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The San Diego Murals – Part Twenty

Apologies for the lag between mural posts; I was at Spectrum Live! in Kansas City two weekends ago and then WonderFest in Louisville, Kentucky this last weekend. Nevertheless, even with my hectic travel schedule I refined more of the Pleistocene mural. Now that I am back home until Comic-Con International in July, you’ll be seeing much greater progress with each passing week. My goal is to finish this second mural within a month. I would love to have it done in time for the two murals to be installed at Elephant Odyssey in the San Diego Zoo by Comic-Con.

Here you can see the bobcat and desert tortoise both taking shape.

I have started to “sculpt” the tortoise with paint.

These two animals are now close to being finished.

I made the huge short-faced bear larger than I had in my original lay-in to make it more in proportion to the animals around it.

Once I was happy with its proportions, I began to refine it and pay more careful attention to its anatomy.

The bear is now pretty close to being finished. I can see the influences of both Bob Kuhn and Frank Frazetta in this little painting. And isn’t this a nice little color scheme?

The teratorn‘s size needed some adjusting, so I quickly laid in the outline of a larger bird over my first lay-in.

The same size-adjusting was needed for the capybaras, except that they needed to be smaller. I hacked away at their size with a larger brush and then began to indicate some bits of natural capybara behavior as well.

I reduced the size of the distant timber wolf silhouettes, then began to refine both the giant cave lion (one and a half times the size of a modern tiger) and the pronghorn antelopes.

I decided that two profiles near each other (the cave lion and the short-faced bear) was one too many, so I turned the lion’s head a bit toward the viewer (that would be you). That helped to make the lion’s pose less stiff and formal. I quickly changed the color and value of the pronghorns’ coats, making them their more typical butterscotch/caramel color.

The lion is pretty much finished but the pronghorns need work, as, obviously, so do the timber wolves.

The California condor is now fairly completed…

…as is the gray fox. I found that pointillism was a good solution for indicating the gray fox’s grizzled coat.

I am getting very excited as this picture progresses!

Next: Dog Family – Coyote, Dire Wolves & Timber Wolves

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Spectrum LIVE!

I am looking forward to seeing all of my friends and fans (and those who are both) this weekend at SPECTRUM LIVE! in Kansas City.

This will be a unique convention, completely focused on those of us who create fantasy art. I’ll be on Greg Spalenka‘s branding panel; I’ll also be delivering a PowerPoint presentation on my career that includes several behind-the-scenes images from some of the movies in which I’ve been involved, illustrating how some of the screen illusions were created for those flicks.

The list of artists who will be attending is staggering. I am humbled to be included in such great company! My publisher, John Fleskes, will have a special book published just for this event. You won’t want to miss out on obtaining this tome, published by the best art book publisher in the world.

See You All Soon!

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The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Nineteen

I refined the California condor a bit, focusing on the exact structure and shape of its flight feathers. It’s not finished yet. I need to subdue the black in those wings and give the wing farthest from the viewer some atmospheric haze to suggest size.

The cartooned roughness of the gray fox was bothering me so I painted a more structured lay-in of the animal. Then I refined it a bit more, paying careful attention to the size relationship between its body and its relatively small head:

It still needs some work, of course, but I’m very happy with its size in relation to the other animals and with its body proportions.

I put a little more work into this sabertooth cat (Smilodon). I like my sabertooths to have a real Charles R. Knight feel to them; he was the most marvelous big cat artist.

I did some very basic changes to the sabertooth by the pool, mostly general anatomical corrections.

I continued to work on the black bear. I realized that all four of the major animals on the left of the mural (mastodon, mountain lion, black bear and jaguar) were all facing the same direction and that they were pretty evenly spaced from each other, too. BORING! I had to do something to break that up. The first thing I did was to have the black bear face left rather than right. That helped the picture enormously.

As you can see, I have nearly completed the laborious job of painting this prehistoric giant jaguar’s spots. Note that they vary in size and shape according to where they are placed on the body.

Quick quiz: How can you tell the difference between a jaguar and a leopard? Jaguars have shorter legs than leopards (better for running through the underbrush of the jungle). The major spots of a jaguar have small dots in their center; leopard spots don’t.

The pelt color surrounding the spots was a bit too light in areas, so I glazed over those parts. I also wanted that in-between-the-spots color to be different in value and color from the background colors.

The bear and jaguar are still not finished but they’re getting closer to completion…

I wanted to change the pose of the mountain lion, too. I quickly blocked in this twisting gesture. The steps that follow show how it developed.

This one is pretty finished. Why the color shift? For convenience’s sake, I shot all but the last picture from the comfort of my shaded porch, hence, the cooler colors. I shot the last mountain lion image in full sun.

Here’s how the Mountain lion, bear and jaguar look together at this stage:

I turned my attention to the giant ground sloth, the southern Pacific rattlesnake and the roadrunner.

I began refining the anatomy and shaggy fur of the sloth. This big, sweet beast has become a favorite of my wife and neighborhood passersby who stop and check out the mural as I paint it on my front porch.

I moved the roadrunner’s tail down so that it no longer overlapped the ground sloth’s paw (it was confusing there).

Roadrunner feather patterns are complex. I was more concerned, though (especially after repainting the roadrunner in the other zoo mural about four times), with establishing the proper size of the bird in relation to the other animals so that I would only have to paint this little guy once. I nailed it the first time out and then added the feather detail.

I had more leeway with the rattlesnake as they can vary greatly in size. My attention became focused on the snake’s color and scale patterns, as this is what differentiates this rattler from other rattlesnakes.

Here is how the three creatures look together at this point (the rattler and roadrunner are pretty much done):

Toward the end of the day yesterday I started refining the giant prehistoric camels.

Did they have humps or not? Llamas, guanacos and alpacas are camel family members that don’t have humps. I am thinking about showing them both with and without. It might make for some interesting paleontological discussions.

Most of my new work on the mural was painted on the left half of the picture. Here’s that half as it stands today:

This is the full mural (you can click on any of these images to make them larger):

It’s coming along!

Next: The Bobcat Gets a Do-Over

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The Stout Family Utah Trip

Welcome to a different sort of an entry for me.

When my sons were kids, the thing I looked forward to the most each year was our family vacations. They would usually take place right after Comic-Con as a much needed relief from that show and as a chance to spend some quality time with my family after ignoring them for so long (as I was consumed by my Comic-Con prep).

I did all the planning and booking for our trips. I heavily researched each vacation, cross-referencing all the potential hotels, restaurants (we’re all foodies), hiking trails and attractions in the places we would be staying.

Once everything was booked, I made up printed itineraries for each family member (you can click on each of these itinerary pages to make them larger).

The itineraries served a number of purposes. One was eliminating the “What are we going to do today?” questions. Having the schedule of their vacation in their hands gave each son a great, delicious sense of anticipation (“Oh, wow! We’re going to do this today?!”).

I used these itineraries as educational vehicles as well. I included maps to teach them geography. I included historical “factoids” to teach them each region’s unique history.

As you can see I included some photos from the travel brochures I received. I also drew cartoons of my family members (and myself) in comical situations. I included all of our flight and hotel reservation numbers to make them easy to locate. I also noted if I had already pre-paid the hotels and B & Bs, and if they included breakfast.

With each passing year my itineraries got more elaborate with fewer photos and more illustrations. This Utah trip was a fairly early itinerary. The illustrations here were not as dominant yet.

I really began to enjoy the illustration aspect of them. The later itineraries got a little ambitious — but I enjoyed creating them.

I chose our vacation destinations carefully. I wanted my sons to fully experience different parts of our country as well as different countries of the world.

Our trips were always a combination of both high and low culture. I obviously love art museums. But I also love the goofy old Route 66-style roadside attractions that entertained and mystified me as a child. I taught my family a great appreciation for both types of culture.

(Cafe Diablo — see above — is a terrific restaurant, BTW, in a land — Utah — not known for its cuisine) I believe my first itineraries were in black and white. It wasn’t long before I added color.

The restaurants, too, were part of our cultural immersion. I enjoy a great burger joint as much as I do “fine dining”, so we indulged in both. I was always on the lookout for regional specialties and included them on our trips.

I eventually began purchasing elaborate (and appropriate) papers upon which to print the itineraries. The color printing of the special papers added to the look of the itineraries, making them seem more lavish and expensive than they actually were (you aren’t seeing the special papers I chose because I reproduced all of these pages from my original dummy).

I think I always included at least one hand drawn “family photo” with us in garb appropriate to where we were going.

In addition, I would record mix cassettes of the music that emanated from the region we were visiting (I have a vast music library) or from the musicians who originally came from that area. I’d play them while we were driving. My goal was total cultural immersion and education in a way that was fun and entertaining.

After each trip was over I would go back and annotate each itinerary, noting what we did, what we didn’t do (despite the seeming rigidity of these itineraries, I kept our trips fairly flexible. If we were really enjoying something I wasn’t about to stop our fun just to get to the next attraction), what we loved, what we disliked and, sometimes, despite all my guidebook research, what was no longer there. These annotated texts were eventually distributed as an aid to friends later planning to visit the same countries or regions.

The annotated versions also helped me whenever I happened to revisit some of these places as a result of my convention travels.

I thought you might like this glimpse into a bit of my personal life, something that has given my family and me some of our fondest memories and greatest pleasures in life.