Sunday, February 21, 2010

Moving toward the light…

Working on a book project is like navigating though a long cave-like tunnel. I like this analogy for a couple of reasons, but the main one would have to be the amazing similarity of navigating through a dark treacherous cave, to finding my way from sketches to final artwork. I told you this was a dangerous business! Believe it or not, it’s the in-between stuff that’ll get you. The darkness of a cave and the many detours that branch off of the main cave work perfectly for this analogy. Even though I have a clear vision of what my final paintings will look like, I could easily take a wrong turn or stumble down a unforeseen tunnel and then suddenly my painting doesn’t work in the context of the story I’m illustrating. I typically get about 6 months to do a 32-page picture book, give or take a month. So, theoretically, I’m in that cave scenario for quite some time.

Three weeks ago I emerged from the cave-tunnel. I finished and delivered all final artwork for a book project that I started back in August. What a feeling! What an achievement! What am I going to do now? I went from “yes!!!” to “alright then, what’s for dinner?” It’s always the same, sort of quiet and anti-climactic. I did just emerge from that scary cave. Did anyone notice? Hello? I guess I expected a brass band or something, a standing ovation maybe. The wave perhaps. And why not? How many people does it take to do the wave properly? I’m guessing three. And as it just so happens, I have three people who could have done it for me. But no. “Could it kill you to do the wave for me when I finish a book?” Just once, I’d like to step out of my studio after completing a very demanding book project and see a halfway decent attempt at the wave. “I don’t ask for much; a little fame and fortune, and the wave from time to time. That’s all.” These people are too used to me. “Oh look, someone let dad out of his studio. Mom do you know about this?” Oh well. I’ve crossed the finish line. I’ve made the cut... I’m going on through to the next round. (A little American Idol lingo there, and very apropos I might add.)

Thumbnail Sketch © Guy Porfirio

Final Painting © Guy Porfirio

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Buddy System…

Never go into your studio alone. Always let someone know where you’re going to be, and stay close. So, just in case you don’t come out, we’ll know where to look. Dangerous business. You’d think someone would have mentioned that little tidbit back at the Academy. “Listen up guys, this is powerful stuff we’re learning here, nothing to play around with. We haven’t lost anyone in 35 years, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

If you spend enough time forcing yourself to see a certain way, you're going to end up seeing a certain way. Take it from me. I seem to have misplaced the off button. “Oh, what a beautiful sunset… Not bad... but I would have moved that mountain peak over to the left just a bit and then the clouds on the right are a little busy. Yeah, I would lose those. Now the focus becomes the treetops in the foreground and how they catch the orange light just the right way directing your eye back up toward the glow coming off the mountains. Ta-Da! Next.

I could be at a gathering with friends, completely caught up in the conversation and before I know it, I'm not hearing a thing. I’m completely focused on thier facial expressions and body posturing. It’s fascinating. “Hmmm…” I ponder.  “Look at how even in the darkest shadow area under the jaw there is still enough detail to define the form. Make a note of that.” Or “Look how that subtle dip in the corner of the mouth changes the expression from amusement to sincerity.” Luckily, these are good friends and they make plenty of allowances for me cuz I’m one of those artist types. 

The payoff? Ideas! Pure gold in my world, and they come fast and furious. Being observant, knowing yourself and how you feel about things is the key. It’s the artist’s vocabulary.

"The Day I Could Fly"

 Endsheet thumbnail sketch

And  the final painting