Finishing up the lighthouse

I’m deciding to call it done for now. I’m starting to overwork it, and I like the way it looks now.

Lighthouse tinkering

Got a few minutes to spare today, so I worked on this pic a bit more.

Ignore the lighting on the house. It’s wrong. Instead, look at the spiffy foam on the ocean. I was trying to do that fishnet pattern that foam always gets, but I couldn’t make it look right. So I started erasing big chunks of it, and it wound up being that messy, foamy look that restless water has when it’s been talking to the rocks.

Also realized my lighthouse was leaning to the right, so I tried to fix that. My lighthouse still looks like it’s some kind of Cake Wreck, but it’s getting there. My architecture skills are sadly lacking. The dragon and guy are going to get some love soon, too.

Lighthouse progress

I’ve been working on this in short snippits of time. Here’s how it looks so far:

The lighthouse’s stripes aren’t working for me. I think it’ll have to go pure white. Some of my rocks are too uniform (you can count them, stack of five, stack of five, stack of five). So I need to break those up a bit more. But you can see the values coming up from the deep darks I started with. The darks reinforce the drawing, while the lights carry the color. It’s one of those quotes up there in the widget.

I think the guy and the dragon might be a little too understated. My thought was that the dragon is more of a sea-dragon type, with big fins, and he’s waiting for a fish for his dinner. But maybe I should make him bigger and more European. I don’t know. I like smaller, more approachable dragons.


Been tinkering with rocks and the palette knife tool.

My reasoning was that since the palette knife works great for rocks in real life, why not in digital paint? And it does look pretty good.

I tried to follow the technique of “laying tile”, where you paint a stroke, then paint a stroke next to that, and so on, rather than going over the same spot over and over. It seems to work really well for rocks.

Works pretty well for water, too.

It made the foamy splashes on the wave kind of square, but the foam on the edge in the foreground looks really good. Not all is with the palette knife, though. Some is with the oil pastels, my standby.

And here’s the whole thing:

I realized that I had committed the cardinal sin of putting the horizon smack in the center. So I cropped it to bring it higher than center, since most of the interest is below it.

Details, details!

Anchored with rocks

I’ve thought and thought about this seascape, and how to make it really memorable. Make it tell a story, you know?

Anyway, I scrubbed in some rocks with my digital palette knife, and bingo, the picture worked. Before there was too much blue, and the whole thing was just floating away into the sky. But now it’s anchored firmly to earth with those rocks. I want Sonic and Tails goofing off, doing the sort of things you do at the beach. This sketch of them seems to work, but I’ll continue to tinker with it.

Tinkering with water

Here’s how I’m progressing on my little seascape.

I’ve spent a lot of time staring at tiny thumbnails of Waugh paintings, like these.

You can really see the brushwork on that last one. There are a lot of photos of breaking waves, but nature never has the imagination and composition of a painting. A painting is like the ideal. And plus, the splashes aren’t blurred.

James Gurney reposted an excellent article describing a teaching session by Howard Pyle. You can read the whole thing here, but here is the bit that I have been pondering.

The last composition to be criticized was the work of a pupil already famous in the art world. Mr. Pyle usually criticized such pupils with much detail, but with a respect which showed the high esteem in which he held their work. The present sketch was an illustration to a detective story, a murder scene.

“In the first place, it is a mistake to show gruesome and horrible things plainly in a picture,” was the comment. “The mind is so repelled that it instinctively refuses further attention and thus defeats the purpose of the drawing. Then, suggestion is always more powerful than a direct telling. Here we have the dead man, the knife, and the murderer, unmistakably shown. There is no mystery, nothing to puzzle and intrigue the imagination, and we turn away. How much more powerful would be a mass of men crowding around a slightly-seen object. Then there is mystery. We want to know what happened and who did it.

“Pictures should suggest so many possibilities as to set the mind to thinking, and thus hold the attention. We have all seen wonderfully painted groups in art exhibits – perhaps a vase and a bit of drapery, marvelously executed. The artist may have spent weeks upon the painting, yet it has little interest. We turn away, saying, ‘Very clever, but in heaven’s name why did he paint it?’”

Why indeed? So I’ve been considering how to inject more intrigue into my pictures.

Distant island

I haven’t done a Sonic pic in a while, so I think I’m about due.

So here’s a Sonic pic to practice both water and atmospheric perspective, two things at which I’m sadly weak.

While snooping around for tips on painting seascapes, I stumbled across Frederick Judd Waugh.

Wow. Usually seascapes are pretty run-of-the-mill, but this guy’s paintings really showcase the power of the sea. How come the best painters are the dead ones?

Anyway, I doubt my little seascape will even approach this, but it’s something to strive for!

More beach painting

I decided to pull this out again and make a serious attempt to finish it. This is how it looks now.

Here’s the detail of the girl:

I just can’t get her dress to look right, but I can’t find any reference for material billowing in the way I’m trying to draw it. I’m almost to the point of putting on a similar dress, standing in the wind, and having my husband photograph me, just so I can see what the material is doing.

And then there’s the problem of water. I played with it for a long time. The artists blogs I read all talk about the importance of defining your edges, especially in the final stages. Find your edges! I’ve finally figured out that that means making the light areas next to really dark areas, and try to cut out the “midtone mumbling”. It does make the picture pop, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s not quite done yet, I’m still mumbling in the midtones in the background hills quite a lot, and the fire doesn’t look in focus yet. I’ll keep playing with it.

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.

Beach dusk, shading

I got a few minutes over the last couple of days to tinker with this pic. I messed with the basic shading in the background, and blocked in the foreground shapes in black.

Over on James Gurney’s blog, he had a post about “curing middle value mumbling”. Basically you just do all your shading in straight black and white, sticking to highlights and shadows and omitting midtones entirely. I thought this was a great idea.

Until I realized that my figures in this pic are pretty much backlit, so there’s not a lot of highlighting going on. Ah well.

I went over Charr with some colors and added some middle values, just trying to get his shapes defined.

His scales look like feathers right now, but I’m going to go back and give them hard edges eventually. I’m using the oil pastel brush that’s shaped like a triangle, because it leaves nice diamond-shaped strokes that work for scales. Or feathers. But he’s not supposed to be a feathery dragon. :-p

I have to get figure reference for the girl, so she hasn’t been worked on much yet. Like I said, I’m working in snatched ten-minute intervals here and there.