Saturday, June 18, 2011

All my Scholastic covers – part 3

Children of the Lamp # 5
There was nothing special or exciting about the creation of this cover. It was one of those assignments without a distinguished character, although it certainly had its charms and hurdles. The only thing that pops up in my mind when thinking about this cover is that I painted the boy’s hands slightly bigger than normal.  The publisher did not like it and I was asked to correct it, which I did in Photoshop.
Talking about the hands, I have to admit that I tend to draw large hands. When I was a student at the art academy I was influenced by the majestic sculptures of Michelangelo and Mestrović, who often made the hands of their sculptures larger than they would normally be in the real life. I liked that and I thought it added the feeling of grandeur and might to their sculptures. Both, consciously and unconsciously I adopted this approach and later on often drew and painted the human figures with large hands. Besides, I love to draw hands. My professor of drawing  often used to talk about the importance of learning to draw the hands properly. He would say: “ if you want to know how developed the drawing skills of an artist are, just look at how he draws the hands…”.  Many times in the subsequent years I witnessed how true this remark was.

Children of the Lamp # 6

At this point I have shown the photo of the unfinished piece to the published. They said that the color of the carpet was wrong, and that it had to be blue, a specific kind of blue. My dear friend, Justin Gerard, was visiting me at that time, and after I received the publisher’s reaction, he helped me to change the color of the already painted carpet in Photoshop. It took us a while until we figured out what kind of blue was hiding under the color’s name that I got from the publisher (I forgot the name of that particular blue color as soon as the cover was finished. I had never heard of it before.) Then I made a print of the digital image and used it as a reference to repaint the carpet.  The repainting took several hours, and after finishing the job somewhere between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning, I went to bed with a feeling of content.

However, when the cover was published I noticed that the colors were muddy and dark. I am afraid that the designer has forgotten to convert the image to the appropriate profile ( for it might be that I forgot to do that myself, before sending out the image) and therefore the colors turned out dirty. I can’t imagine that they did it on purpose… The requested blue color is not anymore the same color.

The image from below shows the cover of the foreign edition of Children of the Lamp # 6 (I could not  decipher the language), and as you can see their designer was a little more aware of the colors.

Have a good day!


  1. Hi Petar. Always love to see new posts from you! There's been something I have been meaning to ask you. Is your sketch that you paint over done in graphite? I know many people have trouble with oil over graphite as it can smudge or show through. Thank you in advance.


  2. Hi Max.

    Yes, I use the graphite to transfer the preliminary drawing onto the canvas or board. I do not have any problems with graphite mixing and mudding the oil paint. I cover it almost entirely with the reddish ochre while doing the underpainting. Naturally, the graphite mixes with the reddish ochre producing a kind of unexpected and cultivated grays, that bring a bit of cool tones to my underpainting, and I love it! If I want the graphite to play even more dominant role in my underpainting, I mix the paint with more turpentine.

    After the underpainting is dry, and while applying the first layer of color, I sometimes make mistakes and lose the shapes. I often do the corrections by drawing with the pencils directly into the wet or dry oil paint, and then I proceed with painting...When you have tamed the “oil paint Genie” and made peace with him, nothing will muddy your colors any more…

    Thank you, Max!

  3. Petar, keep posting these paintings, I am learning so much from studying them. I am in the precess of battling the "oil paint genie" and looking at your stuff is helping. Thanks

  4. Dag Petar,
    Ik ken die uitspraak over het tekenen van handen van Hergé, en het is waar. Maar ik geef je uitgever gelijk dat grote handen bij een kinderfiguur misstaan. Bij je sprookjesfiguren doen ze het dan weer heel goed.
    Het verschil tussen originele kleuren en de druk ervan is blijkbaar een onuitroeibaar probleem. Zo was ik erg onder de indruk van Ivan Bilibins originele aquarellen, maar de catalogus van het Groninger Museum deed die absoluut geen recht...
    Overigens ken ik intussen een aantal Servische striptekenaars, en ik vind het opvallend hoeveel talent er vandaan komt. Must be something in the water ;-) Allemaal aardige lui ook, trouwens.
    Ga vooral door met je posts! Ik lees ze met veel plezier... ze zijn helder, terzake en leerzaam.

  5. The last cover is in romanian language

  6. Good luck and happy “battle”, Steven!

    Laurghita – I thought it might be a language from that part of Europe. Thank you for the information!

    Paul – Ik ben het met je eens in verband met de kindertjes met grote handen. Niet handig.

    Over Bilibin’s originele illustraties en de reproducties van tegenwoordig – hoewel de computer technologie het mogelijk maakt om de perfecte reproductie van een kunstwerk te maken, toch gebeurt het naar mijn mening zelden. Ik heb de tentoonstelling in het Groninger Museum ook gezien, drie keer zelfs, en ik waas net als jou onder de indruk van het delicate werk van Bilibin. De reproducties in het catalogus zijn waardeloos. Maar ik heb een originele Russische uitgave van het sprookje Wonderschone Wassilisa met de illustraties van Bilibin uit 1902 meegenomen en heb de litho’s uit het boek staan vergelijken met het originele werk…Nou, ik kon niet zeggen welke beter was. De litho’s uit het boek zijn ietsje anders van kleur maar ze zijn zo mooi, dat ik het, ten opzichte van het originele werk, als gelijkwaardige kunst werk heb ervaren.

  7. Paul – Ik ben het vergeten te zeggen - het is waar dat er veel teken talent in Servië te vinden is. Ik weet niet wat de striptekenaars uit de andere delen van het land drinken, maar wij uit Novi Sad dronken het water uit de koning der Europese rivieren, de machtige Donau .

  8. Petar,
    Thanks for sharing these process shots. They are both wonderfully informative and inspiring. Especially the Children of the Lamp #5 underpainting shots. They've been up on my background images since you posted this.

    Also, the color on the carpet was great! We spent forever on it! 4 in the morning! What did the publisher do to it!?! *sigh*

    Oh and I am taking your advice and will be tackling my next piece in oils again. I'll get it or die trying. Thanks again for the help!


  9. Hi Justin!
    Nice to hear from you again. I can understand why you are interested in these underpainting shots. There is an important work that has to be done with those two excellent preliminary drawings that you recently have posted on Muddy Colors blog. Because the compositions are complex, a proper underpainting will be a crucial thing when you start painting them. However I am quite sure that you will do a great job. Still I am very interested in the final results.
    Now that I am finished with my last two paintings, I will have more time to spend on answering the pile of emails. So, I will write soon…

  10. Hi Petar!
    I am so glad that you have a blog now and I appreciate your generosity in sharing your process behind every painting. I have learned a lot being able to understand how you work. I was wondering if you could explain to me how you go about transferring your pencil drawings and sketches to canvas? Do you just redraw the whole thing? I can't seem to find a satisfactory way of doing this without losing some of the spirit of the original drawing.
    Thank you so much for any advice you can offer!

  11. Hey Petar, it's Max. Thank you for answering my question! I really appreciate it. Regards

  12. Hi Zoe,

    My preliminary pencil drawings are often smaller than the future painting. Therefore I first enlarge them by photocopy and after that I use a graphite paper to copy/transfer the drawing onto the canvas or board. I then do a detailed underpainting and during this process I strengthen and define the drawing again. If necessary and in order to correct or better define the drawing, I might draw with the pencils directly on the canvas or board after the initial preliminary drawing is copied on the painting surface. I hope this helps.

    You’re welcome, Max!

  13. Those are very cool :)

    The language is Romanian btw. I felt I had to google it. :P

  14. tobbA - Yes, Laurghita has already informed us that the language is Romanian. Thanks anyway!