Monday, March 6, 2017

Uinta Chipmunk (A Step-by-Step Demo)

Anyone who has hiked up to Angels Landing knows that, while on the move, you spend a great deal of time watching the trail ahead of you. (After all, accidentally wondering off this trail can be VERY traumatic.) And, as you near Indian Lookout you start noticing something new flitting back and forth across the trail (and maybe coming inquisitively close to you if you sit down to take a break along the way.) This speedy little fur ball with the alternating burnt orange & white stripes that runs with its tail stuck straight up in the air is Uinta Chipmunk, and it calls the higher elevations of Zion Canyon home. And this week I thought I'd share a "pocket painting" step-by-step demo of how I went about painting this energetic little fella.

As with most of my Zion paintings, I began with a small pencil comp study on gridded paper -- discovering the light/dark patterns, selecting the format shape, and determining the compositional relationship.

Work now begins on the pocket panel I've selected for the job -- in this case a 5x5 Gessobord which I've pre-toned with Burnt Sienna (a little darker, and redder, than my usual Yellow Ochre) -- as I quickly draw in the key shapes & confirm the shadows. (Note that I decided to draw the chipmunk slightly larger than in the comp study, and eliminate part of the surrounding sandstone.)

Painting began with a quick roughing in of the subject and establishment of the first shadows in the surrounding Navajo sandstone -- working from the middle tone of the panel toward my lightest lights and darkest darks. (That is, at this stage I avoid using white or chromatic black.)

With the color/tonal areas roughly established in the chipmunk I continue to block in the shadows and secondary (reflected) highlights within the weathered stone -- paying particular attention to the cool/warm contrasts.

Value contrast is relative: lights will appear lighter as new darks are introduced; and darks will seem to get darker as new areas of light are applied. For this reason (and to allow me the freedom to "discover" new highlights and core shadows to the very end) I continue to hold my lightest & darkest colors in reserve.

Once all of the general shapes have been blocked in and the basic color patterns have been completed I turn my attention to the final details; fine tuning color, unifying form, and carefully selecting & applying the brightest highlights & deepest shadows.


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