Misty raptor, step by step

I sat down to do a little doodle, and doodled a raptor. I seem to default to them when I’m tired.

I wondered what to do with it, then thought of James Gurney’s latest post on his blog about How to get a feeling of misty light. I’ve been reading that the best way to learn from someone is to copy their work, which is why artists a hundred years ago used to copy the old masters until they learned their technique. Then they went on and applied that to their own works. (They never claimed the copy was their own, though! That’s where the internet gets messy.)

Anyway, I decided to copy the light in Gurney’s pic and follow his directions as closely as I could. The best way to learn is by doing, after all. Take a look at it.

Isn’t that so very pretty? I want the book this is in, Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara.

Anyway, I laid in a similar background on my pic, first with a pinkish flood fill, then laying in colors with the oil paints > wet brush (my favorite!). (I’m working in Corel Painter, by the way, but you can do this in Photoshop or some other painting program, or with real paint, whichever you’re more comfortable with.)

Then I made my raptor into a silhouette.

Looking carefully at Gurney’s, you can see that the brightest parts of the silhouettes (the orange bits) actually have bright yellow highlights on them that make them look solid. Gosh, his art just makes me want to cry, it’s so beautiful.

He says that this effect, with the orange silhouette close to the light source, is easy to do digitally, but in real media, it takes some careful planning. Let me tell you, it took quite a bit of fiddling in digital to get it right! I painted over and painted over until I was satisfied.

Then I threw in some mid-tone trees to indicate some kind of background, and turned off my sketch layer.

Experiment done for now. I’d like to go back and try this sort of thing on a serious illustration of some kind and really put some time into it.

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Wanderer, step by step

I’ve been staring at really great paintings of clouds lately, and decided I was going to learn to do that. But I’ve had no idea how to grasp cloud structure. They must form shapes, but I’ve never been able to figure out what those shapes are.

Then Stapleton Kerns gave me a clue on his blog. In this post, he says,

“I want to contend that drawing is the most important element in the landscape (excluding design anyway) When I teach, the students ability to paint the landscape is the same as their drawing ability. Those who have had atelier training, before the cast, usually have the best results. Students who have drawn heads, or done lots of still life seem to do well also. I have had many students who just want to do the landscape and have neglected to do the studio work that builds drawing ability and they are more likely to flounder.”

I pondered this and pondered this. Heads and still lifes making it easier to draw landscape? Why would that be?

Slowly it dawned on me. Drawing heads and still lifes are very measured and precise. Often you spend hours trying to get one element the exact right shape, or in the exact right position, triangulating with rulers or grids. So … I should be measured and precise when butchering my way through a landscape? How would this apply to clouds?

I went and looked for some clouds on Google, and found this one that appealed to me.

Originally posted here

But the light was coming the wrong way, so I flipped it.

And I gritted my teeth and forced myself to sketch out the shapes I saw in those clouds.

And Sonic, because I was going for a sort of lonely mood.

Next up was the background gradient and sky. I colored on top of my gradient, instead of a new layer. Oops.

Then I spent the better part of the evening layering together the clouds, paying close attention to the masses of shadows, midtones and lights. (Tomorrow I’ll do a more detailed post on what this stage looked like.)

And some ground, using the same colors in the sky. I scribbled all over the ground with the Variable Oil Pastel, which pulls nearby colors into itself and smears it around. Makes it look like I really slaved over that grass.

Then I threw some shading on Sonic. He’s really just there to have something in the foreground against the clouds.

And some grass around his feet to make him mesh with the rest of the image, and I called it a night.

I think my first attempt at grasping cloud structure was a success. I just hope this photographer doesn’t hunt me down and sue me. I’m not making any money off this scribble, I swear.

Portrait practice

I recently found this blog by an artist named Stapleton Kearns, and he posts lectures and comparisons on various old masters, and their techniques. I’ve been reading it closely, because they know how to do all the stuff I want to do.

Anyway, this post in particular appealed to me because it has a list. He’s talking about how Sorolla studied Velasquez very closely, to the point of using some of Velasquez’s faces as models. Kearns remarks that in this one head study, Sorolla used a red, an ochre, and a black. And the lights and the darks are modeled separately, and clearly separated.

There’s a lot more to the article (such as edges–he’s doing a really fine study on edges right now), but I got excited. A list! I can do lists.

So I gave it a whack. Here’s my laughable attempt at a moderately famous actor.

It doesn’t really look like him, but I’m still trying to achieve this whole “likeness” thing. Achieving likeness means you spend a lot, and I mean a LOT, of time in the sketch stage, doing measurements and corrections and all. And I really just wanted to do a color study. So the likeness is pretty vague. I plan to do a series of these, and if you wind up being able to tell who I’m drawing, it means I’m improving.

Anyway, here’s the palette I used:

I had totally forgotten that Painter has this lovely palette mixer, where you slop on your colors and stir them around. I started with a yellow ocher, black, and a red-orange. I had to mix some white into the red and ocher to make my highlights, and I added a touch of blue to cool them off a tad, seeing as my shadows were so hot.

I think I’m happy with my skin tones for the first time EVER. I don’t have the problem with it being too green (hello, Cezanne!). I’m eager to try another one of these.

Bad Hostage Idea: Step by step

I had this picture in my head of Shadow holding Blaze hostage with a gun to her head, for some reason. Upon thinking about it further, I decided to add Silver in there, holding a Chaos Emerald. So we know why Shadow’s willing to bother taking Blaze hostage, not knowing that she’s practically a walking fire elemental.

Here’s the initial sketch.

And now with ink …

Nice and crisp.

I’d seen an interesting pic on DA somewhere that used diagonal lighting across a face, and it made it really pop out and be interesting. What struck me most is that light travels in a straight line across a solid object, straighter than I’d thought. So I set about trying to duplicate that effect.

Rough background with some basic color showing where the edges of the light beam ended.

I wanted some kind of a brick wall behind them, so I poked around in Painter’s Image Hose library, and came up with this in about ten seconds:

Just set that layer to Overlay …

Perfect! I thought about adding some graffiti to it, but later decided that it would distract from the standoff between the characters.

Time for the shading.

Alas, this is the refined version. I forgot to take screenshots of the coloring process. Basically I scribbled in the shadows and went over it with the Soft Blender tool, then scribbled some more, then went over it with the Soft Blender tool. The highlights went on very last.

And last but not least … the magic!

All done in about two hours, which is pretty quick for me. Working with such heavy shadows lets me cheat a lot. I remember why I love doing pics set in the dark with small light sources. 🙂

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.