Saturday, January 24, 2009

Willie Parker of the Pittsburgh Steelers

On this blog, I've posted a few of the illustrations I was fortunate to complete for the Upper Deck 2008 NFL Heroes series.

I think my favorite of the bunch is Willie Parker of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Apropos, since they happen to be facing-off against the Arizona Cardinals at Super Bowl 43 in Tampa, Florida next Sunday.

The color palette, texture, and pose all contribute to my favoring this painting.

Technically, I was also feeling pretty good about the way I was approaching these paintings by now, and my overall confidence level was high. Confidence tends to show in one's painting, just as it shows in any aspect of one's chosen endeavor.

I had settled into a nice layering technique that allowed a translucence, shown in the yellows in the jersey as well as the skin tones.

One challenge facing me with this painting was size. The completed illustration was done on an 8" x 10" canvas. Therefore, the face only occupied a small fraction of that area. My liner brush served me well, here.

I use acrylic paints for my color work -- atypical from many illustrators who tend to favor oils. I enjoy the quick drying capabilities of acrylic, as well as the challenge of figuring out how to manipulate it.

To my paint, I add a slow dry retarder, which allows me to manipulate it for a longer time than without. This additive also makes the paint very sensitive to being lifted off -- even with the most gentle of washes. A heavy hand can ruin the most beautifully laid spontaneous mark.

That little bit of loss of control brings just enough tension to the process to keep it interesting -- for me, at least.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Maestro said...

Hi Allan, Love your sports action work. I have a question on my vine charcoal portrait we have recently been discussing.

I did it over and noticed that when I put frontal light on it to view that it looks completely different than when I move it where light runs across it from the side. Then, it looks very dark. What's up with that?

Allan Burch said...


Thanks for the kind words.

I'm guessing the answer to your question is one of two things.

Assuming you are using the Canson paper, with textured side up, the difference in value may be a reflection of light, depending on how much fixative you may have used.

The other possibility may be the charcoal not filling the depths of the "pits" in the texture of the paper. So, when seen from straight-on, the overall tone is less than when viewed from an angle, when the perspective hides the "pits" and the tone appears more even and dark.

Those are my best guesses, without seeing the piece.

Hopefully, that helped.

Maestro said...

Hope I am not asking too many questions. You have been very helpful.

I am wondering how you use the chamois cloth to blend vine charcoal?

I just touch the portrait area with it and it wipes it away, same with the blending stumps. If I use the very tip of the stump and lightly touch the area it works somewhat.

What is the most effective way to blend an area with vine charcoal. It really needs a very gentle hand.

Allan Burch said...


I'm happy to help.

I use the chamois to wipe away charcoal, as you noted -- typically over larger areas, not so much to blend.

I do use a fairly light touch when handling a blending stump. I also have a decent amount of charcoal on the paper, so it doesn't really lift it all away.

I start with a light touch with the stump. Then, you can go heavier with the pressure, as the charcoal becomes more "ground-in" to the paper.

The degree of wear to a stump affects how it blends, too. An often used stump is more worn as its surface becomes "softer" or more ragged, so it tends to grab the charcoal and blend it more. A brand new one tends to let the charcoal stay in-place.

For me, the most effective way to blend vine charcoal is with the side of a blending stump. Your finger works well, too.

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