Sonic and Blaze color progress

I fooled with the colors and background tonight, and this is how it looks so far. I’m just messing with blocking in the colors and getting stuff the proper contrast. I don’t like the color of the wheel back there. I think I’m going to go more of a purple instead of the red-orange.

Also, see those clover-leaf holes in the wall behind them? Those are a PAIN. I just can’t get them looking right. They might just have to be round holes.

Otherwise, the only thing with shading is the sky. It was too bright for a while, and the wheel disappeared into it, contrast-wise. So I darkened it down. I might have to cheat on the wheel a bit. We’ll see.

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.

Blue sky

Skies are relaxing to paint. I just sat down and started pushing colors around to get a nice, summer-looking sky. But it’s awfully empty. It needs some clouds and birds, or dragons, or pterodactyls, or something. Not sure what yet.

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.

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.

Step by step: Clouds progression

This is a continuation of this post. I promised a demonstration of how I layered together my colors, so here it is, rather sloppy and scribbly, but it should give you an idea of what it looks like.

This is just basic painting technique. In oil paints, I believe it’s called fat over lean, because your darks are a very thin layer of paint, while your lights are big chunks of it.

First, the reference pic:

Originally from this photo

First, some kind of warm, sunset background. Just a pink-to-gray gradient with some orange smeared over it, eyedropper-lifted out of the same area in the photo.

I see this particular cloud as kind of a loose pyramid. Here is that pyramid with big chunks of the darkest areas blocked in. I tried not to go for any detail at this stage. I just looked at the biggest, darkest areas in the cloud and put them in as big circles.

Building up some midtones now. This is where I started to flesh out the cloud’s actual shape.

Found I had some additional shapes in a shade between my midtone and my shadow, so I picked up a slightly darker purple and blocked those in.

Now for the second-brightest lights! This is the fun part, because it’s where the cloud really begins to pop. But the best highlights are built on a firm foundation of shadow, as some artist said who I can’t remember. The orange is eyedropper-lifted from the photo.

Notice that I’m starting to make my shapes and “puffies” smaller and smaller and more detailed. The eye goes to those bright areas first, because of the high contrast there, so you want to make the high contrast areas interesting.

And finally some touches of the very brightest color, a very light yellow.

This is far from done, because now you should go back and refine your dark areas, and make them puffy and cloud-like, always paying close attention to the shapes in your reference. My example is just a quick and dirty example of what dark-to-light painting looks like.

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.