I bit the bullet and just went for it today, and painted that Glitter War painting my brother asked for a while ago. He lives in North Carolina, and they are in town for Christmas, so I figured if I paint it now, I can save myself from having to mail it.

This painting has been weighing on me for a while. I’m really intimidated by the thought of painting this for my brother because he is a very good and accomplished artist. I know all the mistakes I see, he will see as well. Though he would never tell me, it’s really hard to paint something for someone knowing they’ll see right through the hard work.

This painting has gone through a LOT of iterations.

First sketch
More sketching
More sketching… there were dozens of these sorts of things as I tried to figure out how I wanted it to look.
My idea for a unicorn dropping glitter from a rainbow handled basket.
Tried a study of unicorns flying and dropping glitter.
Got my hands on some Irridescent paints, and got stupid.
Didn’t finish this one.
I kind of liked this one actually.
I screwed up in a number of places here, but this was when I settled on a composition at least.
Aaaaand the final version.

I don’t want to pick apart all the things I don’t like about this, so instead I’ll write a bit about the process. I took a bunch of photos as I went, so I have some show and tell on this one.

First sketch

First, I should say, Tim wanted this to be square. And it’s painted on a full sheet of 400# arches cold press. (That’s not a typo… this is really heavy paper.)

Before I started I measured the painting and divided by three. I then drew lines to cut the image into thirds, to help line some things up.

Then, I measured the lower third, and cut that in half. I cut the top section of that lower third in half again. And cut the top of that in half, until I had five horizontal lines inside the lower third, each one half way closer to the horizon. This helps me a lot when it comes to perspective. That might sound odd for a painting like this with essentially no vanishing points, but I think it was even more important to lay down those lines in this case because the composition has no perspective on the diagonals. (Apart from the path I guess.)

Then, I sketched some of the large shapes very roughly (free hand, and lightly) to get a feel for the overall placement. Once I was happy with the general placement, of the large shapes, I used a ruler and carefully measured the towers in the castles. I tended to trust my eye for the height of the tower largest tower. I used the ruler to see how tall it was, and then divided by three to draw lines cutting the tower into thirds. Then I cut the upper third into thirds. (I use millimeters, so much easier than inches when doing math.)

For example, on the distant castle, each tower is three units tall. The roof of each tower is two units high.

I say units, because these measurements are all dependent on the height of the tower. First, I placed the largest tower wherever I felt best. I then measured the height, and cut that into thirds.

The towers on the left are three units from the base to the underside of the roof. The roof is three units tall. From the base to the window is two units. The upper unit is also broken into thirds, with the top of the window at the first third, the top of the gable is the second third. And the roof itself starts at the top of the last third.

Here you can see that each tower is a different height, but they are all cut into thirds to help with scale.

I started by placing the unicorn’s head at the upper left golden corner. When I was done with the sketch above, I decided that it needed to move to the right, and I needed some more castle on the left, because the composition felt off balance. I also decided that I needed a vertical on the right to aid in the rhythm to help define perspective. So I noodled around, and came up with this:

I then covered everything in packing tape, and very carefully cut away the shapes, so the only exposed paper was the sky. I used masking fluid for the spots that were too difficult to cut accurately. Like the tips on the curls on the ribbon tree, and the unicorn.

Packing tape is my frisket.

With that finished, I laid the sky wash.

Because Tim wants the painting to be a square, I had some unused paper on the left, which I used to test colors and techniques before painting.

Ok. I’m falling asleep as I type. I’ll just post the other images and I’ll come back to write a bit more on this later, maybe.

You can see as I remove parts of the packing tape. I only removed small sections, leaving my whites covered and applying masking fluid if needed. In this shot, you can see there is still packing tape covering the highlights on the rocks and the road and the ribbon tree etc.