Interview with: Nelson Couto (Ncouto)
1) Tell us a bit about your art background.
I recently graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and majored in graphic design. I’ve been illustrating all my life, ever since I can remember. I took a special interest in comic book art and loved the variation in numerous titles. In high school I received many awards for my work and also received awards during my stay at MassArt.
2) Where did you get the idea for this drawing of an orc?
Well I noticed there weren’t many drawings up of orcs in the gallery so I decided to create it simply for that reason. I just wanted to create a creepy feeling to the image and give the orc a hypnotizing look to his face.
3) What mediums, colours, paper and materials did you use for your Orc?
PRANG light green colour pencil, Strathmore Artagain paper (black)
4) Why did you choose this specific colour? What mood were you trying to create?
I chose the light green colour because of its eerie effect on black paper. It gives it a certain ‘glow’ which comes out to look somewhat evil. I could easily have used light blue, however, I wouldn’t have gotten the same effect. And I used the black stock simply because of the dark nature of the orcs and to give it the feeling as if this could be night time or just simply some dark surrounding.
5) Describe how you executed this artwork and how long you took to complete it.
This is a bit tricky…I used the light green colour pencil very lightly at first, to draw in only the highlights on the orc’s face; meaning the green on the paper is from the light source. I wanted to use the black of the paper to be the shadow of the piece. In my head, I chose where the light source would be directed from and from there just used my imagination as to what an orc may look like. Finally the green shading behind his face just brings out the definition of his face structure and gives you a better idea of his overall look. Approximate time = 1.5-2 hours
6) In your opinion, what makes a portrait lifelike? And how do you capture the likeness in a person’s features?
Well it takes a lot of training and practice. I think what makes a portrait life-like falls into several aspects of drawing. So many factors make a good portrait successful: light, shadow, proportion, depth, lines, shapes, angles, composition, etc. It’s knowing how dark to shade an area and when to stop. It’s life-like when you capture the essence of that person and his/her personality. A good way for artists to get better at life-like portraits is to follow a procedure made famous by the artist CHUCK CLOSE. I highly recommend everyone reading this to look him up! He was an absolute master in creating life-like portraits of people. The procedure is actually very old, but he used it very effectively to create his masterpieces. He used a grid. Try taking a piece of tracing paper and draw a grid on it. Make the squares about 1inch x 1inch, depending on how big your picture source is. Make the grid big enough to cover the desired area you wish to draw from on your photo or picture. On the left of the grid, going down, number the rows. And going across on the top, number the columns or vise versa. You basically want it to resemble a chess board. Then, on a separate sheet of paper, create the same exact grid very lightly with a pencil. THE GRID NEEDS TO BE EXACTLY THE SAME NUMBER OF ROWS AND COLUMNS IN ORDER FOR THIS TO WORK! You then one by one, draw what you see in each square on your sheet of paper. So for instance, draw only what you see in the square ‘A1’ from your photo onto your sheet. Work your way across, completing each row. This makes it easier for you notice where certain lines and such things go in each square and how they connect to each other. This exercise builds on the training of your eye and forces you to look at the small details many people don’t notice. Make sure the darkest dark in your photo is the darkest dark in your rendering and the same with the lightest parts. Use that as a reference to see how dark and how light the middle-tones should be.
7) What do you feel is needed to display your individuality in your drawings, and how do you create expression and character such as this Orc’s in the face?
Everyone has a ‘style’ or styles in drawing. You don’t need to draw realistically in order for your work to be good. The biggest factor in creating work which expresses yourself as an artist is having passion for what you’re creating. Have fun with what you’re doing. To capture the right expression and emotion on one’s face, you simply need to just practice, practice, PRACTICE! This may sound funny, but make faces at a mirror and see what features of your face are exaggerated. On a sheet of paper, quickly draw 20 or so expressions with a mirror by your side, spending no more than a minute on each pose. That again may sound funny, but I guarantee it’ll help etch what you’ve learned in your brain and you WILL eventually have a better understanding of the human face. Portraits are not easy, but practicing and doing many of these exercises will make you a more realistic portrait artist.
8) Do you find this method of drawing expressive?
I like to draw realistically to keep my skills and eyes sharp. However, I love to draw with a sense of freedom as well, knowing I can draw what I want the way I want. I love to use my imagination in creating things I’ve never done before and I get a greater satisfaction in that than any type of realistic drawing.
9) Do you need a ‘creative fit’ in order to produce satisfying results with your artwork?
Well it might help but you certainly don’t need it for satisfying work. Many artists create work simply from observation and it could look stunning.
10) What tips do you have for aspiring artists?
PRACTICE. And it’s definitely ok to ‘copy’ some of your favorite artists work. That’s one way you learn and definitely one way I learned myself. Another thing is not to give up, lots of artists get frustrated at their work and it’s ok, but don’t quit – never quit. Artists should have inspiration, whether it comes from an apple, or another artist. Inspiration is everywhere and it leads to good artwork.
Some artists who have inspired me are Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Ashley Wood, Thomas Kinkade, Rembrandt, Leonardo DaVinci, Chuck Close, Bob Ross and so many more.
Interpretation of Gollum
1) Where did you get the idea for this interpretation of Gollum?
I didn’t notice many Gollums up either but I also felt he’d be one of the more energetic characters to capture. He’s a great character with a very deep background and just wanted to depict him somehow.
2) What medium, colours, paper and materials did you use for this composition?
HIGGINS black fountain pen ink, HUNT #102 and #108 quill pens, Winsor & Newton acrylic colour paint(Mars Black), Artteck 500KF #6 Supreme Filbert brush, CANSON 2-ply bristol board, a #2 pencil, water for rinsing, paper towels for drying and an old toothbrush for the spatter effect.
3) Why did you choose to draw Gollum in black-and white?
I chose to keep this one black and white because I love the contrast between black and white and how it brings out certain features of the piece and mainly the character.
4) Describe how you executed this interpretation and how long you took to complete it.
Well I very freely used one of my quill pens (I usually use the #108 at first) to draw Gollum from one of the numerous sketches in my sketch book. I then gradually built on the light version by adding thicker lines, pressing down on the pens with a bit more pressure to make the lines more dense (this takes some practice to get it down the way you want). Then I used just a little bit of paint on the brush to create some of the darker and bigger areas of shadow. The entire time, I kept the flow of the artwork very free, not worrying much about connecting every line or about proportion. If you are going to go over the paint with more ink, wait until the paint dries first, which is pretty quickly with acrylic. For finishing touches I used an old toothbrush which I was getting rid off, dipping the end of the bristles in the black paint then running it very lightly through water, because the paint was too thick; I took a sturdy piece of cardboard and ran the edge of it across the ends of the bristles to spatter the paint. This definitely takes time to get used to and YOU WILL GET DIRTY. Also, use newspaper around your work so you don’t get it all over your nice floor! Going back to the pen I wrote in the word ‘precious’ a number of times to signify Gollum’s obsession with the ring. I used a pencil as well for this. Approximate time = 1 hour.