Painting Process - Solitary
Hi guys! Here's the process behind the recent painting - Solitary. And just letting you know that I feel much better after speaking to my friends about the issue. Thanks for your well wishes. Let's move on and see how I have approached this painting!
Step 01: Thumbnailing
It's always handy to do rough thumbnails of what you intend to paint!
Whether it be a portrait, a landscape, still-life, every drawing starts out as a sketch and it is encouraged to do at least a couple more thumbnails to explore your concepts further - you can even do some sketch studies of how each element will be presented in the final drawing. In my case I was got lucky with my first doodle without further study. I was very pleased with the overall composition and my focal points. Once you're invested you can move on to the next stage - a value study.
Step 02: Value Study
Again I was lucky to have found a light and shadow combination that worked for me on the first go. Relying on my instincts I decided to keep it simple and apply my teachings on atmospheric perspective to create a visual interest using depth and distancing of my subjects. The closer the subject the darker in value it gets, and the further away the subject the brighter the value.
Take note that the change in values will also effect your composition which ultimately effect how your eyes moves around the drawing. Make sure you plan well so that you can get the eyes to move to the focal point effortlessly.
Step 03: Color Study
This is an opportunity to create some interesting drama in your drawing using light and color without sacrificing time on getting the mood correct at later stages of your painting. Simply create another layer and set it to 'OVERLAY' 'SOFT LIGHT' or 'COLOR' mode, depending on your preference, and paint away. I used a combination of options to create the colors I was looking for.
Also it helps to have an understanding on color theory and how it works for visual development. I have my Color and Design instructor Michele Goodwin to give thanks to for her instruction on the subject. If you do not have a qualified art instructor to teach you then I highly recommend you to look into James Gurney - creator of the Dinotopia series - and his works. Get his two books on painting realism with light and color - I guarantee that your work will improve by a milestone if you apply his practical theories and instruction on your next painting project.
In the end I decided to stick with the limited cool palette - with a warm color accent to highlight areas of interest. The thumbnail I used as a guide would be the third thumbnail on the bottom-left hand corner. A warm back-light and red-orange accent was added in later to the final painting.
Step 04: Start Painting!
Do take advantage of whatever you can get to be inspired and well prepared prior to painting. I will say that I had watched the following videos in the past to learn techniques and be inspired by the methods used to create stunning artwork.
On this video I learnt alot more on how to apply light and color into a painting to create drama. This kind of stuff I have already learnt in school, as well as in James Gurney's books - the ones I mentioned earlier, but Jeremy Vickery here shows those principles in real time based on a simple landscape illustration he did for a tutorial featured on #124 of ImagineFX. Also I have Jeremy to thank for his awesome CUSTOM BRUSH he provided in the tutorial - I was using it over and over again on my painting!
On this video, the incredibly talented Feng Zhu has taught me how to use textures from stock photos and apply it on digital paintings - it is such a time-saving, cost-effective method on adding visual interest into any painting very quickly. However be warned, if you abuse this technique your painting will look cluttered, unnatural and overall a mess.
One last bit of inspiration that I gathered for the project was an American illustrator and master painter of the early to middle twentieth century - Mead Schaeffer.
I love his paintings because of the limited palette he uses to create such striking impressions of his subjects. I had decided to use one of his paintings as a guide to help me in the painting process.
And so I started out blocking the big shapes with the biggest brush possible.
Following the original thumbnailed color study and Schaeffer's painting I used the EYEDROPPER to borrow colors to use on the canvas. Stay true to what you had originally planned for colors otherwise you'll get carried away and create some funky colors you don't need for the painting.
From here I used a big soft brush (set opacity to 15-20%) and with a new COLOR DODGE layer I slowly painted in the warm light that is exposed behind the large structure. Technically Ashworth shouldn't be hit with the orange light as he is far behind the large structure that is blocking the warm light. I fixed this later on the painting but you can already see there is a nice visual contrast with the cool and warm colors. If you know your color theory blue and orange are compliments and when used properly you can manipulate a visual interest in your painting real fast.
Take note that I also decided to change Ashworth's posture and kept his arms asymmetrical so that they don't look the same - in other words I wanted his posture to look a little more dynamic. You can see the change from the bottom left to the bottom right image.
Also, on the images below, you can see that I've applied textures from stock photos. What I used for textures were photos of European architecture, abandoned buildings, and secret gardens. Make sure you use Gaussian blur on those photos, set the layer to COLOR DODGE and adjust the OPACITY levels and let it blend naturally into the painting. If you are unsure on how to do this check out Feng Zhu's video above - i.e. Design Cinema Ep. 80 - Mixing Surroundings.
To help me define Ashworth's posture as realistically as possible I used a photo reference of myself.
At this stage of the painting I blocked off the big shapes and worked on the details - such as the stone blocks, the angel wings, the steams of water trickling down the cistern, Ashworth's anatomy and boots etc...
Looking at the two images above you can tell that there is a change in scale of the foreground. I did this because I wasn't too happy with how small Ashworth is in comparison to the landscape. I needed to enlarge him (along with the foreground elements) and bring him closer to create the depth I was looking for in the thumbnail - after all he is a primary focal point.
Step 05: Making Final Adjustments
From time to time, throughout the painting process, I make sure that I stay true to my values from the very beginning by desaturating the image and squinting. I also made sure that my composition works with the values so that the eyes won't have difficulty reaching the focal points as it wanders around the canvas.
I've reached to the end of the painting (the image on the top right) and decided to enhance the values to boost atmospheric perspective of the foreground and background elements.
During adjustment of the values I use this technique where you flatten the image and go to IMAGE> ADJUSTMENT > POSTERIZE > Value of 4. This is what it looks like.
Thanks to the enhanced values I managed to achieve my intent of having the eyes wander around and hitting at two focal points starting from the top to bottom. The focal points are the head and upper torso of the angel statue and Ashworth.
Don't be afraid to use shapes and curvatures to help guide those eyes. Look how the curvature on the top-left corner is darkened (it wasn't present in the thumbnail but I added this towards the end for an adjustment to the overall composition) and naturally guides the eye to move from Point 1 to Point 2 very easily. The triangular darkened shape (just above the slant is the highlight of the pillar) helps direct your eyes to move from Point 2 to Point 3 with little effort.
Design is very important in any illustration. Take advantage of it and develop a composition that works during the thumbnail stage.
Speaking of composition, let's see how the rule of thirds apply.
I made sure that my points of interest hit close to either of the four intersecting points (see POI 1 & 2).
If you look at it from another angle at how the rule of thirds can make a painting work really well visually is how you create portions of the canvas for the eyes to wander, rest and pay attention to. Check out the image below for a scan of the portions used in my painting.
As you can see on the top right I kept that area deliberately as breathing space or a entry point for the eyes to wander. Next you see the orange part as a second priority - I want people to move their way to the angel statue and study the details within it. Then the red-orange box is an area of greatest interest - this is where I would like and would expect most viewers to end up. So to generate that interest I added Ashworth in there as a primary focal point - who doesn't like to see a face and a body in a lonely place? Furthermore I wanted to direct the attention of the viewers to the peculiar but very inviting warm light in the background and make them study it, get curious and ask questions about the details.
Now I mentioned about my focal points - I made sure that those elements are where I would spend most of my time to get the details right. Use a smaller brush and paint away the details. Having an aim and purpose will serve your time wisely in any painting project.
So once again, a reminder about the benefit of developing a composition that works for your painting - it makes your eyes wander around the canvas to embrace the subtle details as well as the focal points.
Let's have a look at all the possible pathways my viewer can make during observation. I found ten ways for the eye to make it's way to the primary focal point. Having multiple paths in your painting can be exciting and add visual interest!
So there you have it, I hope this painting process will help inspire you and give insight to techniques you haven't used before on your artwork.
Do plenty of research, plan ahead and paint with purpose.
Doing this will give impact to the final painting.