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!

My first digital painting!

galbraith sketchI’ve done it!!! I’ve finally created a digital painting that I’m pleased with.

I’ve been wanting to have a go at digital painting for years but was too intimidated to try. Although my drawing can be quite reasonable, I’m not too confident with colour. I have also been intimidated by using a graphics tablet and stylus.

A few weeks ago, I plucked up the courage to read the book that I bought (years ago)on the subject, took some reference shots and gave it a go. It was an unmitigated disaster, I couldn’t control the stylus and my colours were all over the place. I gave it all up as a bad job. Then, last night, something persuaded me to have another try. I checked out a tutorial by a chap called Daarken, his technique was to first create an amorphous blob in the vague shape of what he wanted and refine from there. His work tends to have a sketchy feel, which I quite like and have always wanted to create. I have a tendency to get too fussy with my drawing and want to put in every detail, which then stifles the work.

I chose Terry’s Empire character, Galbraith, as a subject. I got a bunch of reference photos of him as well as googled references for his sword and armour.

I really liked the technique of the amorphous blob. It was a very low-pressure way to get going and feel as though I was getting somewhere  at an early stage. I found that I was able to find the lines that I wanted and build the shape in a very organic way. It was also a good way to get my basic shadows in and I found it much easier to stick to a limited colour palette (always a problem for me)

I stepped out of my comfort zone by only choosing to refine certain parts of the image, and leaving the rest quite sketchy. I felt that this added mystery and allows the viewer to fill in the blanks, as it were, from their own imagination. I feel that I have finally hit on the concept of “less is more”

I’m pleased that it looks a bit like Terry without being a slavish likeness. I was aiming to draw the character, rather than the player dressed as the character, and I think it works. I’d really like to do some more, getting a bit quicker each time and gain some more confidence with colour. The nice thing about digital painting is that you can experiment without worrying about ruining the whole thing as you can always undo a mistake. I’m also looking forward to getting more control over the stylus, but I guess that’s a practice thing.And a couple of life drawing classes wouldn’t go amiss either, my skills there are somewhat rusty.

I’m looking forward to doing more 🙂