create some of the textures I use for foliage (for my garden art).

My program of choice on my iPad Pro (12.9”) is Procreate Version 5. It allows me to sketch ideas and paint images I post on this website. I use a 1st generation Apple Pencil along with a variety of accessories (clear protective cover for the screen as well as special pen tips.

Most of my paintings are created ranging in size from 12” x 12” up to 18” x 24” at 300 dpi. This allows me to print my images and make prints on paper and canvas.  I order them from a variety of sites online and have the prints sent to me.

I use brushes for my garden art paintings from brush packs I have bought online or created myself. Some brushes I have bought include brushes from Art and Design brushes (V4) purchased by DesignCuts.com. I also use brushes from Visual Timmys Holy Halftones,  Mandy Bellwoar’s Ghibili brushes and many others.

When I see textures of plants, bushes and general jungle foliage, I will scan the images into my computer and create patterns used for creating custom brushes, that I create in the brush editor that comes with Procreate. I can customize hundreds of aspects of each brush including colours, pressure, rotation and angle off my digital pencil.

One of the secrets I use to create plants is to paint the dark background and shadows of the leaves and foliage first. Then I randomly generate the leaves and brighter foliage. Knowing what direction the lighting is coming from is key. As is backlighting the can reveal leaf’s veins and patterns. Also varying the colours to include browns and yellows or in some cases reds and oranges for certain Japanese plants.

I have a number of brushes I use that are designed for painting bark and the branches of trees and bushes. Every tree / branch / roots have a very unique pattern and texture. So creating random patterns is very important. I have brushes for dappled tight that pokes through branches and create unique shadows.

Shadows on plants and trees is very important. Know what shape to paint them as well as shadow colours is very important for realism. Angle of light, reflected light ( from both the sky and objects on the ground) and other light sources. This is a topic that could have its own blog post by itself.

Procreate uses layers ( like Adobe Photoshop has for years and pioneered) that allow you to separate objects and create layered water effects. On a recent painting of a Japanese Koi pond, I used layers to give the pond water some depth and allow koi fish to swim just under the water’s surface.

Some of my images I create are designed simply to post online and share my art as well as flush out. These are done at much lower file sizes and resolutions. This allows me to work with dozens of layers. For images that I create for larger prints at 300 dot per inch ( a standard resolution for high quality prints), I have much fewer layers available to me. What this means is I have to plan my digital paintings in advance. As mentioned in past posts, I create a lot of digital sketches, paintings and colour studies on my iPad for my acrylic paintings on canvas. This allows me to mix colours, experiment with different ideas, without wasting paint or canvases. This is better for me and saves me money but it also way better for the environment. Some people don’t like the idea of digital paintings. They don’t feel they are real art. But the reality is you need to have skills to paint (for all types of painting) and understand colour theory, composition, rule of thirds and many other aspects of creating art.

Lastly, I wanted to mention again, that I have a number of my paintings (both digital and acrylic) available for sale at reasonable prices. They make great gifts, wedding presents and gifts at the workplace (retirements). Just drop me a note or call me at 250-784-8383 and we can discuss options. I am not focusing on too many commissions this summer as I am trying to spend as much time outside as I can.

Talk soon!

Gordon Currie

Inside Secrets To How I Create Art

Today I wanted to share some of the ways I create art. In unique ways. Yes, I paint digitally on my iPad Pro and acrylic canvases, but few know how images and paintings come about. I wanted to share one example.

I recently used a reference photo for a digital drawing I painted. Many of my images are made up of 3-4 images that I assemble or Adobe Photoshop or Procreate. This is usually based on either my knowing how to draw something or want to include a tree from one picture and add it to another. With many of my Japanese-themed art, I take a waterfall from one photo and assemble it with a different scene if it suits the combined image I want to paint.

In the case of my digital painting, I completed it after a number of hours and had it printed on canvas and mounted on stretcher bars, and stapled it. In some cases, I stop there and hang the finished artwork. Today was different as I placed the painting on my mantle and sat and watched it for a while. I then started watching some youtube videos of artist James Gurney. I love his style of painting and past work paint dinosaurs for Dinotopia.

On one of the videos I watched he was teaching techniques for using gesso (I use gesso to base my canvases before applying colour) and modeling paste. He created bark-like textures for the skin of dinosaurs he was painting and I thought this would be a great technique to try.

So my plan is to apply modeling paste onto the areas on the canvas I had printed and repaint and add acrylic paint on the image. But first I would add texture using modeling paste. I would apply it with a palette knife and let it dry and then I can paint over it with acrylic paint, slightly thinned so that the paint would flow into the deeper recesses. I would use my acrylic gouache paints and regular heavy body acrylics and build up colour and textures. Many of my landscapes have mountains, trees, and logs that can be detailed with texture, giving the painting a 3D look.

One technique I have used is to thin down acrylic washes and paint multiple light washes over a painting, build up colour layers. When you get up to 20-30 layers of colour, the colour gives a luminescent glowing feel to the painting. It works well if you use quality paints with proper application. I would combine the glazing technique along with the texture technique to create a special painting.

So to recap, here are the techniques and technology I use to create this type of artwork:

  1. Reference photos to understand how certain aspects of my painting look correct.
  2. Using layers in Adobe Photoshop or Procreate software to comp up a concept drawing.
  3. I watch videos on Youtube to learn new techniques or methods to create my art. I am inspired by other professionals.
  4. I will complete my drawing on my iPad with Procreate and the Apple Pencil.
  5. Once the drawing / digital painting is completed, in this case, I have it printed on canvas and stretched.
  6. I then review the stretched painting, and apply modeling paste for texture, and then paint over the texture.
  7. I then apply multiple glazes of transparent colour that when layered make the painting glow.
  8. The last part would be to sign the image and spray with a protective varnish layer so the paint can be dusted off in the future without removing paint. The varnish also brightens the colours, maturing the blues and greens and warming the reds and oranges up.

The above process is not used with all my art or paintings. But you can see I use different tools (mediums and software) along with techniques I have learned and picked up from professional artists I admire. Youtube allows me to watch and learn many new techniques at no cost.

The above is only one series of techniques I use. Every painting is original and unique. Now in some cases, I will create prints to sell as there is only one original and it might sell for $300-$600. My prints can sell and do sell for $150-$200 each. I keep my print runs below 50 so they keep their value. But a regular painting can generate the original price and then print prices. I print on highly quality paper using special archival inks that last 120-150 years

Hope you enjoyed this explanation of how I create art for some of my paintings. I will post additional techniques in the near future if there is interest!

Cheers

Gordon Currie

Long Awaited Art Website Update

Hi everyone!

Well, I have been very tardy with updates on my site this past 6 months. I am still actively painting (both digitally and acrylics). So where to start?

Health Update

These past 6 months, I have had to deal with my health challenges. They included side effects from my May 2020 stroke. Additionally, I have lost a lot of weight ( down to 139 lbs from 175 lbs two years ago). This coupled with some dizziness and tiredness made it hard for me to work much, if at all. I was on short-term disability in the fall of 2020 and I had to fight to get my long term disability. It finally was approved/arrived in mid-spring. In May of this year, I was hospitalized after collapsing at our cabin at Moberly Lake, BC. After a few days, I was released. Not sure what happened.

I am now back to pretty much normal and actively painting about 45% digitally, 40% on acrylics, and about 15% experimenting with watercolours and pen and ink. Also using some Gouache (opaque watercolours) a bit.

Art Update

Most of my art lately,  has been a blend of Landscapes, Mountain / Lake scenes, abstracts, and some old English architecture (Costwold architecture).

I did spend a number of months building fantasy houses and castles in Cardboard, Balsa Wood and other crafting supplies. I would then paint them and detail them. I also went back to painting miniatures (Warhammer and other types of Orks and Orges). This helped me pass some time as I was dealing with lawyers on my disability claim. Glad that was resolved.

I will be attaching some images of my art projects. I was very affected by COVID rules and could not focus much on selling the prints of my art. This was disappointing but for my own health and others I had to isolate for a number of months. I am fully vaccinated now and the rules are relaxing this summer. I hope to put on a display of my art prints ( I printed quite a few when Covid hit). My plan is to hopefully sell some online and in a coffee shop locally. If y health improves, I will set up an online Shopify store. If you are interested in prints (very high quality and different sizes) contact me. I limit how many I print to keep the value up.

As mentioned above, I am experimenting with different types of art. I am returning to many of my roots with Watercolour and Garden images. I am creating some small pen and ink drawings that are coloured with Windsor Newton colored markers (alcohol-based). I hope to be able to display some work soon. My goal is to paint “Plein air” outside this summer if the heat is not too hot. I have always wanted to paint with others outside (around town or at the lake).

I am still very active online with the Procreate Community ( Procreate is the #1 iPad drawing/painting program). I create original artworks and also create digital mockups of my acrylic paintings to suss out ideas for artworks and colour palettes. I am a moderator on a number of online communities donating time to help other artists, teaching them how to market and create art. I work in spurts as I have the energy and work 1-2 hrs at a time. Usually on the couch on my iPad Pro.

On the topic of iPad’s, the New iPad Pro came out with the new chip (A12 I believe) and I hope to save up for one of these. Coupled with the new Generation 2 Apple Pencil, it will help me create artwork. Some of my artworks are large in size on the iPad so I need to get one with a lot of memory.

I continue to follow my youngest brother’s art career (Dave Currie) as he paints original acrylics. He is very successful with his art and it’s very much in demand. He has such a unique style and one day I would love to do a group show with him. When my father was alive ( he passed 2 years ago) I always wanted to do a show with Dad, Dave, and myself. That will not happen now but painting with Dave would be fun! Time will tell.

If anyone is interested in knowing what paintings are available or prints, drop me a note on my Contact Page or call me. I am doing some limited commissions but need to focus on marketing my existing paintings and prints now that I can see people post-covid.

Take care and I hope to share more as my health improves! Have a great day!!

Gordon Currie

Update Coming Soon!

Hello to my many website fans

Just a quick note, it’s been a month since I last posted. I wanted to share a quick update.

In November, it was determined I needed surgery and to see a specialist. I do NOT have Covid but due to the rules, I was not able to get in for surgery until January 18th. I did paint both acrylic originals and digital art but I have been quite sick with kidney issues and another ailment. The pain meds and issues relating to my ailment have made it difficult to work, paint much or deal with day to day living.

Once I recover later this month, I will post some examples of recent work. I expect to be back painting in February 2021. If you need to speak with me or inquire about availability of a painting, please email me, but do not post messages thru facebook at this time.

I appreciate your thoughts and well wishes. It’s appreciated! More art to come very soon.

Thanks for your patience!

Gordon Currie

Recent Acrylic Paintings

Today I wanted to share some recent paintings. These paintings are both abstract and somewhat impressionistic. They are each 18″ X 24″, on deep canvases (1.5″ deep) and are both originals. If you are interested in either of these, don’t hesitate to call me at 250-784-8383 or email me at gcurrie@eldoren.com. The price for each of these paintings is $250 + any shipping costs. These are originals and they do NOT have prints available.

“The Great Fire” – This painting started on a concept I had of a great old-growth forest hit by a lightning strike and catching fire. On one side you were presented with green foliage and trees and on the other side, a raging fire consuming the forest. A small pond of water sat between the two and the reflection of the fire could be visible.

“Abstract Jungle” – This painting started out with a number of bright colours and represented a jungle scene with a variety of plants, trees and then some rendered bright colours in the centre. A stone wall is represented at the bottom ( close up you can see much more detail – the photo doesn’t show that well, you need to see this in person! It’s very colourful and quite intense.

Reminder – I have a number of high-quality, original Acrylic paintings for sale and in stock — perfect for Christmas presents. I also have a number of custom digital art prints, of gardens, European architecture and other themes. Many are 16 x 20″ in size or bigger and are less than $75 a piece. Contact m today to check out my inventory. ** My plan was to put on a small display at Beans and Barley coffee shop this month but the current covid rules have made that next to impossible.

Rustic Italian Village

Rustic Italian Village – this Digital Painting was created using Procreate 5X and the Apple Pencil. I used my new Seamless Texture brushes (which I love!) by VisualTimmy. You can really notice the texture work on the rock and foliage. My favourite brush is the Cork texture brush. This painting took 4 hours. #procreate #visualtimmy #digitalart #digitalpainting

Recent Work and New Pet Portraits

Japanese Tranquility Garden – this digital painting was created in Procreate 5X / Apple Pencil. I mocked up about 4 images and a created a collage. I used 16 custom brushes with 6 texture brushes. I plan to create prints of this artwork. [1st picture on right]

 

Hidden Grotto with Waterfall

Fantasy Digital Painting – This painting, created in Procreate 5X started yesterday as a hidden grotto with a small waterfall running through it. I added a orange koi in the pond, with a Japanese cairn nestled amongst the rocks. And old ancient staircase borders the falls. This painting took 7-8 hrs over 2 days. I used a collection of brushes including rock textures, ghibli brushes, airbrushes and the 6B pencil brush and technical pencil. This could be considered a concept sketch for a computer game.[2nd picture on right]

 

Painting Jeffrey Ellison – A few days ago, I started on a painting of a friend (Tara Ellison and Jordan Ellison’s) new puppy, “Jeffrey”. He is about 8 weeks old, and is a Neapolitan Mastiff. He is very cute and I simply had to paint him. Tara provided me two different images, so I painted both. Each was painted in both Adobe Photoshop and then exported into Procreate 5X. The fur was a challenge as its a steel grey colour depending on the light. It was fun to paint him (from pictures). He will be a valuable addition to the Ellison family!

About Gordon

Gordon Currie has been painting watercolours, acrylics for over 15 years. Gordon has painted Digitally on an iPad for 4 years/ His work has been displayed all over Canada, the US in private collections.

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