Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vignetting: Part 2

Let's continue with three more design strategies for vignetting illustrations.

The Form-Link Vignette
In this approach, the figures are shown in full, but they’re linked to each other using props or background elements, thus making a larger shape.

Saul Tepper establishes the domestic setting and unites the family members using the chair, the doorway, and the cast shadow. The man’s head is cleverly silhouetted against the refrigerator, the selling point of the ad.

Howard Pyle uses the thin forms of the smoke and the horizon as a linear scaffolding to hang the separate parts together.

The Real White VignetteIf you stage a scene so that part of it consists of a white material, the vignette looks natural and unforced. The white element might be a snowy field, a sandy beach—or in the case of this John Gannam, a white bedsheet. The two dark shapes at the top of the composition are crucial to defining the shape of the bed.

The white of the tablecloth becomes the white of the paper.

The Spillover VignetteFor this one, think of the white background not as white paper, but as a field of illumination, flooding the subject and pouring over the edges of the form. This spillover effect was pioneered by paperback cover artist James Bama. The edge of the form can be lost altogether as in this case....

....or the edge of the form can be held. Either way, the figure should be lit from both sides, with the core of the shadow in the front of the form.

I did this painting of an asteroid miner inspired by Bama's innovation. The image appeared on a paperback called Out of the Sun by Ben Bova. I posed the model contre-jour in a doorway, with all the light from outdoors spilling over into the side planes of his face and shoulders. Then in the painting I actually lost all the edges of the forms and let them blend into the background.

Read the whole series:
Vignetting, Part 1
Vignetting, Part 2
Vignetting, Part 3
More on vignetting in my book: Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist

Thanks to the following this week:
John Flesk, link.

Roger Reed of Illustration House, link.
Leif Peng’s Flickr sets, link.
Jim Vadeboncoeur’s illustrated books, link.
100 Years of Illustration, link.
Armando Cabrera, link.
Illustration Art, link.


Erik Bongers said...

I didn't recognize the miner's portrait as a Gurney at all.
Even now I now who painted it, it still doesn't look like a Gurney and I have no clue why.
The subject is different, sure, but that's not the reason, I think...

But spillovers are the devine form of vignetting !

I also learned something about space exploration from this post: a face can get wheatered, even under a helmet.

Erik Bongers said...

Eureka ! I got it !
I compared the miner's portrait to other Gurneys and it's not the strokes, not the colours but the lighting !
Many Gurney paintings have either frontal lighting similar to Rockwell - as if a subtle flashlight has been used from the camera's position - which give most figures a dark edge, or the other typical lighting is the soft difuse light of a clouded sky.

This painting has neither frontal lighting (quite the opposite !) nor difuse lighting.
Furthermore this results in pitch-black shadows, which is also very unlike any Gurney.

Hehe...end of analysis :)

Victor said...

How much of the props and costume for the miner portrait was real reference? All of it? Was the model wearing all those doo-dads and holding the helmet; did you make some of it up; or did you just modify existing props when you painted them (turning a motorcycle helmet into an astronaut helmet, for example)?

James Gurney said...

Erik, you're right: I don't think I've tried that kind of lighting--or vignetting--before or since. "Asteroid Miner" was an early experiment from about 1982. Actually, the darkest darks in the face are quite a bit lighter than black, in an attempt to suggest the brightness of the light behind him.

Victor, maybe I'll do a post in the future showing the scrap I shot, with ski gloves, a staple gun hanging from the belt, and a friend's motorcycle helmet. There were a lot of changes from the photo reference, but as I look back at it, a lot of the forms could have been better thought out.

Tom Scholes said...

Whoa Whoa Whoa, let's see more Sci-Fi from Mr. Gurney! Love that painting.

Allison said...

The real white vignette is beautiful. What a wonderful way to convey closeness.