Will Guildenstern and backlighting

More digital painting, who’d have ‘thunk it?

I’m trying to set myself a challenge with each one that I do. I’m trying to learn more about painting in general and to develop my technique, so there’s zero point in doing things the same way each time.  This time, I experimented with backlighting, and using a scanned preliminary sketch.

The inspiration for this picture was my pal Matt’s Empire character, Will Guildenstern (yes, it’s no coincidence that Terry’s Empire character is called Rosenkrantz).Sometime last year, WG, a member of the militia, conducted a raid on an eatery, in connection with a slave trading ring. I thought that I’d illustrate his defiant arrest.

For the last two digital paintings, I avoided using a preliminary sketch, as I wanted to keep the feel of the painting spontaneous and loose. I have a tendency to sketch really tightly, which strangles the final work somewhat. However, while I like the sponanteity, I miss the feel of pencil on paper,and I have found it a struggle to get positioning and proportion right when drawing straight onto the laptop.

2015-01-11 18.40.43So, for this one, I tried to get the best of both worlds. I had Terry pose for a reference shot, coming through the kitchen door, and used this as the basis for the sketch. I shot the picture from the ground so that the viewer is looking up at WG, as if they are seated at a table. We found it quite hard initially to get a pose that I liked, until Terry started messing about, sticking his middle finger up (Guildenstern is a cocky fellow), those poses had the most energy to them.

line sketchThen I drew out the character sketch, trying to make a 3D representation of all the shapes. (he did originally have 2 legs, but I forgot to save the orginal scan, this is how it ended up)

Having scanned the sketch, I got on to the fun bit, fleshing him out! I lowered the opacity on the sketch layer, which allowed me the spontaneity that I wanted,with the security of using the sketch as a guide, which gave me even more scope to try things out.

The big challenge was the backlighting, as I couldn’t find a good reference for that. I knew that the daylight would be cold, throwing the front of the figure into shadow, but I didn’t want him to be just a dark blob, so I added a second light source in the form of a candle on the wall. I worked with that light source mostly, but was careful not to paint in too much contrast, as it wasn’t a bright light. I was also careful to keep it fairly monochromatic, mostly varying shades of brown. It was surprising how dark even the lighter shades were when I looked at them on the colour picker. I just played around until I liked the look of it. The painting really came to life when I added the warm highlights on the wall nearest the candle. That’s how I was thinking of this painting, as if I were painting with light. Those online lighting tutorials really came in handy!

When the colours were all in place, I added the backlighting around the edges of the figure and doorframe. I made these really bright, and they really helped to make the figure “pop”. I kept the sketch just about visible, it added a certain structure and definition, then put a bit more oomph into it by brightening the highlights on the sword, armour and mail. Done!

freeze muther'fuckers


Cora and the Butterfly

I’m having a lot of fun with the digital painting. Here’s my latest effort. When I was at Empire last summer, a butterfly landed on my a table and my friend, sitting at the table picked it up on her finger. The butterfly was in her house colours and I thought that it would make a lovely painting.

cora with butterfly

I posed for my own reference shot so that I could get an idea of the way the clothing fell, and how the light (near sunset) threw shadows around. The hard bit was getting the shadows the right colour, they were tending to shift towards purple rather than the blue that they would be in strong daylight. I got there in the end, even if I did have to tweak the colour balance to make it a little warmer. And I also made it my mission to learn about different light sources and how they interact with one another.

I struggled a bit with the shapes and shadows initially, then I hit on a way of thinking that treated each shape as a 3D object, thinking more in terms of sculpting, rather than painting. Sounds rather obvious when I think about it, I guess I just got wrapped up in all the other details. Fabric especially gives me the fear, but I’m pleased with how the thickness of the dress fabric is apparent and the light shining through the chemise cuff.

As with all of these character portraits, I was trying to paint the character rather than the player, but I’ve managed to get a likeness on this one!

What I did on my holidays

It’s so good to not be tired all the time. What have I done on my hols?

Well, I bit the bullet and applied for my DClinPsy. I wasn’t going to apply this year, but had a chat with the admissions team at Cardiff University and they encouraged me to apply right away, with the caveat that most people don’t get in first time round. I figured that I had nothing to lose by doing that, so set up an application with the Leeds Clearing house and did the necessary with 2 weeks to go.

I was initially pretty daunted as I had heard about people who spent months on their application, but actually, it was no worse than applying for any other job that requires a form to be filled out. I spent a fair bit of time  on the personal statements, but learned a lot about myself and my experience by doing so. To my surprise, roles that I would not have thought of including have actually helped to build the skills that I believe would make me suitable for training, once I reflected on them. My third year university supervisor, whom I contacted for an academic reference was wonderfully supportive, even though I haven’t seen him for fifteen years. I also received a good deal of support and guidance on the form from friends that kindly agreed to look at my first draft for me. It’s lovely to feel that I have people behind me that want me to succeed.

The other encouraging occurrence was the job that I didn’t get. A week or so before Christmas, I saw a job ad for an assistant psychologist post in my local health board. Now these jobs are as rare as hen’s teeth, mostly due to a lack of funding as far as I can see. They often close within a few hours of being posted due to the volume of applications they receive. As I have to work, and usually don’t have access to the net at work,  I don’t get a look in. Plus the fact that I’m not really in a position to relocate for a short term post, as many of these are, so I can only look for jobs that are within a commutable radius.

For this one, however, they wanted applicants to write a 500 word piece on accessible mental health services in Wales. I guess that must have stopped applicants from simply copying and pasting their latest job application, because it was still open when I got home. Knowing that time was of the essence, I sat myself down and bashed out an application, with no expectation of getting an interview.

Imagine my surprise when I got an interview for the next week! Imagine my horror when I remembered that I hadn’t had a formal interview in several years, they are not usually required for music or sewing work. And what to wear?? Musicians and costume makers don’t often wear office suits either. I was in Birmingham for an MU meeting, so took the chance to run round the shops. Except that it was a week before Christmas, everything was glitter and sparkles. I don’t know too much about traditional interviews, but I do know that turning up looking like Elsa from Frozen would probably not go down too well.

I did what I always do in this situation, rummage around my fabric stash. I found a couple of metres of dark brown wool-mix and a smart but simple dress pattern. I had managed to get a brown blazer in Birmingham, in the clearance section of House of Fraser and decided to team it with a dress rather than go for a suit. The dress came together quickly and was lovely and warm. I usually don’t like office wear as I feel so uncomfortable in it, but it makes all the difference when it actually fits you. I’ve got to the stage where it’s quicker to make something than spend all day looking for an outfit that’s me-shaped.

The interview itself was lovely, really relaxed and I felt very at ease despite being sent to the wrong building on arrival. I felt that I might be in with a chance, but got a call later that day to say that I hadn’t got the job. However, they were very nice about it and said that they had deliberated for a long time and might be able to offer me some voluntary work. The fact that I hadn’t got an NHS reference went against me, and that was a possible solution. More feedback was that my knowledge of research methods and stats was rusty, but, as they said, hardly surprising considering that I graduated 15 years ago! I had tried to revise research methods in advance of the interview, but only had a few days in which to do so and was juggling a lot of work in the run-up to Christmas. That too is fixable, I had a good google and found a distance learning Masters level course on research methods for behavioural sciences at my old alma mater. It will wipe most of what little savings I have, but the investment will be worth it, not only will the revision be worthwhile, but it will (hopefully) grow my somewhat stunted academic confidence.

I am hopeful, though. I don’t think that it will be the bewildering nightmare that university was. It wasn’t the work that I had a problem with, I loved that. It was the rest. Often, I didn’t realise that an essay had been set at all, or if I did, I didn’t know when the deadline was, or which articles/books to read. Where I was supposed to go for lectures, which lecture was at which time, or even which day of the week it was. I inexplicably forgot everything that I needed to remember. Everyone else seemed to know what they wanted to do after university, but I didn’t have a clue. And as for day to day living as an independent adult, house hunting,setting up direct debits etc, it all seemed like some weird dark art. And I tried so hard. At times I was convinced that there were secret meetings that everyone attended that I didn’t know about where they all talked about this stuff. But most of the time, I thought that I was just plain stupid.

Of course, if our Abnormal Psychology textbook had contained more than a paragraph on ADHD, and it was realised that it affected adults as well as kids, and not just disruptive boys at that, history may well have been very different. I might not have left university thinking that I had nothing to offer the field of psychology, or any other field for that matter. I might have been able to put strategies in place for finding out the things that I needed to know so that my life was not some endless swirl of confusion and fear. At least I would have had some explanation for the way that I felt.

But it didn’t, and I didn’t, so I graduated believing that a career in anything other than music (I knew where I was with that) was an not option for me. I don’t regret my path through life, it’s brought me to where I am today, but I could have done without the psychological fallout, misery and emotional pain of having undiagnosed ADHD. I sometimes get angry when I think of how unnecessary it was. But no one was to know, not my teachers, parents and not me.

And now, although I face my new direction with some trepidation, I need to remind myself that I’m not that lost, confused 19 year old girl that somehow felt disconnected from the world and most of the people in it. I have a new-found brain, and so help me, I’m gonna use it!