Painting a Helio Courier in Oils | PART TWO

Good morning!

Yesterday, I introduced you to my fascination for the Helio Courier and started my journal, or walk-through of the the particular subject I chose, the story and a basic overview of the composition.

I didn't really describe the process of creating the 3D model, or partial model of the Helio Courier. I didn't do that in this post because that's a whole new subject in and of itself, and I will most certainly describe that in another post, because it's worth detailing for you. In short, I consider 3D modeling a vital method for me because it's something I already do professionally as a visual effects designer and concept artist at my work with UDRI. I've been engaged in 3D modeling, specifically with Maxon Cinema 4D for over 15 years now, so it would be a shame to not use that resource when I compose a scene for a painting when I need references.

Some artists use what is called Perspective Projection in which they map three-dimensional points to a two-dimensional plane. I used to do this while I was in drafting classes in school, and it's definitely a very good method that I highly recommend. You can read up on it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_projection.  One of my favorite aviation artists, Wade Meyers has put out an excellent manual on this very subject, called Perspective Projection by Descriptive Geometry. Be sure to check it out here: https://wademeyersstudios.com/book/1774/perspective-projection-by-descriptive-geometry-a-manual-for-the-artist

For me, however, since I'm already engaged in 3D modeling, I'm able to take 2D blueprints, and create surface polygonal structures to create an aircraft, vehicle, or ship - so I don't, personally use the Perspective Projection method. Not that it's bad, far be it! It's just that I'm already building 3D models to use in my compositions - there are a handful of digital/traditional artists that are doing this very thing when they approach a composition, and I'm one of those.

I'll get more into the specifics of how I create digital 3D Models in Cinema 4D in another post. For now, I'll continue on with my walk-through of the Helio Courier painting.

After I'm satisfied with the digital composition of my scene, I'll transfer that scene to the physical substrate, in this case a stretched canvas. First, I trace my composition from the screen to the paper by placing the paper over the screen in a dark room. I used some large paper on a roll, usually found at teaching supply stores or on Amazon (White Paper Roll) and graphite transfer paper (Graphite Transfer Paper) sandwiched between the art paper and canvas, and I use a very soft 4B or 6B pencil to go over the trace again. Etching the trace with the graphite transfer paper underneath, nicely creates the drawing again on the canvas. I do have a digital projector and have used that method as well, but this is also a fast way of getting what is on my computer to the canvas promptly. I then ink the drawing with a sharpie marker as graphite tends to smear when paint is applied.


With the transfer from digital to analog (physical) now complete, I can begin the underpainting.

I like to work in acrylics when I do the underpainting because it of the speed at which the paint dries. I don't have to wait around for hours or days for the painting to dry. Every artist has their personal preference, and I feel there is no absolute wrong or right method here, just do what gets you going on your painting.

I particularly like using a combination of Burnt Umber and white to build up the values between light and dark on the underpainting. I feel this is critical because this is my foundation layer and it helps me determine my course forward.

Based on my digital composition, I complete the underpainting using shades of Burnt Umber and white, building up areas of dark and lights and paying attention to my original composition as best as I can.


After I let the underpainting dry, I started to build up the background color of the dirt strip and jungle down below as well as build up the color of the atmosphere surrounding the plane. Now this is where I may divert from my original composition and start to experiment with tones and values. Tone is the levels of intensity or strength of color whereas value indicates the level from light to dark in colors. The two are distinctly different. In color theory there's certainly more to it than just tone and value. There's hue, tint, and shade to consider too. For now, I'm just speaking to values (light to dark) and tones (intensity).

That's it for "Part Two" on this piece, next I'll do a walk-through of  adding colors to the painting.

Keep painting!
Dale Jackson






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