Watching artist Annie Stegg Gerard paint a dragon is an amazing experience. During the “Painting Demo with Annie” panel Saturday at 11:30AM in Hyatt Grand Hall D, Annie continued to work on a project she began at last year’s Dragon Con. At the beginning of the panel, the canvas held only an underpainting of deep golden tones with a few touches of white on the transferred sketch of a dragon, a portion of which was soon to emerge in vibrant detail. Artist Justin Gerrard, Annie’s husband, narrated her process and answered questions from the enthralled audience while she plied her brushes.
First, Annie asked the attendees if they would like the dragon to be warm or cold, reds or blues. When they chose the cool blues, she prepared her palette and began to brush in color, using Caribbean blue with touches of emerald to apply a thin layer of color. The gold underpainting, as Justin pointed out, gave the layer of blues and greens a luminous quality.
Next, Annie began to work on highlights and lowlights, slowly applying more detail to the head and neck with a tiny, sharp-pointed brush. When asked what kind of brush she prefers, Justin said they buy the cheapest detail brushes they can find. Annie needs the point to remain sharp, so she goes through a lot of brushes per painting. She also uses angled shaders. Both she and Justin are fanatical over fine control of the brush.
As Annie refined her dragon, Justin described the non-toxic paints and walnut alkyd medium they both use. He noted that Bob Ross died from cancer, likely because of the heavy metals in paint and the fumes from thinners. Justin and Annie try to protect themselves and their two children and many pets. He also gave advice to new artists: To achieve a career in art, keep to a set schedule of practice every day. “If you want to be a professional,” he said, “start running your life as if you already are.” It’s obvious that Annie’s hard work has paid off. The dragon’s head and neck are already rich in exquisite detail.
To begin her process, Annie creates a drawing, scans it into a computer so she can shrink or enlarge it to her satisfaction, and then transfers it to the underpainting using carbon paper. Both she and Justin draw, redraw, and redraw their compositions before they begin a painting to make sure it will be the best it can be. Justin compared the process to a writer editing a manuscript. As for AI-generated art, Justin isn’t too worried. Although he thinks the social media conversations will grow more toxic over the issue, he believes a deluge of AI art, which cannot be copyrighted so far, will only make hand-crafted art rarer and more valuable. Even if society collapses and all that’s left are wild ruffians who love to ride around and fight, he quipped, they’ll still need someone to paint cool designs on their trucks.
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As the panel concluded, Justin gave tips for displaying art. Lighting, he said, is always key, but a nice frame is important, too. Also, make sure you keep the painting away from chimney soot and direct sunlight. Although Annie’s painting still needs more time to complete, it’s obvious the finished product will be a painting to treasure.