Recently I created a traditional watercolor painting of Yogi Bear, his buddy Boo-Boo, his girl Cindy Bear, and the Ranger for inclusion in a Hanna-Barbera themed art show at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, CA. (Photos from the opening night reception are in yesterday’s post.) Van Eaton invited over 100 artists to participate in what is a spectacular display of creative interpretation of the Hanna-Barbera stable of characters. The show will be on display until April 20. (CLICK HERE for details if you would like to go see all the work!)
When I was first approached to contribute, I was slightly hesitant. You see, I grew up watching Looney Tunes cartoons, and even some Disney ones on the side, but the Hanna-Barbera shows rarely saw face time in our family room. So I didn’t have any childhood fondness from which to draw – literally.
I did, however, help my pal Dana Thompson paint a Yogi Bear children’s book back when I was a young illustrator. The book had been penciled by famed Hanna-Barbera designer Iwao Takamoto, and I remember how we enjoyed looking, with great admiration, over Iwao’s very precise and brilliant pencil lines. So, with fondness for that experience, Yogi Bear was destined to be my subject.
Penciled by veteran Hanna-Barbera designer Iwao Takamoto about eighteen years ago, Dana Thompson recruited me and fellow illustrator Julie Speer to help him paint this Yogi Bear children's book on a tight deadline.
To make it interesting for me, my mind wandered into the realm of parody. Exactly one hundred fifty years ago in 1863, Èdouard Manet created his massive 105 by 85 inch oil painting titled The Bath which later became known as The Luncheon on the Grass. He had created his piece for a group artist show in Paris, but the jury rejected it. Its subject matter was deemed unfit for the tastes of the day, and they didn’t care much for his technique and seeming ignorace of perspective by having the figure in the background appear far too large to be natural. So, Manet entered it in the Salon des Refusès which was a show of rejected paintings put together to spite the big show. Many pieces from the rejected show went on to define the modern art of their age.
While I don’t anticipate any controversy with The Pic-a-nic on the Grass (my parody title of course), it seemed like a fun way to portray the Yogi Bear cast in that natural setting along with the picnic basket that was always the focus of Yogi’s energies.
So, as with any artistic process, it must begin with a drawing. These days I generally do my preliminary work on a Cintiq tablet (a fancy monitor that allows you to draw right on the screen with an electronic pen). I work in layers in Photoshop so that I can resize and redraw bits and pieces here and there to get my composition just right. In this case, the setting was already figured out for me since I was doing a parody of an existing piece of art. I don’t often do this, but I imported Manet’s painting into Photoshop, and literally traced his environment.
Then I drew, and redrew Yogi Bear, Boo-Boo, Yogi’s girl Cindy Bear, and the Ranger along with the picnic blanket containing elements from Yogi’s world and Manet’s painting.
You can see that my drawing closely follows the layout of Manet's painting.
The next step was to get that digital drawing onto actual watercolor paper. After figuring out what I wanted the final size to be, I printed out the drawing in two pieces onto Strathmore Layout Bond paper, taped them together, then traced them down onto my watercolor paper using homemade graphite paper (same concept as the old time carbon copies one might have done in the days of typewriters).
On top is graphite paper made by rubbing a soft pencil lead on one side of tracing paper. The graphite side faces down onto the surface of the final watercolor paper, you place a drawing on top, then trace down with a pencil.
The watercolor paper I used was Strathmore’s rough textured Watercolor Block paper. The paper comes in a stiff stack that prevents the paper from curling up when you apply wet media to it. I actually prefer Arches brand because I feel I can have more control over the paint on Arches, but I still have some of this Strathmore in the studio and decided to use it for this piece.
Once the drawing is down on the paper, you can erase the graphite and redraw areas if you feel it is necessary. I then taped down the borders of the image area with white Artists’ Tape (low tack so it peels up easily later, but also helps give you a clean edge to your painting if so desired). It is now ready for paint!
Come back tomorrow to see the first steps in the painting process!