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Art Unboxed Painting Metal

For this week’s Art Unboxed, I painted the very familiar droid pictured above. I mention it, not only because I’m a Star Wars fan, but because of the challenge of painting metal digitally. This was painted with Procreate and the Oil Painting brushes downloaded some time ago. Using the colors in the original photo, I was able to present my version of the protocol droid, which leads to this week’s topic of painting metal.

Whether in pencil, watercolor, acrylic, or any other medium, painting metal has it’s challenges. Those who actually paint on a metal surface will tell you it’s not easy, but I’ll leave that to them to speak to. For our purposes, I would like to talk about the benefits and challenges of illustrating metal on paper, screen, or canvas.

Painting metal depends on whether it’s an old metal surface, or a shiny polished one. If it’s shiny and polished, it acts a little like a mirror. Whether you add a reflective image in it or not, there are some mirror qualities to it. If it’s an old, or mat finish metal, that can be harder to illustrate, rust helps. The different color of rust allows you to accent the metal look.

Essentially you are using light, shadow, luminosity, and composition to tell a story. This is why I say that painting a metal object can be very instructive and beneficial to the artist. It will not only help you to paint metal better going forward, it will enable you to paint better highlights and shadows in other paintings as well.

In this image, the darkest color is what I used the least of in the figure, but it gave him his depth. It reminds me of a video I watched of Michael Shane Neal discussing lighting the head for portraits. When I saw this, I never imagined it would help painting my specialized subject, but it did.

In research for my metal painting, I looked at other photos, and it was striking how many different looks I found. The lighting, state of the metal in the photo, he did get beat up a lot in nine movies, and the positioning of the head gave a variety of images. All of these of course are good reminders that painting from both life, and multiple resource poses can give you a unique setting to your painting.

Setting can also be a trap, if your setting is too busy, the viewer may focus on everything but your subject. In this case I placed him with space at warp speed clearly behind him. It’s probably a close up shot on a very famous vessel I won’t name here, but it also eliminated any other interesting thing in the picture. My subject was so well known it was the strongest piece of the story, but the setting helped.

To paint metal well will help you to paint other things well in the future. It’s a very different surface than a field of corn at noon, but it could help improve your presentation of it. My challenge for you today would be to find something metal, and try to paint it, you’ll be surprised at where it will take you.

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