Ant Man Goes AWOL, by Eric Wayne, digital painting, March 2020.

Finally completed, and it was as much of a battle creating him as he looks like he’s a veteran of. I used lots of new techniques which I’ve learned from professional illustrators, and incorporated into my own arsenal of digital and painting techniques. This is as far as I could take the image with my present skill-set, without getting absolutely finickity.

Followers of my blog may remember the initial line drawing, and early color phase:

I’m not the type of artist who rests on his laurels and does what he’s already good at, churning out variations on a theme as commodities for the marketplace. There always needs to be increased learning and experimentation: the carrot of mystery in what I can’t yet realize, and thus what I will manifest through my own endeavors. This, therefore, was as much an exercise in learning techniques as it was in making a monster.

Most monsters I see are kinda’ the same. They have tiny eyes, an overabundance of super sharp teeth, super muscular bodies, and exaggerated expressions of anger and evil. I sought from the beginning to invent my own monster, that was not derivative. I’ve never see the tubular nostrils like that, and the foamy green flesh between his outer, rougher skin, and his scaled underside is also a bit unusual. I even have a background story for him that’s, I think, a bit out of the boiler plate.

Big Details

These are screen shots of my workspace at full resolution. As with all the pics in this post, you can click on the images to see them sized for your screen in a new tab.

The blurring of edges creates a focal point in the more clear parts, and mimics how camera’s distort reality.
I invented my own methods for creating veins in the eyes and the striations in the iris.
Doing any kind of water drops, slime, blood, and so on is a little tricky, and something I’ve always wanted to get good at.

Smaller Detials in a Gallery

Why the Bit of Paint in the Upper Left?

It’s throwing in one of my signature techniques, which is digital impasto. Now, before I switched to working much more representationally (at least for this piece), I did really a lot of experimentation in digital impasto, and I am a bit of a pioneer in that direction (and in digital contemporary fine art in general). So this just adds a bit of pesonal flare.

It also — in regards to modern art — is a tacit recognition, and celebration of the breaking of the picture plane. It is on the surface of the image, and intrudes into the physical space of consensual reality. We look into the window of the “canvas” to see our monster, but the smear of paint sits on top. Nevertheless, the monster is so three-dimensional that his mandibles extrude beyond even the paint swatch.

Yes, clever reader, you are right, even the smear of paint is digital, but this adds another dimension. where the picture plane has been surmounted, but it is also an illusion. It establishes that while this is in many ways an illustration, and belongs to the paradigm of illustration, it is also fine art.

The Story

Someone asked, in the comments of an in-progress post, what the background story about the Ant Man was. I hadn’t bothered about it, because it’s not the real point, nor necessary. I remarked that when I was a kid I used to look at pictures — especially in an Encyclopedia of Sci-Fi and Horror neighbors gave me for a birthday — and scarcely even read a caption beneath them. There’s that love of the frozen instant, a sliver of reality spread on a slide and studied through a microscope. It’s a different avenue of accessing and assessing reality, and the foundation of visual art (no matter how many conceptualists will say that the idea is more important than the image, and that not only are images and paintings unecessary, they are redundant and not the real art of our times). But, I made up a story on the fly, which I rather like.

The Ant Man was a front-line grunt, and everything he did was for the Qeen, the colony, and the larva. He battles other ant tribes, and worked incessantly, all for the pleasure of being able to continue to do so until he would eventually be torn apart by rival ant species.

And then he became self-aware, perhaps after that chunk was taken out of his head (signifying an opened mind, escaped immaterially into a broader, more universal perspective). He saw no purpose in serving Queen and colony. He just wanted to step out of formation and wonder off, taking in all the rich colors and textures of his external world, which before were just objects that had represented obstacles, tasks, goals, and rewards.

Here we see his moment of awakening, when he looks in the sky at his sun, is awestruck, and can no longer go back to what he was before.

He quickly scurries up a tree, and his former ant army down below can’t find him, simply because he has done something completely outside of conformity. He is not missed, except as a nameless presumed casualty picked off by some predator or rival ant patrol.

He lives as a fugative, avoiding all ant men and other dangerous creatures. He eats leaves, bark, sap, fungi, moss, pollen, and other inanimate things only. He sees the beauty in the nature that surrounds him, but also the horror. He ponders, basks in the sun, enjoys cool breezes, and develops a fondness for berries.


~ Ends

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31 replies on “New Art: Ant Man Goes AWOL

  1. Thanks for taking us on a tour of the Ant Man! The glob of paint was the first thing I noticed and it’s a great signature for you and your background. Love all the textures and details, the neck has changed a lot from my perspective, and his skin is not how I thought it would turn out – you created a harder surface feel.

    Lastly, I LOVE THE STORY of the Ant Man.

    Bravo on completing such a unique task!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is incredible. It’s also an incredible gift to share your process of the making of it. Blown away by the skill and the final result.

    I love the paint smear too – it reads to me now as a kind of a flipping-the-bird to those who would look for clues that this painting was digital and therefore “not real”. Great idea for a signature.

    I think this painting is even greater for having your story attached to it. It’s perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mike. You are probably the idea audience for this work. I’m hoping you’re not an eccentric with very refined and unusual tastes, as I’m hoping to break out into appealing to a larger audience than I have now.

      I guess I learned from this, from several people, that it helps if I explain why I do some things, and if I add a story.

      Thanks so much for following this work, and for your encouraging words.

      I wasn’t 100% sure I’d pull it off. I was worried about doing the depth of field blurring, but it came out well. Let’s see if I can do it all again in another piece I’ll start today.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I managed to miss the chunk out of his head until this post. Just goes to show how inattentive i can be! I do appreciate all the effort that has gone into creating the various textures and effects though, and the story added a lot to the interpretation of this creature. Not in a million years would I have the patience to try digital art. I’ll stick with my usual smell of turpentine in the morning. That’s probably one of the things that contributes to my addled state when face to face with a computer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, each medium has its advantages and disadvantages. As much as I like working digitally, I don’t want everyone else to do it, and I certainly don’t want people to stop making physical works in traditional mediums.

      Turpentine! I never worked much with it, as I went straight for the acrylics, but always thought oil was superior, but more difficult in terms of the extra chemicals, drying time, and so on.

      I still dream about taking a plein air, landscape, oil painting class. So, as much as I love digital art, I also have a deep love and appreciation for traditional mediums. Being a bit of a digital nomad, expat, who routinely has to pack everything he owns into a suitcase or two and relocate, digital is my only viable option for now.

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and for your support!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Tiffany. I’m glad to hear that the story helps people notice and connect with visual elements of the image. I’ve tended to avoid much storytelling, and let images stand on their own. But, maybe I’ve learned something here. Ah, and people like my signature flair. Great! Things working as planned, fancy that.


  4. You are justifiably proud of Ant Man. 🙂

    Before you explained it, I thought the “paint spill” in the upper left corner was the lower body of another such creature as it fled, or perhaps drifted, away from the camera.


    1. Yes, the paint smear does look a bit representational at first. I must have tried at least 50 smears before I decided on this one. I’ll probably improve at it in upcoming pieces, if I continue to use it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am no more eccentric than the next person I suppose 🙂

    The story of the work’s creation, as well as its central character, is part of the work, I think. Your gallery is your website, and your artwork in this broader sense is quite a bit more than just the completed image.

    It was the story that made me want to give Antman’s eyes a closer look – His eyes are beautiful, and as you describe his spiritual awakening, the visuals convey it really well. I saw then his world’s sun (maybe one of them?) cresting or falling over a mountain range, and it brought me into his experience.

    All of those added things could also accompany a traditional painting (taking snaps of stages, explaining the backstory) of course (and why is this not done more often anyhow?), but there is really something more to the potential of art that retains a source file, that makes it a greater act of creation.

    Your stuff still exists in layers, and in editable effects, and in histories, I’ll wager. Had the PSD been also versioned using a tool like Git (for example, and maybe you already have), the archived (and branchable, at any save point) history of the piece would give it an even deeper dimension still – more than any traditional painting or sculpture could ever hope to have. Digital painting is painting into different dimensions of time and possibility.

    Someday, you might decide to release (for free or for sale) the PSD as its own work of art. That will always be a choice available to the digital artist. Try *that* with oils! 🙂

    I was drawn to the depth of field effect as well. Even in your zooms, everything holds together so well.

    Looking forward to seeing what’s next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks man, for, GETTING IT!

      Well, I make new psd files all the time, so by the time I was finished there were over 24 of them. I start getting so many layers it gets confusing and bogs down the machine, so I sandwich some but keep the old file where they are separate, in case I need to go back and fix something. When I’m done I delete all but the last few in order to save space.

      Not only did you get the image, you got that my website is itself a work of art, which nobody has, as far as I can recall, observed before (other than me). And if any artist has a more comprehensive website, I’m not aware of it. Not that that amounts to a hill of beans in practical terms, the size of my audience, or any recognition outside of my own lunchbox. I remain one of the least popular artists I’ve discovered on Instagram; may hold the title for Facebook; gave up completely on Twitter; and because of ever newer algorithms, the audience for this blog is slowly being choked out of existence. The short of it is that my site his hopeless on its own, and my only chance of getting exposure is by being picked up by established venues. So, I have to be clever about that. I can’t lift myself up from my own bootstraps.

      I’m hoping that this kind of work, as compared to my more fine art efforts, might be suitable for inclusion, eventually, in more popular venues. We’ll have to wait and see.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the whole process of the piece in unfurling stages. That let’s me know it’s a good thing to do, rather than wait until something’s finished to share.

      Thanks again for being a great audience for my work!


    1. “but they never tell me what I wanted to know!”

      Nailed it. It’s probably that thing where a picture is worth a thousand words, and the caption is just a dozen or two words, and merely describes the image, gives some context, or otherwise tells you what it is. It’s like reading the description in a video of a song. Descriptive writing is not even the same language as an image.

      I probably read some of the captions in that vintage sci-fi/horror encyclopedia, but just enough to find out what the name of the monster or other beast was. I definitely didn’t read what was in the adjoining paragraphs.

      Later in life, well, for a few years I read every issue of The New Yorker, cover to cover, while riding the subway to and from my home in Brooklyn to my job in Manhattan. So, I also love reading in detail. Lately, however, my eyes can’t take it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like it. Ps—oh so unlike painting w/ brush and goo—allows an artist to zoom in to work at pixel level while perceiving the thing at the big picture level; to separate brightness, focus and texture into separately workable components; and mix colors in modes not seen in nature. If he or she are willing to learn how. You have the patience for this, antman shows this. Congrats.
    Your back story. A sensualist POV: the lushness of the execution backs all that up w/out having to hit viewers over the head w/a superabundant sun-dappled jungle scene. And optimistic. Good for you.
    Whereas I’d just draw an antcar, hood up door open stalled and abandoned in antcar rush hour traffic. Ant driver—like your guy, a fugitive—nowhere to be seen. I’d have stopped working on it as soon as I could recognize the imagery as the idea. I don’t have the patience to do otherwise.
    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Howard:
      Thanks for looking, and you really nailed some of the technical aspects of this kind of digital painting process. Some of those techniques are things I nicked from professional illustrators. But since I innovate on my own, I’m able to play loosely with the industry standard approach.

      I’m not really one for tedium, either, but some of the more technical aspects one can do on auto-pilot while listening to music or lectures or something.

      If find there are two broad approaches to making imagery. In modern art the main focus was on how one painted something, in which case what one painted was fairly mundane. We can think of Cezanne, and even Francis Bacon, here. People painted ordinary things in unusual and abstracted ways. The other approach, is to paint unusual images in a realist style, and we don’t see much of this other than Dali in modern art. The former is in the fine art camp, and the latter in illustration.

      I’m moving away from fine art at the moment, because getting a gallery and representation and all that which is necessary for any success as a contemporary fine artist is fairly hopeless. But, I get the sense that in the more illustrational realm, the most important thing is if you are any good. They don’t care about race, gender, politics, or Marcel Duchamp.

      So, this is the first work I’ve done going for the realist, illustrational angle. Also, I think in order to overcome people’s knee-jerk resentment and rejection of digital art and digital painting, one has to make imagery that obviously comes from the imagination, is done by hand, and shows traditional skill. So, I’m testing out that formula.

      Chances are I’m pitching fast balls into soft mud, and my reward with be a momentary dull plop, followed by endless ignominy. One has to be able to say one put in a bit of effort, though.


  7. Wow, just to say that this is not my normal niche, but this is an amazing creature you have fabricated! And I love the story behind it.
    Thank you for coming over to my side for a spell, you lured me over to see your work and I am glad I did. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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