All posts by michael sanborn

Large Mongoose Painting

After completing the charcoal base values, which took about 2 weeks in total, I was then able to proceed with the painting portion of the work. Once the values had been liberally sealed so they wouldn’t smudge, I applied a heavy gel medium over the whole canvas with what I like to refer to as my “magic brush.” Gel medium is a thick paste like paint medium lacking pigment. It gives great texture and dries clear showing the value underneath. My magic brush is just a simple flat 1 inch painter’s brush that I have used to apply gel medium for years. At this point, the brush is so caked with hardened gel medium, it is now really just about 50 thick, spike-like collections of bristle groups that I can use to get the pronounced swirls in the gel medium covering my canvas. I have occasionally applied the gel medium to reinforce aspects of the subject matter but more often I apply a simple, overlapping swirl pattern to keep a consistent look between my works.

Once the gel medium has been applied and has dried, I lay in my base shadow colors with an acrylic wash of pretty watery paint. After that is done, I acrylic wash in my base colors. I will usually do this stage with the canvas flat so the paint doesn’t run and just pools into the valleys in my swirling texture. Moving forward, I hand mix my paints to layer in complexity and nuance into the painting color work. Once completed, the painting is almost done. I will often push in the shadows darker and layer in lighter illuminated areas and highlights. In a final pass, I will dry-brush areas to help reinforce the heavy texture, brushing in lighter values across the peaks of the gel medium texture.

Large Mongoose Charcoals

Yes. I have returned to blogging on my website. This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’m still pretty disillusioned with social media so I haven’t decided if I’ll push this to any of those sites. After getting my website back up, I realized I missed talking about my process. So this is going to be more for my kids and I and whomever wants to check in and hear me ramble about my art process. So enough about that.

Here is my charcoal pass for the Large mongoose painting I am titling Courtyard at Moonlight. This painting shows Isabella De La Rosa as seen by William Weatherford. I started with a Photoshop mock-up where I cobbled together what photo references I could, applied a grid overlay to the image, and then transferred the grid lines to my toned canvas. For any of you who have not heard the term before, toning is where you apply a light to middle value of evenly to the whole canvas.

Once the grid has been lightly erased into the toned canvas, I blocked in the forms and then started laying in my values paying close attention to the shapes and lines in each square of the grid. Focusing on line and shape in each grid square helps to view the subject matter more objectively and accurately, assisting with the maintaining of good scale and proportion. Once the values were laid in, I went in and refined in details using charcoal pencils, kneaded erasers, and a folded paper towel for blending small areas and working in the charcoal. The folded rough paper towel is one of my favorite drawing tools. It is cheap and you can fold and re-fold sharp corners in it allowing you to blend in and manipulate tighter details in your charcoal.

After finishing the charcoal, I applied spray fixative liberally (so liberally that it pooled up on the surface in places) to seal the charcoal layer. Final touches to details were applied with black and white colored pencils and I used the white colored pencil to pull out brighter light areas as the spray fixative darkens all the charcoals.

Nightingale Painting In Progress

I had the good fortune of getting to work on some art as training for work this week.  My company and more specifically my supervisors are pretty cool that way!  Unfortunately I didn’t realize I hadn’t gelled this nightingale before I showed up so most of the first day was spent working on other art while I waited for the gel to dry.  Still, I had a little time that day and some of the next to work on unifying the base blue-green color for the shadows and building up some of my base values.  I haven’t posted many works in progress so this seemed like a good opportunity.  I think I’m going to leave much of the background that blue-green, just pushing in some slight color variation and pulling out more color and detail in my foreground elements.  I like the way the unity of the color in the background is focusing attention where I want it but still holding enough detail to move the eye around.  We’ll have to see how this piece behaves.  Sometimes these works seem to have minds of their own regarding what they will let me get away with.


Large Animal Crew Painting Complete

So I’m finally able to post this piece, the one I was working on for so long but didn’t want to show to hopefully get more people to come see it in person at the show.  This one was a real challenge as it started out in the comp as a day scene but as I began working on it, building from dark to light, I really liked the way the clouds were implying a night scene with the moon coming through them.  A lot of this one was back and forth, changing things as I went.  I think I painted over parts of this one more than any other painting I’ve done yet.

The name of this piece is “Fires Off the Coast of Cherbough” when the artist and crew finally reach close to their destination in France and are greeted with burning ships.  I love the way the story is coming together with each new animal I do.  Each comp suggests the animal’s personality and story and is helping to construct the story as I go.  I have petitioned to take the creative writing masters at Full Sail, one of the many many perks of a great job, and hope that it will enable me to strengthen my writing skills and possibly allow me to even work on the book as I am working towards the degree.  I haven’t been approved yet but, if I am, I have high hopes it will facilitate my writing more (like I need more opportunities for projects.)  I do have a few books already planned including Miranda and the Men from Mars, my Animals book, Finch, and (gulp) a young adult vampire novel.  It isn’t as bad as it sounds.  I have an interesting new take on the genre. We’ll have to see how they come together as I have a lot of painting projects and a huge game I am working on as well.  Maybe I’ll get to that when I’m 80 and retired.


June 2016 City Arts Show – Sixteen

I had the opportunity to participate in a show at downtown Orlando at the City Arts Gallery on Orange and Pine.  There are 16 artists in all including many very talented co-workers of mine.  The opening it Thursday June 16th from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and should promise to be a really fun time filled with lots of great art.  I’m showing what I have completed of my Animals series which is all work for a dual book set that I am currently plugging away on.  One will be an alphabet book with a different animal for each letter and another will be a novella about the journey of the artist and all the interesting characters he is meeting.  He pays for his passage to Europe with portrait work.  Fun.  Here are a few pictures of my work from the hanging that took place on Tuesday.



Digital Creatures – Trogolodytes and Bugs

Sorry about the time off.  I took two weeks to work on a large scale painting (the one with the animals on the ship) and am not posting it just yet so there is something new to see at the June show.  In the meantime, I’ve been working on some digital paintings of creatures for a game I’ve been working on for a few years.  I looked into miniatures but decided I wanted to keep a specific look and decided it would be a great opportunity to work on my digital painting skills.  Hopefully I’ll get to complete a lot more.  In any case here are some trogolodyte villagers, a warrior and the chief.  In addition to them I created a weird bug creature.


Jackrabbit Painting Complete

I know, I know… Been a while since posting happened.  Well, there is a reason for that.  I actually took a week long vacation to paint on my large 30×40 animal piece and it is taking quite a long time.  I haven’t posted on it because I want it to be something new for everyone when I take part in the show on June 16th.  In the meantime, I’ve managed to finish this Jackrabbit which posed it’s own issues and I might go back in and push on it a little more.  I had to push in a little more shadow on the right side of the face and neck, realizing there was a little inconsistency in the lighting.  One of the issues of comping together reference with different light sources.  Usually I am pretty good about getting that done in the charcoals but I think this one slipped in under the radar a bit.  No worries.  Fixed it in post as they say.  For the meantime, I’m calling it done.


Larger Animal Painting Value Pass Complete

I finally finished the value pass on my larger animal painting and I’m planning on plugging away on the painting of it next week.  If all goes to plan I hope to finish it (I took a week off from work to hopefully accomplish that task.)  This one I had to push a lot more than I usually do, particularly in the darkness of the clouds.  They were way too contrasted in the beginning so I had to keep knocking them back, lightening them up.  They popped darker again when I spray fixed the piece so I’ll have to make some adjustments when I’m painting.  Always to be expected.


Raven Bear Painting

Since we have the Full Sail Game Art and Computer Animation Art Show coming up in less than a week, I felt compelled to take a quick break from my large animal painting (that I knew I wouldn’t finish in time) in order to complete one or two pieces for the show.  I’ve been sitting on my Raven Bear for a very long time and decided it was time to pull the trigger on it and wrap it up.  The whole of the painting was a little dark in the background so I decided to pop a little light on the brick wall in the back so the values weren’t so uniformly dark.


Treasure Map to Ghost Gold

In planning my daughter’s 7th birthday party, a ghost hunter themed celebration, I was called upon to create a treasure map to ghost gold that was apparently buried in our back yard.  I constructed the map from memory, sketching it first and then inking it with my micron pens on bristol board.  Once I was done, I scanned it, laid out coordinates in Photoshop and embellished it with a few ornaments.  After printing out 16 copies, one for each kid, I soaked and then spattered them with coffee and tossed them in the oven for 10 minutes at fairly high heat to weather them.  I think the effect worked pretty well.  I really enjoyed the process and think I might enjoy making more treasure maps in the future.  Props to any of you who figure out the clue at the bottom.  It was a little challenging for the seven-year-olds but once I helped them a bit, they were off and running!