Posted on 3 Comments

The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Five

I finally finished the saber-toothed cats to my satisfaction (Rick! Are they OK?)

The mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) family is finished, too.

My wife has a way of dropping bombs on me as I’m painting. This time it was “Your cheetah’s too big.” I tried to explain that no, this was a giant cheetah and that it was in correct proportion to the western horse.

The really irritating thing about my wife, though, is that she’s usually right. That little burr she implanted in my brain just kept itching and itching. I kept looking at the cheetah, trying to wish and will it into correctness. With so little time left to complete the murals, I didn’t want to do a complete re-do on that damned cheetah.

But (once again) she was right.

For the cheetah to have been that size he would have to be placed lower in the picture. As he was, the cheetah was pretty much on the same plane as the bison, and there was no way the cheetah was THAT big.

So, I did what I had to do and repainted him smaller and in a lower position on the canvas so that the cheetah looked like it was on the same plane as the horses. I was bothered, though, that the cheetah’s focus did not seem to be on either of the horses. So, I painted out the head and neck, then changed the position of the head so that it looked like this:

Much better. The cheetah now looks like it is going after the colt. The next step is to paint out the original cheetah.

“Nothing” left now except the landscape. I better get on it!

Posted on 2 Comments

The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty Four

Continuing on, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and the merlin (Falco colunbarius) were finished like this:

A common visitor to my porch, the little (in comparison to the Columbia mammoth) scrub jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) has been completed:

Here’s Merriam’s teratorn (Teratornis merriami) with the gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer) it has killed.

These massive birds of prey were larger than condors.

I roughed in the western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), as well as the…

western horse and foal (Equus occidentalis) and their pursuer, the gigantic American cheetah (Miracinonyx inexpectatus). I used the recessive throwback pattern of the king coat cheetah to inform the patterns I applied to this giant cheetah.

As you can see, the next day I refined the ancient bison (Bison antiquus), the western horses and the American cheetah. The bison may still be too loose, although they look great from a distance.

The western camels (Camelops hesternus) were improved, too. You might be able to tell I did a little more work on the meadowlark.

Very subtle changes here; after more careful research I lowered the line of the top back half of the American mastodon (Mammut americanum) and sloped it down some from spine to tail. I plan to put some sun dappling on its back. I also better defined the grizzly bear‘s (Ursus arctos) snout, ears and shoulders.

These saber-toothed cats (Smilodon californicus) were painted as my light was dying. The one on the left came out just fine, but I see that working in the near dark messed with my values (dark & light systems) sensibilities in the other one. I’ll fix it today.

The critters in this pic are almost finished! The landscape with its requisite California native plant species will hastily follow.

Posted on 1 Comment

The San Diego Murals – Part Twenty Three

The Pleistocene mural is rapidly progressing (although not as rapidly as I would like).

OK…let’s start out with the California Quail (Lophortyx californicus) I promised you.

And then, a whole slew of small mammals:

On the left is an ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus). To the right of the shrew is a very nervous desert cottontail (Sylvilagus audubonii). The dead hare is a black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus).

From left to right: California meadow mouse (Microtus californicus), western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis) and the Pacific kangaroo rat (Dipodomys agilis).

Beechey’s ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) is on the left; the southern grasshopper mouse (Onychomys torridus) is on the right.

On the left is a packrat (Neotoma); at right is the California pocket mouse (Perognathus californicus).

Left: Valley pocket gopher (Thomomys botteae); right: Deer mouse (Peromyscus imperfectus).

This is the little desert shrew (Notiosorex crawfordi).

This is my rough lay-in for the brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani). Here’s the more finished version, along with a recently added horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), burrowing owl (Speotyto cunicularia) and a yellow-billed magpie (Pica nuttali):

The badger (Taxidea taxus) got a better paint job…

…as did the long tailed weasel (Mustela frenata).

Continuing with the birds of prey:

Here’s the peregrine falcon (Falco pergrinus), turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)…

…followed by the sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and the merlin (Falco columbarius). The eagle and merlin aren’t finished (I ran out of light) but they’re half way there. I’ll post their finish tomorrow; you’ll be able to see the eagle in the three steps it took to paint it (rough, value/color lay-in, finish).

I think this is a better shot of the dire wolves (Canis dirus). They have lower foreheads than the gray wolves.

I have another day’s worth of additions, but I need to get back to my easel. The zoo has graciously allowed me to work on the mural Saturday and Sunday. There’s a lot I can do with that extra time.

Today I’m finishing the fauna.

Posted on 5 Comments

Ray Bradbury 1920-2012

This is a shitty day. I lost a great friend and the world has lost one of its greatest writers. Humanity has lost a great, positive light that never stopped its positive shine even in our darkest moments.

As of today, our world and our future are greatly diminished.

I’ll write and share more about my friend, author Ray Bradbury, in a few days.

Posted on 3 Comments

The San Diego Zoo Murals – Party Twenty Two

Too wiped out to post last night. I painted 14 critters in the Pleistocene mural yesterday; my goal is 21 today.

Above is my revision of the young American mastodon (Mammut americanum)/grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) confrontation. They are much less stiff and more lively and rhythmic in their poses now (The inclusion of the scientific names is doing double duty here, as I have been asked by the San Diego Zoo to ID all of the animals in each mural). Their scale is better, too.

The birds in the soon-to-be-sycamore, from left to right, are the common flicker (Colaptes auratus), shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) and a band tailed pigeon (Columba fasciata). All of the creatures that were depicted in the modern mural are in the Pleistocene mural as well, and in roughly the same corresponding spots (which took some careful planning).

I detailed the hawks I had previously roughed in up in the left hand sky portion of the mural. From left to right, they are the prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), the marsh hawk or northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), the sparrow hawk or American kestrel (Falco sparverius) and the rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus).

The raven (Corvus corax) got laid in and painted…

…as did a western spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius). I noticed that the placement of the skunk had created a bad tangent, creating the possibility that viewers might think the skunk is riding on the ground sloth’s back. I fixed that yesterday.

After removing the western horse (Equus occidentalis) that was slightly overlapping it, I added more detail to the western camel (Camelops hesternus).

The jaguar’s freshly killed black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) finally found its form.

The long tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) made it in but I see, after comparing it to its modern mural counterpart, that I need to add more facial detail — which I did, as you’ll see in my next post, on the following day.

I worked on four things here. I detailed the snout of the Harlan’s ground sloth (Glossotherium harlani), painted the mourning dove (Zenaidura macroura), added more focus and drawing to the buck mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and, as the final light of the day was fading, I quickly laid in the badger (Taxidea taxus).

Most of my work that day was on the left third of the painting (seen above). I see I forgot to include a detail of the male and female California quail (Lophortyx californicus) located above the rump of the giant jaguar (Panthera onca); I’ll post it tomorrow.

My next posting will reflect even more changes and refinement as I race to make my deadline.

Posted on 5 Comments

The San Diego Zoo Murals – Part Twenty One

I got some stunning news from the San Diego Zoo this last weekend. I was informed that due to the nature of their contract, my two murals need to be completed by Friday, June 8 (!).

You are going to see some fast painting here (and a post each day) as I try to meet this near impossible deadline. Wish me luck!

I decided to paint some quick lay-ins of the Pleistocene mural’s birds of prey. Note that I “draw” these in paint; I don’t tightly pencil them and them paint them in. If I did that, I would be in danger of losing their organic feel. They most likely would seem pasted on, rather than functioning as a part of the picture. This rough, they’re also very easy to quickly change, if necessary.

Here are the lay-ins for the raptors on the left side of the mural.

The coyote and teratorn are moving along. The coyote is pretty close to being finished…

…as are the American lion, pronghorn antelopes and capybara. I decided to give the lion a slight mane. You can see the near silhouettes of the distant gray wolves in this picture as well as some of the nearer dire wolf pack.

This is how the left third of the mural looked a couple of days ago. I am really bothered by the stiffness of the mastodon and grizzly. Plus, their relative scale isn’t correct. I’ve really gotta fix ’em.

Here’s the second quarter of the mural as it was a couple of days ago. To save time, I am going to take out the horse on the left…and probably those birds above the California condor.

Yup; I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have time to paint all of those birds in the sky. Not right now, anyway. You can see more of the dire wolves here.

The dire wolves and distant gray wolves are close to being silhouettes, with slight indications of form, a time saver that works quite well visually.

Here’s the Pleistocene mural as of Saturday night:

This evening I’ll try to post the changes and progress I made yesterday.

Posted on 7 Comments

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

Posted on 3 Comments

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!

Posted on 2 Comments

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

Posted on 5 Comments

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.