Tim OBrien
May 2007
Purity of Arms
For a recent assignment for Reform Judaism Magazine, I illustrated the conflict an Israel Defense Force soldier has in dealing with Arabs at checkpoints. They follow a 'Purity of Arms' code which states that soldiers "... will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property. To show this, a cover was created that shows the difficulty a soldier might have in determining what is a threatening situation and what is not.
A small jpg. of the cover.
Dragon Final
This artwork is by Tim Durning. His words: "With this piece I tried to redesign the dragon from the combination-animal point of view. Instead of something terrifying like a typical dragon I wanted a more nautical/aerial type of creature that would relate more to the idea of good, rather than a monster."
My class at the University of the Arts has just concluded and as I mentioned earlier, the final assignment was a dragon. The students come to me with some foundation skills but few keep sketchbooks, and really don't know what their style is yet. They are students. We start first semester working from the figure, drawing then learning the portrait, then monochromatic painting the introduce color. Second semester we learn portrait painting and ease out of that and into an illustration class. I try to sense what they need to do or try and move them into that direction. All the time, I stress the need to marinate their brains in art, movies, literature and the world to come to understand what they WANT to paint or draw. Suddenly, in most cases these students find a voice. If I see a spark I fan it and try to encourage a fire out of them. With this final assignment, I gave them one word, "Dragon" and I could see their faces freeze. A few smiled thinking they won the lottery but soon found out everything has been done before, and doing something special is kind of hard. I want to show some of these young artist a moment here on my Drawger blog.
Here is Tim's sketch.
Tim Durning started working traditionally and started to finish his work on the computer. He is using the digital tools well and adds to his drawing without losing the freshness of the ideas or lines.
This is a portrait by Stephanie Struse. She was one of my more experimental artist in the class and I expect great things from her in the future. This piece combines two kinds of art she did in the class; black and white line work and oil painting.
Eric Braddock was the class mayor; first to talk in crits and helpful and supportive of everyone. He is a fan of Sci-fi, fantasy and has great ideas and ambition. He will be a stellar senior next year.
This illustration spread is by Shane-Michael Vidaurri. He's a great kid and keeps beautiful sketchbooks. He writes about his spread: "This comic explores the magic that surrounds dragons, the legendary creatures of folklore. To me, it only makes sense that they would live behind closed doors in ancient places."
Alexis Olsen was the sunshine in our class, always cheerful and pleasant. You would want her in your class. She came on strong in the second semester and did many great pieces including my favorite for the class. Early on in the second semester I gave the class and assignment to make an illustration that is NOT just a scene. MOre of a juxtaposition of images that don't necessarily make liner sense or order. She latched onto this concept. She wrote about this piece: "...Lately I have really been trying to make a senseless image, make sense, and to do this I try and create a sense of beauty and harmony throughout the piece..."
Finally here is Alexis' piece done just before the dragon. I love it.
So now I put away all my teaching material and wait until the fall, where I start all over again with a new class of students. It's always hard to train a fighter into a good boxer only to watch them move onto other trainers and bigger fights. Good luck everyone at Uarts!
This is a sculpture made for reference by Lauren Lambiase. She's been in my class for 4 semesters and is a good friend. She had no idea how to even think of doing a dragon so she did this to help her see it and light it.
I'm getting a few more images and these are really great too.
Here is Lauren's final art.
Book cover for "The Beast"
As a side note, my students are sometimes my models and Lauren has helped me out a few times this year.
"Long May She Reign" Another book cover where the character is a cross between Mona Lisa and Emma Peel. Lauren IS that.
Lauren's sketch
Here is another student, Lauren Lopilato. She can really draw well and her painting is coming along. She works from her imagination and does really great work.
Lauren Lopilato writes, "I was torn between a more fantastical, serious dragon and the cute dragon you see now. I figured it would be more fun to portray a dragon totally opposite to the norm. So I took the stereotype of a dragon guarding a princess in a tower and turned it around into a cute and playful scene. "
Cassius on Der Spiegel
Cassius and his baby blues.
I just finished an overnight painting for the cover of this week's Der Spiegel. The assignment called for an angelic child with his eyes in the shape of TVs or Computer screens. There needed to be one more thing to connect more that it was TV or computers we were referencing so I thought of the arrow and the computer using the arrow as a highlight. It worked. My German friends here can hopefully translate the cover copy. My son Cassius was a great model and I have so many great reference shots and he held it together for a quick shoot before getting the giggles. It was a fun job and a cute subject.
Tim's mom and Todah.
In 1974 my mother suddenly became a 35 year old single parent of 3 young boys; Dan was 10, I was 9 and Jay had turned 6 two days before. My dad's sudden passing meant that the world we had known was going to change. As a parent now, I don't even know how she pulled it together to go from being a full time, stay at home mom to having a career as a Medical Technologist. While she was at work we went wild at home. Frequent calls to her office citing each other's crimes, gasoline fires in the back yard, not to mention all of the mischief we got away with, all was part of the stress of her world. My mom held us together. What happens to boys without fathers in our society? They often are lost and carry that bitterness around forever. I don't think any of the O'Brien boys are lost or bitter. Still to this day, when any of us are low or stressed, we call mom. She is soothing and comforting. My mom is hard to describe. She loves gardening, her papillion, the beach, seeing the boys together and not fighting, eating lobster, buying small kitchen appliances, her grandchildren and the sun. She is a religious woman. She is opinionated and sometimes emotional but always loving. Her refrigerator is packed. She buys all kinds of food and likes margaritas. She loves Drawger and gets a kick out of the banter. Happy Mother's Day Patricia O'Brien. Love, Tim
The Final: Dragon
This is my sketch for this assignment; Dragon
I teach at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. The illustration department is really pretty special. I've been teaching there since about 1990 and at every level. After a few years of just teaching workshops, I took on a class that has turned out to be a great fit for me. Figurative Illustration is the title and it starts with drawing from the model, painting from the model in monochrome, then onto full color portraits. I teach them my strength. As the class enters it's second semester we concentrate on application of these skills into illustrations. The class really challenges these new illustrators to figure out what they do that is unique, what their aesthetic is, and how to filter assignments through that aesthetic. I have had some pretty fantastic kids these past few years, some of who I will profile soon. For now, I want to write about the final assignment. All I said was dragon. As some people smiled broadly, others groaned and it was their job to think of ideas they would do in their style. I decided to do one myself in class. Taking cues from George Stubbs and thinking of this princess painting I did a few years back, I wanted to do an elegant dragon that was all about pose, not aggression.
This is a George Stubbs I referred to and my Chinese Princess for Scholastic's Royal Diaries series.
And this one. The cool surprise for me was how great he was at landscape. I never quite considered that when looking at his work.
The head in the first sketch was not so great and not the look I was going for. I wanted to paint a white dragon. A gentle elegant beast. This first sketch was in my head from a Business Week cover I did not long ago. It just flowed from my pen. So I did these revised heads. Cassius, my son, said the one on the left was the best and the other looked like a dog. He was right.
This is the sketch with the new head. It's now more elegant.
Before going to finish I have to do a value study. In that study I figure out the setting and how this dragon would be lit. The fact that I made everything up and am drawing from my head means that the preparation for the final art is vital.
In class, on gessoed illustration board I begin the drawing. The drawing is in white charcoal, sepia charcoal, white and brown Gouache and some color pencil. My laptop shows me my final sketch.
Here is a close up
After getting down the dragon, I need it to fit in an environment. This was the most difficult part of the process, but fun.
I love my class, and they have watched me do paintings in class as demonstrations before. The cool thing about me working on this was they were as into their own illustration as I was mine. Here is proof.
At this point I have my drawing complete and have added some blue charcoal pencil to the sky and have designed some clouds to frame this dragon in the scene.
In preparation to airbrush some contrast into this drawing and do the cloud drawing, I photocopy the drawing and cut out the dragon as a template.
In order to do this in class I had to go to school on a Sunday night and haul so much stuff. I brought my full set of oils, all my drawing material, books, computer, electric pencil sharpener and a drawing panel and maul stick.
Here is the artwork before oils and after some airbrush. My class did watch this part. I taught myself airbrush in college. These kids leaned airbrush in photoshop first and have never seen a real one in action. They were riveted. I paint with it mostly in white and brown and in the end felt that it was going exactly as I had hoped. There are great things that happen to a drawing while your doing it. This one proved to be full of surprises. I hope the final art is just as satisfying.
I have NOT finished this painting yet. Work and life have jumped into my freedom yet again. I will do so soon and add it to this article. For now, I have a pre-oil painting piece ready for some finesse.
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