Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Airbrush Demo - I M Pei's Louvre

The Louvre in Paris has been around for hundreds of years, beginning as a businesslike medieval castle, and developing into a royal palace. It acquired its present style in the Renaissance under Francis I, who tore down the old castle and began to develop the dignified, sculpted facades we see today.  The Louvre has long housed a private museum for the French kings, and under Louis XIV, the Sun King, the state academies were established there.  With the revolution the museum became a public institution and the royal academies became the Ecole des Beaux Arts (and were moved to their own digs).  The photo above shows the courtyard at the turn of the century.  The monument in the foreground to Leon Gambetta was removed during World War II, but otherwise the configuration of the Louvre was unchanged until the arrival of Pei's pyramid in 1989.
The following images are the scanned slides I took while producing a comprehensive image of the new construction.  For anyone interested in airbrush work it should be interesting.  For the rest of you, scroll down to the end to enjoy the finished product.  (The lighting was less than optimal, so there will be glare and uneven color, but hopefully you can still understand the process)
This is the concept sketch showing the enclosing courtyard and the underground visitors area.  It is clunky, but the basic idea is there.
Here is the computer model of the pyramids with the surrounding existing buildings blocked in.  The general idea of looking into the courtyard never changed.
The same model with the underground areas modeled. This was the final viewpoint.
A view from under the large pyramid showing escalators and the spiral stairs going up to the courtyard level.  As with all my rendering work, there is more detail than would ever be needed.
The model seen from the final viewpoint.  This print, about 31 inches wide, will be part of the underlay for the final ink line drawing.
The idea now was to hand draw the existing facades onto the blocked areas of the computer model.  Photos such as that above served as rough underlays to guide the work.
Here is a rough pencil sketch of the combination computer & hand drawing.
And, here is the finished ink line drawing.  The final drawing was ink (using technical pen) on mylar, and was 31" x 15".
 A close-up of the central section.
A detail of the same drawing at something close to the actual size of the final drawing.
Here is a color sketch, approved by the client, and pinned up over my drawing board to keep the final idea in mind.  Obviously, the color and detail will be developed as the final painting is done, but it is always good to have something reminding you what you promised to do.
The ink drawing printed on matte photo paper.  I got in the habit of working on a reproduction, as a safe-guard against some major catastrophe, such as having one of the children drooling on it.  In the worst case scenario I could start again with a complete line drawing.
First, a layer of white sprayed to reduce the lines to grey, and to reduce the chance of oily fingerprints on the paper.  All opaque paint was acrylic airbrush color, "Medea Comart Opaque" in this case.
Now a mask of frisket film is cut covering the building, and the sky is sprayed with ultramarine and red transparent ink. All color spraying used a transparent drawing ink, "Pelikan Drawing Ink A".  In this way the line drawing would show through the color, and I could play down the lines with opaque white, or add to the strength of the line by re-inking later.
The same is done to the blank space at the bottom of the rendering using ultramarine, red and black.
The mask over the building is removed.  The lines on the original art are still clear, in spite of the overexposure of this photo.
A mask is cut so that only the old existing buildings are revealed.
The existing buildings are given a gradual darkening toward the roof, suggesting the lighting which will be coming from the courtyard lamps and the pyramid itself.
The work area.  In an unfinished cabin.  In the Adirondacks.  My wife, Linda, sitting on our bed at the left.  All to remind myself and any reader, that it is you, and not your studio or equipment that count.
The dark tiled roofs are masked and sprayed.
The rendering at this stage with all masking removed.
Mask the existing building and spray with a tan mix of transparent ink.
Further darkening and warming of the building, including the roof areas.  You can see the roof area mask section floating in the sky.
Mask removed.
The ground plane of the courtyard is masked and sprayed.
The rendering "in situ".  Note the color sketch pinned to the wall.  Also, the open window; a necessary bit of ventilation for airbrush work.
The pyramid is masked and sprayed with opaque white to suggest the interior glow of the glass and steel.  One of the most difficult problems in this job was the balancing of the different lighting.  The existing buildings were stone with punched windows, meaning that the stone was warmly lit by the courtyard lighting, while the windows were either dark reflections or brightly lit from within.  The pyramid was a glowing lantern defined by the structural lattice brightly lit inside and darkly silhouetted on the outside.  The interior spacees below ground needed to have a warm, even lighting, as you would expect in a well designed public space.
The structures in the underground areas are masked and sprayed to give form.
Here, considerable hand work has been done, adding people and detail in general.  Also, the pyramid has had its diagonal structural lattice drawn in white opaque paint with a ruling pen.
Further detailing, and the pyramid front face has been given dark lines showing the dark silhouette of the diagonal lattice structure.
On the drawing board.  Almost finished.
Final art, as photographed on the drawing board.
When Pei saw the final he was quite impressed, but he insisted that the fountains be "turned on".  He said that he insisted they turn the actual fountains on every time he visited the Louvre in Paris. This image is from a brochure since I didn't have the time to photograph the final (fountains) version.
The final professionally photographed.
And some detail...
A photograph of a similar view.

- St. Vincent airbrush demo
- Airbrush Demo - Cesar Pelli's Petronas Towers

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Learning from Portraits

Portraits have been around for thousands of years.  Realistic painted portraits have been around since at least the Roman Empire.  Before photography a painted portrait was an expensive luxury limited to the powerful and wealthy in society.  Any good artist hoping for success lobbied for an appointment to the court of some king, duke or tyrant.  The starving artist was NOT a career goal in the old days.
Today, with ubiquitous digital cameras, portrait photos are scattered mindlessly everywhere, like gum on the sidewalks of New York City.  Similarly, painted portraits are often hard to distinguish from one another unless you know the subject, and abstract portraits, while original, are hardly portraits in the original sense.  Occasionally however, a portrait will jump out of the page and grab you emotionally, even though the subject and artist are strangers to you.  It is these works of art that can teach a lesson to an architectural illustrator.
Long ago I fell in love with Hans Holbein (the younger).  Well, his portraits, that is.  He had a trick he used of setting the subject against a plain background of grey-green.  This was done most often with a person of high coloring and auburn hair.  The contrast between the flat green and the modeled face created an image that came out of the picture plane.  No matter how plain the subject of the portrait, the effect was eye-catching in its immediacy.  Part of the effect is the perfection of the figure modeling, but that is another matter.
The painting above uses the same color combination, but handles the figure loosely and assembles the background color from a mosaic of complimentary daubs of paint.  I saved this image long ago, but didn’t note title or artist.  If anyone recognizes it let me know who and what so I can give them credit.
A similar balance can be seen in this illustration by TerryShoffner in the Wall Street Journal.  Even on newsprint the effect is striking.  I normally hate yellow green; really, hate.  But this one caught my eye and quite simply works.  
This caricature illustrating an interview shows a close affinity with the Holbein above.  NeilDavies may not have consciously patterned his painting on Holbein, but the face certainly jumps out of the page.  I love caricatures, especially ones that blur the line between exaggeration and reality.
My watercolors have a tendency to get overworked and flat.  This one of my daughter avoided the first through sheer luck since I had to get it off the board.  When I next saw it I realized that it only needed some extra contrast.  The cool background helps to pop out the flatness.  It is certainly not as strong as the professional work above, but I’m happy with it.
Daniel, above, is a watercolor handled in the same way.  I’ll never make a name with portraits, but they are satisfying in a human connectedness way.
Pastel portraits often fall into the pattern I am flacking here.  A neutral grey board serves as the base line for spots of lighter and darker pigment.  Using the board as part of the drawing allows the artist to quickly model the forms with minimal “busy” work.  The form of the face easily tricks the eye into seeing a 3D object, and the result is simple, yet powerful.
Somewhat off topic is this tablet sketch of tree branches at sunset.  The basic warm palette on a grey green background is the continuing pattern here; and it obviously works.
This oil sketch of water lilies is also off topic, but shows the surprisingly pleasing harmonization of red and green.
Applying this lesson to architectural illustration is easy, but it requires a building with a red/orange palette.  The sketch above is for an illustration to be used by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Being a red brick building I immediately tried out the green background.  I did try a number of other palette variations, but finally came back to the original conception.
This never built proposal for a residential block facing Astor Square in New York started with a Photoshopped montage of the site and proposed building.  The resulting image was “mushy”, so the final print was re-rendered in ink.  The color is a bit lurid in places, but the general tone is effective.
St. Vincent has been blogged before, but it is worth revisiting for the striking palette.
This pastel study of a church differs from the pastel portraits above in that I covered the entire paper with pastel (several layers in places).  In spite of the overworked nature of the thing, the basic red and green palette pulls it through.  This view was through an arched gateway, so the dark framing does have some relation to reality.
Finally, here are matched portraits I did of my parents several years ago.  The oil and turpentine background wash is a soup that vacillates from raw sienna to dull olive to burnt umber and beyond.  Yet, the flesh tones stand out in a smoky way that I like.
They both lived to be 90, but are now gone.  They had a long and interesting life, surviving the Great Depression and World War II (pacific theater), raising 5 kids and spoiling 9 grandkids (11 great grandkids so far).  If I can finish off my own life as well as they did, I will count myself lucky.