I have been hoping an idea for a new painting would materialize in my head soon, and this morning it happened. I’ve always been a Michelangelo fan, and the old master paintings with people in the sky definitely left lasting impressions on me, so I’ve been toying with ideas that involve those elements. This morning I decided to bust out the iPad and start sketching.

The initial concept stage is a lot of fun because I can just play around with different shapes and ideas. It’s very loose and playful, nothing has to be precise. The more I sketched, new thoughts and ideas would form. I looked at pictures online of contortionists first because I wanted an extreme twisting in the female’s torso, but most of what I found showed extreme bending – not twisting. So then I looked at photos of dancers and found a few examples. But I think what I was after was probably a bit ‘not anatomically correct’. So to help, I went out to my shop where the Power Mac resides. I opened up a 3D model and started posing it. I then exported an image of the model and brought it into the iPad as reference. It helped me get a good gesture drawing of the girl, but then I wasn’t feeling real strong about the position of her legs.

How I decide if things are looking right depends on my knowledge of design. I feel my design background is slightly above mediocre. I was first introduced to what design was while I was in my first year of the Character Animation program at CALARTS (1992). Some basics that I learned were stuff like: if we the viewer are looking up at someone, they will appear dominating and exude power. If we are looking down at someone, they will appear meek and vulnerable. I try to position elements inside the frame so that there is not much dead space. Placing things dead center have a different mood than placing them off-center. With this new concept I wanted to get movement involved. Now I haven’t finished the last painting yet, but I’m getting close. It has no movement at all. So I want to try something different. Anyway my point about design was that the female’s legs weren’t helping contribute to movement – they were just there. I tried drawing her legs in many different positions before I found a pose that I liked.

I had the same issues with the guy. The upper body developed rather easily, but the legs took a lot of trial and error before I found what looked good.

I love what digital tools can contribute to the process. I was able to resize the guy and the girl independently of each other, move them around to find the best position inside the frame, and rotate them until they were flowing nicely together. The process is so incredibly fun.

To help with the movement I planned how the clouds would flow around the figures, contributing to the effect of them spinning in the sky.

Once I was happy with the drawing, I stole the colors from an old painting that I liked and roughed in my sketch with those colors.

I may try to be more original and come up with my own color scheme, but for now I’m happy with my thievery. The next step is usually more difficult for me, and that’s finding people who are willing to pose so I can get reference for the actual painting. If I were in Portland or Seattle I know this would be easy, but here in conservative Fallon Nevada, I feel awkward trying to find willing models. I always pay them, but I’ve never used nude models. And finding a guy is usually much more difficult. So we’ll see how this next step takes shape.

Watch the video process here:

By Cody Deegan

Cody Deegan is a life-long artist versed in drawing, painting, sculpting, and design. He studied filmmaking and character animation at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles as well as figurative oil painting at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.

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