Monday, June 25, 2012

Mouse and Commander: The Far Side of the Puddle

6x8, Pen & Watercolor on Bristol

Name a shrub after me. Something prickly and hard to eradicate. 
- Captain Jack Aubrey

Peter Weir's 2003 film, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, has become one of my favorite movies of the past decade. Its rich detail and captivating scenes transport you to the world of an early 19th Century British frigate chasing a French privateer around South America during the Napoleonic Wars. The combination of gorgeous photography, editing, composition, visual effects and music serve to accentuate the brilliant performances of its cast. Although, I haven't seen all of Mr. Weir's work, this film surely deserves to be hailed as his masterpiece.

An afternoon viewing of the film, followed by a sketching session, inspired the image above. It's been a while since I used the pen with watercolor, and recent experiments have ignited a long dormant enthusiasm for this combination.

One such exercise was to copy a work by Brian Froud, a masterful fantasy artist whose work has inspired characters in films such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. The piece I chose was a creature identified as a Shetland Trow from the book Faeries, written and illustrated by Froud and the equally excellent Alan Lee.
Two Trows - Left, by Brian Froud - Right, by me.
Oh, to someday have Froud's command of tone and texture,
and subtleness of line.
Copying a master's work has been used as a way to stretch one's artistic muscle by students through the ages. The idea isn't to change your personal style to someone else's, but to gain insight into the decisions that the artist made in the composition, tone, and color selection. The lessons learned are then applied as you develop your style and skill. I recall the times in art school, when these kinds of assignments came up, and while they were difficult, they were always rewarding in ways that revealed themselves in later projects.

Getting away from the tablet and stylus once in a while to reconnect with traditional elements that don't have an undo key is exhilarating every time.

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