“How To Confidently Pretend Like You Know How To Paint” PART 1: Sometimes scribbling some shapes and staring that them like a hippy stares at clouds can spark a creative direction. But if you already have an idea, but still haven’t learned anatomy correctly after almost 100 years of life, take some reference photos. Usually it’s cheapest to use yourself as a model, but there are some hiccups with this route. For instance, I wanted this painting to be a skinny girl. I decided that it didn’t have to be a girl, but it still should be have a less puffy face. So in this case, I went on an extreme diet for 3 weeks prior to taking this photo because I have no idea how to improvise.
PART 2. Paper is still good for fun things like paper-cuts on your gums, making Chinese throwing stars or holding it up in front of your face while your friend is talking to you about Whole Foods again so don’t have to listen to them. But why waste precious paper and kill trees when you can use technology now!? We no longer have to use computers only to play Oregon Trail. We can use them to draw in Photoshop AND play Oregon Trail. If you notice the file size of this is over 900 Megs, and that’s because I scribble over the same drawing on about 900 different layers until there’s a sketch that finally stops making me feel like I totally want to Schroeder my head into the piano. Oh and the cool thing about computer-sketching is that you can decide later how big you want to paint it. Unlike sketching on flat murdered trees. Once you decide on a size, that’s it. Shit is real. No digital manipulation in real life. Oregon Trail!
PART 3-D (not really): Now that I have my sketch and realize that it’s raining outside like “gatos y peros” as they say here in Germany, I decide to use the one panel I had access to without getting wet or getting an umbrella, which was a 20"x 16" piece of clayboard. Clayboard is cool AF. it’s made from a bunch of compressed, ground up ashes of evil gypsies and because of that, it’s a very smooth and hard surface but also very absorbent. But it’s picky about what materials you can use on it. I do a lot of my black and white inking on clayboard because you can scratch away the black and make super fine-white details with a knife. Anyway, I don’t want to transfer the drawing just yet because I will end up losing the lines right away, so instead I just get a monkeys paw and use my first wish to hope that I generally splatter ink and water in the right places that will fit where the drawing will go. Then I use the second wish for the rain to stop, and a third wish for a leprechaun to deliver me a pizza because that ALWAYS puts me in a great mood. And then I apologize to the hand-less monkey.
Part 4: Ink and water seems to be a little wet, even when applied to absorbent ground up ashes of evil gypsies, so I had to let that wetness dry. Putting it outside in the rain would only make it worse, as funny as that would look. So I put a hairdryer on a tripod, pointed it at the panel, and went on YouTube to watch videos of paint drying because it’s way more fun than doing it in real life, especially because you can comment on the videos with silly conspiracies like “At 5:36 into the video I swear you can see Seth Rogen’s face in the paint”. So now that the panel is dry, it’s time to transfer the sketch. I used an updated dot matrix printer called an “ink jet” to print out the sketch on as many pieces of paper as it takes to get it to size. This is NO TIME for tree-sympathy. That was in the past. Then in between the sketch and the panel, I put a sheet of carbon paper down, then I just re-draw the drawing directly on top of the print out with a thin but hard pencil. This pushes carbon onto the panel wherever the pencil is pushed. You can find carbon paper at most art stores, or inside Han Solo’s frozen coffin. (Cheaper but messier way is to just coat the back of the print out in charcoal).
PART 5: Yay! Like a jailed convict who gets rewarded for good behavior, the drawing is now TRANSFERRED and the first layer of line-work gets applied (I use strictly Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes for inking). Unfortunately, there are a couple of stages in between this one and the last that I forgot to document due to silently pounding my fist into a vat of peanut butter out of frustration for making the same mistakes I always forget I make. There’s a few different brands of inks that you can use on clayboard and I use all of them. However, when wanting to apply black India ink on top of them, it doesn’t always work. I ended up using the wrong type of inks (don’t use Dr Martin’s Bombay India inks) and the black was completely repellent. So I had to use steel wool to sand off almost all of the ink’s finish in order to lay down any lines. So now a lot of the color is lost. Oh well, what’s lost can sometimes be found. That’s what Indiana Jones is good for.
PART 6: Jason Lives. I re-applied more color inks and water to make it more vibrant, mixing with the black India ink, throwing the brush around like Stevie Wonder hitting a piñata, and now it’s just a complete mess. But that’s ok, because this is also exactly how I clean my room, and how I eat my food. The messier it is, the more people think you know how to paint and tell you how much “contrasting texture you created” when in reality the dog jumped on your lap and you didn’t mean to mix blue on the end of the yellow arm. But the trick isn’t applying the paint, it’s cleaning up the mess.
PART 7: CREATE MORE MESS!!! The only important thing when making a mess is making sure that each layer of mess you make is DRY before you make more messes. It’s easy for a wet mess to become mud. Mix all of the colors together when they are wet and they morph into the sauce of diapers. Don’t do that unless you are painting raw sewage, feces, a rusty tank, or a portrait of Jeff The Drunk from the Howard Stern show. Ok well now that there’s 4 layers of mess, now I’ll start cleaning up the crime scene while watching people play Mega Man on Twitch.
PART 8: ITCHY AND SCRATCHY! So, unlike the kitchen after making an entire orphanage a vat of spaghetti, we are on to the most therapeutical stages of working on clayboard, which is the clean up! Because of all of those compressed evil gypsy-ashes that make up clayboard, it’s very soft and susceptible to sharp or coarse things. What I mean is, you can scratch, sand, and rub away any part of the painting that you don’t want to look at anymore because it reminds you of the bad times. So, using various tiny knives that previously belonged to wall-trolls, some steel wool, and even sandpaper, you can scrape shit away and now control the amount of mess you want to keep on your skin, I mean on the painting, as well as create some highlights and value changes in the painting. Unfortunately a lot of times this makes it appear a little flatter and less vibrant/colorful because when you scratch it, every color now has plain white highlights. But at least it’s a start. OREGON TRAIL!! MARIA HAS DYSENTARY!
PART OREGON TRAIL: JASON GOT A SNAKE BITE! WAGON WHEEL GONE! DIED! DIED! CROSS RIVER?! DIE! DIGITAL DEATH! TOTAL TRAIL FUSION FAILURE! CANNOT COMPUTE! DYSENTERY! CHICKEN POX! BUY A YOKE! SHOOT SHOOT DIE! Tombstone death.
PART 9. Please disregard that last post. Some of the evil-gypsy-ashes from the clayboard got into my Commodore 64. It happens. Maybe pen & paper IS better than computers. Oh well, onward. I didn’t like that the colors were muted after creating white highlights, so I decided to add more color back in. This time I used light washes of acrylic. That way, I could make some of the areas solid and bright and some of them I could keep some of that texture that I pretended to create on purpose. This also really makes the shapes pop out from each other and gives me a better map as to how to apply the last layer of line-work.
PART X: I’ve lied a lot in the last few posts, but only about my favorite parts of the painting process. The final layer of line-work (using a Winsor-Newton Series 7 brush and black speedball ink and/or Royal Talens) is my favorite part. It’s like black glue that holds my confused puzzle together. After this stage, there’s just a little more shading and highlighting and scratching and sanding in order to make it look like I always intended it to look this way. And there you have it. Pretending to know how to do something until eventually you are happy enough with it not to practice your sick karate on it. Thanks for coming along on this word-ride with me. Prints of this "Eye Am Sorry" piece will go on Sale Friday at shop.alexpardee.com
EPILOGUE: I scan the painting on a flatbed Epson Expression 10000 (yes thats the real ridiculous name), stitch it together in photoshop, and slightly color correct it and clean it up before I share it. This is the most important part in my opinion because otherwise you're sharing a dirty diaper instead of a clean pretty one.