Painting the Rocketeer: Step 5

Here we are at the end of the week, which means we have come to the final post in this step-by-step explanation of my Indiana Jones and Rocketeer dynamic duo. Once again, if you are just joining this party, perhaps you should start back at Step 1 to truly understand the anatomy of this painting. CLICK HERE to do so.


While Indy and the Rocketeer were outlined with a black Prismacolor pencil, the nuances of their inner details utilized many colors. Lilac, parma violet, deco yellow, violet, cream, sand, some greens, various reds, pinks, and maybe more not coming to mind right now. The point is, colors are important to the success of the piece!

Take for instance this close look at the Rocketeer. There are so many colors working together to create his details. See the lighter highlights on his flight jacket? That’s deco pink! The same deco pink creating highlights on his hands and on his pants. It was a nice gentle light color that also happened to tie him in with the colors around him on the background. You need your figures to look like they belong in their setting, and to do that is to use the same colors as would happen in real life with the idea of reflected light. (I’m not going into a deep explanation of reflected light, but you can look it up.)


The ONLY white used directly on this painting was for the bright highlights on the Rocketeer’s helmet and jacket buttons, and a little on Indy’s teeth. No white is in the Rocketeer’s eye pieces – that’s just a light green in there.
The man with the hat ready for his close-up.


And with that, the piece is all done! Here is a scan (not a photo this time) of the final art ready to be framed and hung in a gallery.


Whew! All done!



On April 22, the Rocketeer art show opened at Creature Features in Burbank, CA. There were MANY great pieces created in all mediums such as oil paint, sculpture, latex, metal work, vinyl, watercolor, marker, acrylic, ink, and the ever popular digital media.


Film score composer Christopher Young dropped by to check out the show!
My old friend from our days in New Jersey, Walt Sturrock, who is also an amazing painter. We even worked together at Disney for six years.
A wide shot of one of the gallery rooms at Creature Features with everyone enjoying the show.




13X17.25″ HAND-SIGNED PRINTS – $40




Dog Days of Summer

…well, dog, cat and mouse days of summer actually. It has been pretty hot here over the past few days – routinely in the 90s, but the other day I looked outside and saw 102 on my thermometer. Made me VERY glad to be inside!

Despite having the cool comfort of air conditioning at my beck and call, the outside heat still makes one feel sluggish which was translated vicariously through my arm to paper with these critters. They can do all my slugging for me.


Hot Pets
Before any of you e-mail me to tell me cats and dogs don’t get sweaty brows, just remember this is a drawing. It isn’t real life. Mice, however, always fan themselves in real life.



14×11″ colored pencil on Canson paper – $215.00



Violet Monkeys

Here in Los Angeles, it has become a thing for small art galleries to host group shows of art created to a common theme. Local artists have created art for displays themed to the work of Tim Burton, Hanna Barbera, The Wizard of Oz, How To Train Your Dragon, and even the collected works of J.J. Abrams’ films and television shows. This past Saturday I contributed a piece to the Planet of the Apes themed show hosted by the Creature Features gallery in Burbank, California.


Charlton Heston
Based on the original Charlton Heston movie from 1968, the 16×20″ “Violet Monkeys” was created with watercolor and colored pencil.


Perhaps you would like to hear a little behind-the-scenes story about this particular piece? It wasn’t that I just decided to one day create a painting from a forty-six year old movie. There is a little more than that to tell…

When I first moved to California to work for Disney Feature Animation in 1997, it was right as Hercules was being released. Charlton Heston was the opening narrator for that film, and being a fan of his work, I struck up a correspondence friendship with him. I always loved that first Planet of the Apes film, so after a few years of writing back and forth with George Taylor (Heston’s character’s name), I created my first Planet of the Apes painting in his honor for a solo art show to be held at the studio. Mr. Heston was going to attend, but unfortunately didn’t make it.

This past February I was going through some boxes and found a letter from Mr. Heston he had sent after seeing a print of that original painting (which is currently on my website). He wrote such a complimentary letter that all these years later it touched me again. Almost immediately after finding that note, I was invited to participate in Creature Features’ Planet of the Apes themed art show. With the renewed encouragement from that old letter, it was time to reinvent that piece created eleven years ago that, quite frankly, could stand to have a make-over.

As the deadline for the show loomed, the realization set in that time was running out to create the new piece. I was about to take off on a lengthy river boat trip through Russia, and suddenly got the idea that a painting could be created during sailing days between ports. The initial drawing was created while at home in the States, then it was packed along with some watercolor paper, paints, brushes and colored pencils for travel to Russia.



Riverboat Stateroom
While it wasn’t the best studio in which to work, it was the most adventurous. This was the set-up in my room on board the riverboat that took me across Russia


Setting up a make-shift studio in my riverboat stateroom proved challenging due to the small, tight quarters. It became an adventure. I would open up my curtains, and watch the Russian countryside float by while sitting there working on purple gorillas and an orange Charlton Heston.

One day Julia, one of the ladies who worked the front desk, said to me out of the blue, “I like your violet monkeys.” I scratched my head trying to figure out what she was talking about at first. It turned out that she had come around the day before to deliver magazines about St. Petersburg to all our rooms and had seen the work-in-progress sitting there. She didn’t know what Planet of the Apes was, so she referred to the painting as “violet monkeys”. I liked the reference so much that the painting is now officially named Violet Monkeys.


Violet Monkeys
Meet Julia, the Russian front desk worker who unknowingly named my “Violet Monkeys” painting.


So, there you have it. This is my first major piece to have been created abroad (while aboard no less), and it was done while traveling over 1000 miles across Russia’s rivers, lakes, and canals between Moscow and St. Petersburg! It had to get done, because the art show opening was the day after I returned to the United States!


Grand Circle
This is me in front of the Tikhi Don ship (part of Grand Circle Travel’s fleet) docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. This was my home and studio for the past two weeks.


While fighting with jet lag back in beautiful downtown Burbank, CA, I managed to get the framed art to the Creature Features gallery in just enough time for them to hang it for the evening’s opening. And boy, what an opening! Several hundred people were in attendance including fellow contributors Shag, Patrick Owsley, Ben Von Strawn, William Stout, and many others! A few enthusiastic fans even came dressed as characters from the movie. Taylor White and his Creature Features team put on a good show of fantastic art, and even costumes and props used in the classic productions!


Creature Features
One of two gallery rooms at Creature Features in Burbank, CA during the opening of the “Art of the Apes” group show.
Planet of the Apes art
You can see that “Violet Monkeys” is right at home amongst some other spiffy art.
Planet of the Apes fans
Interspecie attendance to the show was welcomed.










Step-By-Step: Yogi Bear’s Pic-A-Nic – Step 5

So, today we come to the conclusion of the steps it took to create The Pic-a-nic on the Grass, a parody of Èdouard Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass from 1863. While the background is virtually finished, the characters and some of the foreground elements need to be painted.


Yogi Bear art
The characters and foreground elements receive a bit of watercolor paint.


Color choices were once again fairly easy. Yogi, Boo Boo, the Ranger and Cindy Bear all have predetermined color palettes from their days in the cartoons. The clothing items on the picnic blanket are right out of Manet’s original painting. The basket, food, and checkered picnic blanket were my little doing while keeping in mind the cartoony nature of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone National Park world.

Like with many of the background elements, wet the blank areas with water first, let them sit a minute to allow the water to saturate the paper, then the paint should be applied on those wet areas. The result is a pretty smooth application of color with seldom random edging in the middle of the figures. You can really see in the image below how the transparent nature of watercolor paint allowed for the purple underpainting to show through creating the shading on the figures.


Cindy Bear and Boo Boo with their top layer of color applied with the purple underpainting showing through creating the shadows.


Originally I had thought to use a dark gray/black for the eyeballs and noses of the characters, but upon reaching this point in the work, it seemed best to just darken those areas with purple. My #2 brush was useful for those areas along with the mouth colors.

Do you see the highlights on the noses? During the first pass at painting the noses (which you can see in yesterday’s post), I had left the top areas paper white. In this later step, I painted some purple in lightly, then let it dry a bit. Once it was mostly dry, I went in with a wet brush and applied water, then tamped up the color lightly with paper towel. In essence, I removed some of the purple which helped give the nose highlights a gentle edge and still remain light purple. Sometimes painting is knowing when to remove paint.

So now that everything is painted, it is time to finish this up. This is where I leave painting behind for a bit and rely on drawing skills. For this image, the edges of the characters are going to be defined with colored pencils. Creating a dark line for the characters will help to define them as foreground elements, and it is a common cartooning convention. Once again, I do not use a black pencil, but I do resort to using a dark purple color called Black Grape (#PC996 in the fine line of Prismacolor pencils).


Yogi Bear original art
You can see the colored pencil line is pretty tight, with some sketchiness to help keep things a little loose.


You may notice in these close-ups that there are also some highlights. Those were painted in with some watered down white gouache paint after the dark outline was drawn first. An exception to that is the white on Yogi himself. In his case, I used a white colored pencil for some of his highlights in combination with white paint. The white pencil captured the texture of the paper better.


Yogi Bear & the Ranger
The tough part wasn’t creating the highlights, but was trying to keep the real Yogi and Ranger still while they modeled for me.


So, there you have it. That’s how you can create a fun watercolor painting in five easy steps! It is fun to see what looked like a little bit of a mess in Step 3 has now come together all ready for a gallery show. Now you pick a subject and give some of these techniques a try!


Yogi Bear original art
Here is the final 21×17 inch better-than-the-average-bear painting all ready for hanging!