Posted on 10 Comments

Martin, Emilio, and Tom’s Road.

PromoSheenFinalSometime around the middle of December, I finished painting a portrait of Martin Sheen.  More accurately, the portrait was of his character, Tom, from the movie The Way, written for the screen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez.  While the painting was done purely for my own enjoyment, sometimes a seemingly innocent pursuit will take on a life of its own.  Since the movie inspired me to paint the portrait, as did their father/son memoir ‘Along the Way,’ I wrote about that when I posted the painting.  Click here, if you’d like to read it.

As is my practice, I posted the link on social media and also tagged Estevez’s account on Twitter, especially since he has used that vehicle to promote the film.  I thought that if he saw it, he might like what I wrote and painted, but didn’t actually expect anything to come of it.  Twitter is a busy place and it’s impossible to keep up, so a lot more gets missed than noticed.

Imagine my surprise when just a couple of hours later on that same Saturday, an email arrived from Estevez via my website.  He thanked me for my support of the film and then asked about buying a print, with the intent of giving it to his father for Christmas.  With just five business days remaining, I had to tell him that even a rush job would have been impossible by the 25th, especially considering that I’d want to be meticulous about the proofing, given the recipient.   I told him I’d be happy to set things in motion in January, if he was willing to wait.  He was very gracious, completely understood, and we began talking about it again after the holidays.

In the meantime, his mother had seen the painting and wanted him to inquire about buying the original.  Here’s the technology hiccup when you start talking originals and digital painting.  A digital painting exists only on a hard drive and screen until it’s printed, so there really is no original in the traditional sense.  One solution is to supply documentation that certifies a specific print to be the original.  Mine are always printed on canvas and I gave Emilio the option of choosing the size.  After a month of proofing, printing, signing, and packaging, the original 18″X24″ stretched canvas shipped last Friday.  I also certified the canvas itself by writing the title of the piece and an additional signature on the back.  Incidentally, until all of this occurred, I hadn’t titled this painting, but decided it needed one before it shipped.  Yesterday, “Tom’s Road”  arrived at Martin’s home.

MartinSheenThe reason for this piece in the first place was to take a small break from the commercial work, as every image I’ve created lately has been a product.  The whole point was to get away from everything being about money and marketing, if only for a moment.  I wanted to paint my best portrait work, for no other reason than that.  I am a commercial artist, no doubt about it, and I make a good living at it.   This is my business, my livelihood, and my career.  But this piece was special, inspired by a movie I loved, which was, in a way, a light at the end of a tunnel.  My gut instinct told me that to try and make money from this would have tainted the whole experience, something that was worth much more to me than a paycheque.  So, when Emilio asked to buy the original, I chose not to put a price on the work, but still offered the painting, charging only my printing and shipping costs.

Sometime in the near future, I’ll be receiving a paper print that I’ve asked them to sign.  I’ll have it framed for my office, a souvenir of the experience, and a constant reminder that I must make time for personal work.  I’ve also asked Emilio to have Martin sign one more print, something I can reserve for a charity auction sometime in the future.  He was happy to oblige, and you can bet that I’m going to be very picky about which cause benefits from this unique item.

There is no doubt in my mind that had I attempted to orchestrate any of this, had I painted the portrait with the intention of bringing about these events, none of it would have happened.  I created this portrait for me, to remind myself why I paint, and since I truly enjoyed working on it, that was enough.   But to have it appreciated by his family, was a wonderful and unexpected bonus, not to mention a validation of my recent choices.

If all that weren’t enough, the greatest compliment I received was something offered by Estevez in one of his e-mails this past month.  He said, “…the image is gorgeous and you have captured my father in a way that few have.”

It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Posted on 1 Comment

Martin Sheen – The Details

Martin Sheen - PortraitYesterday, I wrote about why I painted this portrait of Martin Sheen’s character, Tom, from the movie ‘The Way.’  Click on this link, if you’d like to read it.  Today, I figured I’d write a little bit about the how, as there are always artists out there who want to know the technical details, and I’m happy to oblige.

This painting was done entirely in Photoshop CS6 Extended using a Wacom Cintiq 24″HD display.  No photos were used in the painting, aside from reference.  I didn’t keep track of how long it took me to complete it because I wasn’t on deadline or in a rush, so while I could easily say 20 hours, it was probably more, over a few weeks.  Without a deadline, I was able to nitpick it and get it as close to perfect as my current skills will allow.  At some point, however, I just have to call it done, because any changes become so minute that nobody will see them but me.

With all of my previous work, it has become my practice to start a painting at low resolution, usually around 9″X12″ at 72ppi.  Then, as the painting progresses, I will keep bumping up the size and resolution.  I teach this method in my PhotoshopCAFE DVD, “Animal Painting in Adobe Photoshop” and it’s the same practice I use for painting portraits of people.  There used to be two reasons for doing this.  First, when you’re working at low-res, you can’t get distracted by putting in too much detail because the size just won’t allow any.  This forces me to well establish ‘the bones’ of a likeness before working on wrinkles, skin texture, and hair.  The other reason for starting at low-res was that my computer had reached the end of it’s efficient life for this type of work and at full-size and full-res, the brushes just wouldn’t move well enough to make broad strokes across the digital canvas.  A completed painting was never more than 18″X24″ at 300ppi, because at that size, I could only work on the fine details without experiencing some lag.

Recently I had a new computer built and I’m back to working on a very current, high end machine.  Running 64bit Windows 7 with 64bit Photoshop, 16GB of RAM and a 4GB video card, everything is running incredibly smooth.  I could have started and finished this painting at full-res, without any problems at all.  BUT, I’m going to continue using my low-res to high-res workflow for the first reason I mentioned.  It forces me to get the likeness right and it works well for me.  That being said, I decided to push this painting to see if I could make it larger, which also allows more attention to detail.  This final painting is 32″X24″ at 300ppi.  At that size, the brushes were working just fine, and I could have bumped it up even more, with no issues in performance.

I’m still using the regular brushes in Photoshop and haven’t used any of the Mixer or Bristle brushes in my paintings.  Those brushes are designed to simulate traditional media and I honestly don’t feel the need to do that.  Digital painting is a medium all on its own, and I don’t try to make it into something it’s not.  I do intend to give those other brushes a try in the coming year, however, simply to see if they’ll offer me some choices to make my work better.  While I’m pleased with the quality of this painting and very much enjoyed working on it, there will always be room to improve.

Thanks for stopping by.


Posted on 8 Comments

Martin Sheen and The Way

You could never consider me a film snob and I’ve never wanted to be a filmmaker or an actor, but I love movies.  Great stories told on the screen by talented storytellers, always a collaboration between the writers, directors, actors and all of the other professional creatives and technicians that make up the industry.    I just know what I like, regardless of critical acclaim or popular opinion.

Earlier this year, I watched the movie, ‘The Way’ and it had a profound affect on me.  Written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen, it tells the story of a father and son and their experiences on the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James.  I’m not ruining the movie for you to tell you that the son (Estevez) dies early in the film at the beginning of his own pilgrimage and the father travels to Spain to retrieve the body.  Despite it seeming to be against his nature, Sheen’s character, Tom, decides to walk the Camino, and in doing so discovers his son and himself.

My wife and I rented this movie and I really enjoyed it.  Likely because I’m now in my early 40’s, dealing with my own evaluation of life and meaning, and realizing that there is probably less time ahead than behind me.  There’s a reason they call it a midlife crisis.  Had I watched this movie in my twenties, I doubt it would have affected me as much.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I found myself browsing in a bookstore and noticed the book, “Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son.”  Written by Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, it’s a memoir of their perspectives in life,  Sheen growing up and becoming the father while going through his own trials of life, and Estevez seeing many of the same events from the son’s perspective and his thoughts about his own life and career.  It was a truly enjoyable read and one I’d recommend, but as the book references the making of The Way, I’d see the movie first.

I’ve always felt a connection to Martin Sheen, not because I know the man, but because of my own father’s resemblance to him.  Not just their looks, but some of their mannerisms as well.  My Dad’s about the same age, and while he isn’t the spitting image of Sheen, at certain times in their lives he looks remarkably similar.  So much so, in fact, that when we were stationed in Germany, a woman in Brussels insisted that my father was Sheen, even though he denied it.  I always thought that was cool, so naturally I gravitated toward Sheen’s movies.  While watching The Way for the first time, there was one scene where I paused the film and said to my wife, “Holy cow, does he ever look like my Dad.”

As it is a movie about fathers and sons and I’ve always had a great relationship with my Dad, I bought him a copy of the DVD and then sent him my copy of the book as well.  After watching the movie, he called me and asked, “So, when are we going?”

Pretty sure my Mom and my wife would have serious concerns about he and I taking off to Spain for a couple of months to walk the Camino de Santiago.  But I was pleased that he enjoyed the movie and book.

So why the painting?  Well, first of all, I’m more inclined to paint characters, not the actors themselves.  In our society where the privacy of celebrities is almost non-existent when they’re out of their homes, people seem to think they know them from what they read in gossip rags and see on trashy shows like Entertainment Tonight and Inside Hollywood.  I’m under no such illusion.  Simply because I watch their movies and read their memoir, I wouldn’t dare assume I know Martin Sheen or Emilio Estevez.  The book only shares what they wanted to share, and the movie, while infused with their own experiences I’m sure, is about characters Estevez wrote, not the actors themselves.  But good storytelling can make those characters seem real, and in this case, it was Sheen’s character, Tom, for whom I felt a connection.

Having bought my own copy, I’ve now seen the movie a few times, the last time with the purpose of gathering reference.  You may not see in the painting what I see in it, because it’s a scene that, to me, said so much about the journey the character was taking.  This image of Tom looking up and what he was seeing, was brief, but his expression spoke volumes, given what he’d been through.  The scenes that follow really get to me each time I see the movie, and I don’t mind admitting that.  It’s a wonderful story with rich characters, played by a very talented cast.

Lately, all of my work has been product driven.  Editorial cartoons on deadline, illustration commissions, painting commissions, even my Totem paintings have become about prints, licensing and always selling the end product.  As a result, it’s been awhile since I’ve truly enjoyed a painting from start to finish.  One of the reasons I painted this portrait was that it had no deadline and has no commercial value, other than that it will find a place in my portfolio.  I painted it for myself, simply to paint something personal, and I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a bit like a vacation from the work of being an artist for a living, and I wanted to find the joy in it again.  There is a balance to be found there and I’m still working on it.  This painting was a good start.

For more on the technical details of this painting, click on this link.