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Published on Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To The Banner Born

The Making of The Western Online Banner

By Michael T. Pizzolato



Last time in the Roundup, we looked at the process involved in making a painting. We saw how a rough sketch with an effective design could evolve into a painting. We saw images showing how the preliminary sketches and designs gave us an outline, a course we could plot for the general direction the artwork.

We also plotted some under-construction in the form of block puppets, which are important in setting up human anatomy. We stopped just short of the process of blocking, which we'll begin with now. The process of blocking means getting the paint on the canvas in a way that approximates what you want to see. It is similar to the sketching we did earlier except that it is done on the canvas.

In fig. 1, I mainly wanted to get some form and color on the painting so that I could see things on canvas and maybe make some further decisions. So I painted in general shapes and color, which acted as the outline for what was ahead.


For example, let's look at the holster. In Fig. 2, the holster is not fully detailed yet. It is just blocked in with generalized color and some pencil guidelines. Eventually, I painted a design on it and I lowered the gun further down into the holster (Fig. 3 ) to better represent the quick draw position.


I roughed in the gunman's body with general blocking on the shirt and pants. I painted a lot of white on his pants, knowing I would leave some white behind on the legs, using that as highlighting as I painting the denim color over it. In other words, I was painting the light on first and then painting dark over it.

The same procedure of detailing also helped me get a better look at the rest of the painting, the town as well as the hand and holster in the left foreground.

As I added more detail, I also decided on more changes. At one point, I decided to reshape the gunman's hat. But how could I do this and still keep the integrity of the background without creating tiny brush marks around the hat.

The answer was to use masking fluid I covered the hat and face with it. Then I painted a background over the hat and face, blending the paint smoothly behind it. I was able to rub my finger over the area (Fig. 4) to remove the masking fluid, leaving the head and face untouched in the process. This is a more effective technique than masking tape, which can sometimes leave paint tracks where we don't want them.


The rest of the painting involved time and techniques. I shaped up the hand and holster, while firming up the gunman. I decided to lay in the town straight across the background behind the gunman. I added the sun and spray-painted some orange and yellow rays, holding a straightedge lightly over each ray.

The result was the finished product (fig. 5). I photographed the painting and then the editorial process began. I sent Matthew different versions, some with Photoshop effects. Eventually we came together on the fiery background behind the gunman (see banner at the top of the page).

Not all artists use these techniques; In fact, every artist uses a different process, which accounts for all the different art styles out there. However, these are techniques that worked for me when creating Showdown at Sundown.

The next edition of The Roundup will be here next month!

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