Interview and inn painting

I got interviewed by Rob Penner! He’s an indie fantasy writer, too–although he writes high fantasy and I do urban. It was a fun interview, though!

I’ve also been working on a commission. A friend wanted me to paint a background for his RPG campaign site. Since their home base was an inn, he asked for a simple landscape with an inn.


Architecture is my bane. All those squares and triangles! I left the center very simple, since it’ll be covered by site content anyway, and concentrated more details along the edges.

This was my reference. It’s a render model, and I heavily referenced it, since it was exactly the kind of building I wanted.

It’s been a busy week! My hubby is attending Phoenix Comic Con. I was positively drooling over some of the panels. I told him to take lots of notes. 🙂

New background colors

As it turns out, this character is running around on an alien planet. So I changed the background.

Also the girl wears a brown coat now, or she’d vanish into the background. Curse you volcanic rock for being so black!

Recently I got a note from someone on asking when I’d write something Sonic related again. I realized I haven’t written anything Sonicy in a couple of years, and it got me thinking. I have a little side plot thing that doesn’t really fit into any of the bigger plots I have planned. So why not make it into a short story?

I tried it out for size on the Short Story Outline, and it fits pretty well.

Short story outline:

Put a man up a tree

Throw rocks at him

Get him down.

Remember that one short story I wrote ages ago, about Metal Sonic hunting Sonic in this long, nerve-wracking pursuit until Sonic just about collapses, and they’re both journaling their progress? That story fits the short story outline, too. I just didn’t know it at the time.

So I’ve been re-reading my last couple of fanfics so I can wedge a short story into my continuity after Kitsune Chaos. I forgot how much I love all these characters and this world. I’d forgotten things, like Chaos Pearls and Mecha’s rune and Tails’s newfound illusion ability. And how messed up Shadow’s brain is. And how Sonic carries around silent anguish and nobody knows about it because he doesn’t talk about his feelings, ever. And how Tails adores Metal Sonic and Metal Sonic hates it, because he has too much blood on his hands to ever be friends with anyone.

So I read this stuff and think, man, no wonder people want me to go back there. I’m the only one who knows what happens next. Too bad I can’t ever publish it, seeing as it’s fanfic and all. But I just love it so much! I hope I can love Spacetime as much. I don’t know its characters quite as well, but I do like them a lot. They have lots of potential.

Dusk beach, problems

Got a bit more done today, still roughing out the main color masses.

The lighting on the dragon is really harsh because I’m still figuring out the shapes of the light and shadow. Not sure I like the color of the light very much, either … it looks good on the girl, but not a blue dragon. I’ll continue to tinker with it.

Also, now that I’ve established that the light is coming from the far left, the color of my ocean is wrong. I’ve been staring at pictures of the ocean at sunset, and it’s always darker than the sky, but it tends to pick up the strongest lights. This, too, requires some tinkering.

Dusk beach, blocking in color masses

I found a beach sunset on google image search that I liked, and set about painting the background from it. Here’s the sky and the ground. You can see how I just worked on the biggest chunks first.

Then I added in the mountains and the ocean, once I knew what color the ocean was going to reflect. Also a scattering of clouds on a new layer. I’ve gotten to where I like painting my landscape backgrounds all on one layer, like a real painting.

The reason I always do the background first is because the background colors and light heavily influence the color of the characters. The characters are the juicy part for me, but the background is soothing to work on, too.

Here’s my background color reference: Laguna Beach! No, there won’t be a big hotel thing in the background.

Two gradients

James Gurney, on his blog, had a post a while back about the sky’s dual gradations.

Everybody knows that the sky is dark blue at the top and gets lighter and lighter down toward the horizon. But it had never occurred to me that there’s another gradient from the sun. The sky is lighter blue close to the sun, and darker further away. I don’t know why this never actually occurred to me before.

Anyway, I had the idea that I could duplicate this by two layers with two different gradients on top of each other. One gradient shades light to dark, for the horizon-to-zenith gradient. The other goes sideways, shading from warm turquoise to darker blue. It took some tweaking of the layer blending settings, but I got a look I finally liked.

I put some clouds and ground and dinosaurs on there just so the eye has somewhere else to go. Staring at just gradients gets tiring.

In case you can’t see the gradients, here’s some helpful arrows:

Gurney does it better than me, and with actual paint, too. See his post and example pics here.

The trouble with leaves

I made three different attempts on those dang birch leaves. I finally went with creating my own brush, traced from a photo of birch leaves.

They’re kind of all over the place, owing to me going, “What does this Jitter setting do, anyway?”

I was going to use my Impressionist brush for leaves, but I kind of use it a lot.

See the leaves?

Aaaand these leaves here?

How about these?

Yeah. It’s a nice brush for leaves, but I use it all the time. And this time, I was specifically painting a birch tree, and birch leaves are diamond-shaped, not ovals.

So I made my own brush.

Ahhhh. Something aside from the Impressionist brush! I’m totally making some maple leaf ones.

Background and details

I worked 3 hours on this pic tonight, and this is how far I got. Especially after I realized that the pic was supposed to be 12″ x 18″, and I was working in 12″ x 8″. Oops.

Click for fullview

So I expanded out the background, which is actually kind of nice, because now it doesn’t feel so squished. I busted out the Artists > Impressionist brush for the foreground leaves. Gosh, I love that brush. Makes the best leaves!

Also did a bunch of work on the girl herself. Take a look.

I had already sketched all the designs, so I just traced them in white on a new layer, locked the transparency, grabbed a big soft brush (I believe I used Gouache > Opaque Smooth Brush 30 with the opacity set to 5%), and made the shading match the rest of her body.

Her chest has a unicorn and a dragon facing each other, with a griffin head up above. I found a bunch of really spiffy Celtic designs of each critter, but I couldn’t exactly copy them in such a small space, so I just improvised.

Her face is still a bit funky. I’m trying to put detail into her eyes and mouth, and understate her nose. As you can see from the fullview pic up there, it looks fine from a distance. I have trouble with noses. I either overstate them or understate them.

Painting Venice/Solenna

I sat down to doodle, and this sketch came out.

I’m contemplating writing a story adaptation of the Sonic game that was on the xbox 360, since it had a totally rad story, more Final Fantasy than Sonic. The whole thing is set in a city called Solenna, which is based heavily on Venice.

So I went poking around, looking for neat pictures of Venice for the background. I found this one, which had the sort of lighting and mood that I wanted.

Started with a gradient …

Scrubbed in some sky …

Dropped in some building structure. I drew them as blocks and shaded them before I put in the windows.

So. Many. Windows.

A lot of those windows are off kilter or unfinished, because they fall behind a character’s head and there’s no point in adding all that detail.

Then I slathered in some light.

The light inside the buildings is essentially painted with a soft airbrush (I used a Gouache brush with opacity set to about 5%), and the water reflections are painted with Oils > Wet Brush. I love the wet brush.

And it’s late, and I’m tired, so I’m stopping here. 🙂

And … background!


Well! I now have both characters roughed out, as well as the rocks and trees. And water.

I’m pondering doing a photo texture cheat the way I did in my Mosasaur pic, because I really don’t feel like drawing all the ripples on the lake’s surface. Also, have you ever noticed that lakes and oceans look distinctly different? If you do a google image search on “sunset lake” and “sunset ocean”, you’ll see what I mean.

Gah, I’m so intimidated by this new blog system that I’m coming off as kind of boring. It’s silly, really. It’s like WordPress is this formal person in a business suit that I need to talk to, and I have trouble working up the nerve. But once I do go up to it and shake its hand, it’s very friendly and welcoming.

Anyway, the pic’s coming along. I’ll try to finish it tomorrow.