Diamond Heights and Valkyries

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“DIAMOND HEIGHTS.”

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I recently hiked up to Diamond Heights near Noe Valley in San Francisco for yet another plein air adventure. The day was bright and warm, a pleasant respite from the recent cold spell. I focused on a towering eucalyptus tree that dwarfed the dog walkers on the road below.

I think I am going to attempt this plein air thing on a regular basis. It seems to be a good generative source of ideas for my studio work. My next studio piece will feature a snowbound landscape, inspired by a piece I painted recently in Hope Valley, Tahoe. I’ve also been reading a lot about Snorri Sturlson, a classic Icelandic poet whom chronicled the Norse myths we know today. As a result, this next illustration is going to feature the original warrior babes, the Valkyries. It’s going to be quite an epic painting, so this little sketch is just a tidbit of what’s to come!

Sketch Pile

Long time no post! I do apologize for my slacking-off-ness here as of late. There’s really no excuse.

Recently, I’ve been sketchbooking quite a bit, with both random ideas that float into my head and observations from life. Although I’ve never been one to tout the sketchbook as a finished product, I’ve accumulated quite a few little drawings that I quite like. There’s a release in drawing without the all consuming goal of a painting in mind. One of my favorite artists, Donato Giancola recently described oil painting as a “demon,” and he’s totally right. So every now and then I like to escape that monstrous force with a simple drawing tool and a piece of paper. Enjoy!

Charge!

It’s been a while since my last post- lots of behind the scenes work has been going down in the world of Colin Nitta Illustration and time for posting progress has been a bit lacking. The reference and sketches above is for my next “Wizards” painting, “TINKERER.” It’s one of three projects in progress right now. I’ve recently decided to change both the title and the character design for this upcoming Wizards painting. At first it was called “ALCHEMIST”, but that didn’t really fit, as that title would suggest a more passive kind of sorcerer who mixes potions in his laboratory and spends decades attempting to make diamonds from coal. This particular wizard is an adventurer whom builds his own robot to ride into battle, so “ALCHEMIST” just doesn’t fit. “TINKERER” is much better- it suggests a younger, exuberant sort of wizard who is much more brash than your average spellslinger. The robot changed as well- I realized that my first model was too top heavy and awkward. I shifted parts around and devised a lower center of gravity. The result made for a lumbering foot soldier, complete with backpack and shoulder mounted armaments. Also, a space behind his head made for the perfect spot for the wizard to sit and control the machine. Its not the most realistic design ever- no pilot would ever sit in such an exposed cockpit during combat- but that’s part of the story behind the illustration. This character just jumped onboard his robot and headed for the front line without a second thought. More updates coming soon!

Revving Up

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Robots! And a knight, to mix it up. These are a few ideas I’ve been visually brainstorming for upcoming work. The Spectrum Live event is just around the corner, and I’ve got big plans. Similar to a football team that kicks into high gear prior to playing in the Super Bowl, I’ve been amping up my artistic practice for the epic showdown. Hell, I’m going all the way to Kansas City, so why not? Keep your eyes peeled for exciting developments to come!

I’m All Thumbs

 

The smattering of chicken scratch above is an example of my thumbnail process for an upcoming painting commission. The parameters given by my client were wide open: the subject to be portrayed was a classy lady sipping wine, with an expression of a pensive nature. That’s it. Given no boundaries as to environment or atmosphere, I furiously sketched dozens of different ideas, none of which seemed remotely palatable. Finally, after much cursing and head scratching I landed on my last sketch of the character sitting alone in a high ceilinged lounge, with the bar to her left and other patrons in the background. This one finally had the right tone for the assignment- there is enough focus on the woman but also plenty of environmental details to establish the scene. Drawing thumbnail after thumbnail can be maddening but I am glad I went through the trouble as it was the only way to sift through the detritus of mediocre ideas and find the one concept worth pursuing.

Predictions

My latest piece in my Wizards series is well underway, titled “ORACLE.” The central concept for this upcoming illustration is a pair of characters linked through a symbiotic relationship, essentially acting as a singular force. When divided, they are but handicapped mortals… yet when together they may channel each other’s power to achieve divine foresight. I certainly won’t deny the H.R. Geiger influence coming through in this piece- I am definitely aiming for a similar biomechanical vision of a futuristic fantasy. However, I am seeking a more ambiguous sort of feeling, more of a shimmering dreamscape than a disturbing nightmare. I’ve planned more than usual for this one, hence the first two studies including an architectural study. In addition, I’m looking to experiment with color on this one as well, with more cool shades and pastel hues than my usual fare. I’m hoping the extra preparation will aid my attempt to finish this piece in an expedient manner. Nevertheless, the canvas is over three feet tall and more than a little bit intimidating. Wish me luck! I predict I will be working my hands to the bone on this one…

Delving into matters not meant for mortal man…

So much knowledge to be gained… so many secrets to divine… how much can a mortal mind comprehend? This is the central theme, or I should say the central question behind the first illustration of my series, “THE WIZARDS.” This piece revolves around the first wizard archetype I’ve chosen to depict, “THE SAGE.” The sage is a sorcerer who is literally addicted to information- he is obsessed with uncovering the truth behind every mystery, from the origins of humanity to the secret location of Atlantis.  He is so devoted to his search that it has turned manic, and he can only see the world around him as the pale imitation of the greater reality that exists within his own mind. Too much of anything is unhealthy, and knowledge is no exception. As stated by H.P. Lovecraft in his famous story The Call of Cthulu, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” Stay tuned, because more insanity is coming soon!

 

Wizards!

I have henceforth generated the theme for my next project with my creative partner Will Ratliff. I present… “THE WIZARDS.” We decided to tackle a much more freeform idea this time around and decided to focus on a single character archetype as a theme for a series of images. Similar to Joseph Campbell’s idea of the universal protagonist, we are exploring the idea of the wizard throughout the ages of myth and storytelling. Merriam Webster Dictionary describes the wizard as “a wise man”, “one skilled in magic”, or a “very skilled or clever person.” The root of the word comes from Middle English “wysard”, the former “wys” equating to “wis” or wise. We’re taking this very broad definition and applying it to characters from different stories from all over human history, including not only classic types such as the hooded Merlin but also encompassing Mayan shamans and oracles of ancient Greece. In honor of Halloween approaching, I’ve doodled a bit more of a darker wizard type, the sort of fellow who goes about reading musty bloodstained tomes with arcane knowledge no sane reader was ever meant to find… watch out for more to come soon!

So Fresh

Will and I are brainstorming with all the enthusiasm of a pair of mad scientists for our new project! A few different ideas are stewing, but as always I prefer to get some visual representations down on paper before I settle on anything concrete. The above two sketches are for a possible idea involving interstellar space warriors and the like. We do know one thing for sure: the new direction will be from completely original creative material, with nothing taken verbatim from any other existing sources. We at first considered older works in the public domain, but then shelved that approach in favor of something entirely under our own control. In other words, we’re going for the whole enchilada. More to come!

Modes of Flight

 

Been drawing up a bunch of spaceship designs recently, and it’s been a good creative challenge. When it comes to flying machines and space ships, the images of science fiction have pretty much covered most of the cliches… rocket ships, x-wings; as far as all the cool designs go, a lot of ground has already been covered. However, not many existing designs involve actual flapping wings on the craft. Flapping wings sums up a more old school mode of flight, less like a sleek supersonic jet and more akin to early flying machines like those built by the Wright brothers. My first iterations were a bit too aerodynamic looking; this thing needed to be even a bit clunky in appearance. I came up with the idea of a bubble style cockpit that is hexagonally geometric in appearance, and this seems to be more on the money. I may construct a model for further exactitude in my reference, so look out for more!