Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Collaborative Painting

-Dan dos Santos

Here is the latest installment of the 'Alien' series I do for Daw books, titled 'Alien Diplomacy'. This one was a lot of fun to work on. Not so much because of the subject matter, but because of the company.


The deadline on this piece was really tight, and I honestly thought I would have to turn the job down. That's not something that I, or the client, wanted to do. I had already painted the first 4 covers in the series, and it would be a shame to just hand that off to someone else. So I did what any person does when they're in a jam... I asked for help.

Knowing there was no way to get the job done in the allotted time on my own, I asked fellow illustrator, and good friend, Dave Palumbo to help me out on this piece. Dave and I have really similar working methods (right down to the substrate we both use), so I knew he would be a good partner on this piece. I also know that he has similar tastes to myself, and was experienced collaborating with other artists.

Dave traveled from Pennsylvania to my home in Connecticut, and over the course of 4 days, we managed to turn out a rather complicated piece from start to finish.

I've done collaborations before, and not always with great results. I think this collaboration was particularly successful due to a few factors:
1. As I mentioned, Dave and I have very similar working methods.
2. The 'look' of the series had already been established, so we had a clear goal in mind as to what the final result should look like.
3. Rather than both paint a little bit of everything (and likely un-do a lot of each other's work), we decided to divvy up the various elements of the painting. I would paint one specific element, Dave another.

The collaboration actually started before Dave got to my house. Days prior, we bounced sketches back and forth via email, refining one another's ideas, and getting the Editor's approval before Dave drove up.


 

Once here, Dave and I immediately went reference hunting. We took a trip around town, and even stopped at Wal-Mart, photographing all sort of junk that would help us compose the robotic elements of the painting. Industrial backhoes, Transformers toys, and even vacuum cleaners all made their way into the painting.


We hired one of my favorite models that same day for a late night shoot, and later that night settled on a pose.

Dave helps with the drapery as the model poses.


We spent the entire next day compiling the reference, making sure we were both happy with the composition. Dave then began the process of transferring the image to the board, and did a rough acrylic lay-in.

Once the lay-in was completed, Dave took a well-deserved break, and I began the process of painting the background elements... working well through the night. When Dave woke up the next morning, he began painting the mid-ground. We alternated like this, back and forth, Dave working during the day, and me at night, so that we could clock a good 16 hours worth of work on the painting each day.

Just 4 days after his arrival, we had a pretty impressive, albeit completely wet, painting to show for it.

First thing the next day, we took a drive to a local photographer that I often use to scan my paintings. With a 10 foot flatbed-scanner at our disposal, we were able to get a wonderful hi-rez scan of the image, regardless of it being wet.

A few hours later, scan in hand, I imported the image into Photoshop, and began making adjustments. I digitally added the male figure into background, as well and the furry critters up front. Both were elements that were really important to the story, so they had to be there. However, Dave and I discussed these elements early on, and both felt that the original painting would be much stronger without them. So we knew that we were going to add them digitally before we even started.

The final cover with additional characters.
There are a couple of serious considerations when collaborating with someone on a professional job. Most notably, who will retain the copyrights, and the original art? I was tempted to hire Dave to help me as a work-for-hire arrangement, as this would keep things really simple. Dave would be well compensated, and the painting, for all legal purposes would be mine. I decided not to do this for two reasons.

Firstly, this would mess up my taxes. It would mean me claiming incoming I didn't actually receive, or possibly having to list Dave as an employee. That is territory I didn't want to tread.

The other reason, and the more important of the two, was that I thought it would be insulting. Dave is really talented, and I didn't want him to be a ghost on this project. I wanted his input, and fully expected that his sensibilities would show through in the final work. As such, it was only fair that he receive credit too. In the end, Dave and I each own half the copyright, both received cover credit, and each invoiced the client separately. I currently have the original art, but it technically belongs to both us. Should we decide to sell it, we would both split the income.

26 comments:

  1. A collaboration of two of my most beloved coverartists? I absolutly love it!!! Looks like you had a lot of fun doing it. :)

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  2. That is en entirely cool story! And a cool painting too, even though personally I like the first thumbnail better, with her crouching under the aircraft. I love the ripped flag though!

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  3. Whoa, I really liked the story. Things like this are what make cover artist turn into superheroes!

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  4. Neat when you can do something like that. I never really considered Dave's work to be that much like yours Dan, but now that you mention it and I see the result it becomes clear...Makes me wonder if I memory-filed some of Dave's work as Dan's and/or vice-versa...

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  5. And then... who will keep the original? :-P

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  6. This is incredible! All the different textures in the composition are singing. And this cover art is making me want to read the entire series just so I can read this installment with context and enjoy the painting even more...baha! A very very successful cover :)

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  7. Congrats to you both ... Amazing picture :)

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  8. Good job Dan (and Dave!): my favorite in the series to date! I wouldn't abandon that first sketch, though: there's something really great going on with it that you might want to revisit and take to finish in the future...

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  9. Wow, insane! I cant stop looking it. The both styles matches and it works pretty well. Congrats to both of you!

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  10. Thats pretty interesting seeing how both of your styles mixed together like that. Though I have to say I'd love to read more about copyrights, especially regarding collab pieces. Its not something that comes up often in illustration classes.

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  11. The painting came out great, especially considering it was a round-the-clock rush job! Dan, I am curious about the 10 foot scanner. Is this a superior method compared to photographing the art? I would like to try this out on some of my own work, but I live in Los Angeles. Does anyone know of a place in LA that offers oversize scans like this?

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    1. Joel, it is definitely better than a photograph. This scanner scans at 450 dpi, at actual size. So if I bring a 40 inch painting, I get a 40 inch scan. A photograph can't do that, unless you have one of those insane 40 megapixel Hasselblads, which cost like $30,000.

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  12. Great work! I wouldn't have known it was a collaboration. Smart decision to leave out the guy and the fury creatures on the actual painting. The dynamism of all of the idea sketches is outstanding!

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  13. Love this post. Really cool to see the process.

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  14. Really sweet work Dan (and Dave!)

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  15. Thanks for posting this Dan, it was really fun doing something outside the normal work routine :)

    One other thing I found interesting in swapping shifts on this piece was that (as I recall) Dan and I use fairly different combinations of pigments on our palettes. I remember specifically thinking about this while painting that big buzz saw blade and flag after Dan had just does the surrounding sky and robot arm it attaches to. Situations like that kind of stir you out of your normal color habits, something which I enjoy.

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  16. this is a great collaboration, I love it!

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  17. I have not had luck of collaborating with anyone and my art since last place for many- High School art and high school gf and I did St Basil's Cathedral as black light image stll in my basement too. When one connects with someone whose mind works similar way, a lot of fun is had. But this suggest new level of collaboration of artists can happen online and most likely is now. Nice work and I really love seeing your process, Thank You

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  18. Thank you for all The cover art in a series I love! Thanks also for the Information on how Cover Art is done! Well written and great humor throughout never said who keeps the original??? lol Well I am going out on the web to see more of both of your guys awesome work! Thanks again and thanks to Gini for the link to this page will be back to see what else you are doing!

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  19. This is absolutely awesome. Thank you for sharing!!!

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  20. Love this piece. Love. What did the final sketch look like? Sounds from the description like Dave just looked at a monitor and approximated the image on the board, but I'm wondering if it got matted down and painted over? And no line art at any point, right?

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    1. No mounting. After working out the composition digitally,both Dave and I always re-draw the image directly on to the board in graphite. A very detailed under-drawing always precedes the oil painting. Some times we graph it, sometimes graphite transfer, sometimes free-hand. In this case, it was a combination of transferring and freehand drawing.

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  21. This one came out awesome gentlemen! Love everything about it from conception to finish.

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  22. It's always a pleasure to see a complete process with some helpful thoughts on collaborative work. It is something I haven't done before and I find it very rewarding to read about it.

    I noticed some interesting differences between your previous pieces for the series and this one, for instance you frequently use a strong hair light surrounding your characters that is missing in this fourth cover. It is not that I prefer one way or the other, just curious to find the mutual influences of styles here. Great work, congratulations to you both!

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