Saturday, February 13, 2016

Celluloid Mickey

Yesterday I painted this study of a celluloid Mickey Mouse toy from the 1930s. This toy was manufactured in Japan and distributed in Europe. It is made from celluloid, a lightweight, fragile, and flammable material that has also been used for ping pong balls, animation "cells," and for film stock itself. 

When the cellulose is unpainted (as with the green bucket above), there's a lot of subsurface scattering. But most of this Mickey is painted, which makes the light bounce off the surface.

Celluloid Mickey, gouache, 5x5 inches
As I was painting this, I was thinking about the variety of whites in this scene. I reserved the brightest white for the highlights. The lit sides of the nose and the shorts are just a little darker and warmer. The white surface that Mickey is standing on gradates back to a midrange cool gray in the top of the composition due to fall-off.

Getting all those soft edges and gradations is the challenge in gouache (it would be easy in oil). But the advantage of gouache over transparent watercolor is that you can get very precise control of value and chroma.
Video tutorial: Gouache in the Wild
Previously on GJ: Subsurface scattering and Fall-off


Allenmorrisart said...

You know, when I was first getting into painting, I was obsessed with the subtlety that white can produce in a still life. I used to set up eggs, milk, glass, paper, anything I could get my hands on. I thought it was extremely fun and a challenge. Have you ever done something like that? Will you? Can i See?
Also, I've started packing watercolor like you wherever I go. Some of the hardest things to get are those subtleties on the large areas. Say you were painting a pale skull or egg- how would you go about that?
Thanks for all that you do! I've learned so much!

My Pen Name said...


HNK said...

Oh my. This one looks fantastic! I will read the article by Mel Birnkrant. Thank you.

Rich said...

..."As I was painting this, I was thinking about the variety of whites in this scene."

Just came across this statement of Renoir, who at the age of 70(!) said:
"It had always been my aim to be able to paint a white napkin."

Bobby La said...

Definitely not one for the Gallery Flambeau! Love that key you always seem to hit too.