Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Digital Fantasy Painting part 1: Rough Composition

This week I started a new illustration. I’m trying a couple new approaches with this project. One is that I’m drawing and painting entirely digital, with no pencil or ink drawings to scan in, and the other is that I’m documenting the entire process, capturing still images along the way and describing my method. This should be fun!

I have a rough idea of my subject matter, and that is of a winged character in mid-flight, holding a sword. This could be an angel or demon, or just perhaps a superhero-type character or even an alien; I don’t know yet.

My software is Adobe Photoshop CS4. I start off with a blank 480 x 640 canvas. This phase is strictly a composition and value study and I don’t want to get caught up in the details yet. I’ll create a much larger canvas for the actual painting. I lay down a couple gradients for the sky and establish the horizon line with a large airbrush.

On a new layer I start blocking in a silhouette of my character, mindful of only basic body proportions for now. Again, avoid details. At this point I know my character will be some sort of winged person in mid-flight, so I think of what would make an interesting pose; is he ascending or descending, or somewhere in between? I’m thinking about triangle shapes in my composition, and energy in the pose.

Here I added the wing shapes and decided he needs to move up and to the right. I also decide that our main light source will be the low sun in the horizon and thinking about how that will light the figure; which areas of the body will receive direct sunlight and which will be in shadow. There will also be ambient sky light from above, reflected off clouds.

I decided to move the horizon line up so we can see more of what type of landscape he’s flying over and to possibly add some sort of building or battle scene below. I also thought his foot in the previous version was “resting” on the horizon. This composition is more interesting and gives us a stronger sense of vertigo. The sun hasn’t really moved that much in relation to the figure, so the direct lighting remains about the same.

I refined some of the figure’s inner shapes, roughed in some hair and clothing, gave him some flaming eyes and changed the pose of his left arm, as I didn’t care for how it was reaching off-canvas; it looked like I was trying to avoid painting his hand, or he could have been hanging on to something. With this pose, there’s no question that he’s floating in air. And if he’s a magician as well I can paint him holding a ball of energy or a lightning bolt or something. I also bent his right leg further back; this gives the pose just a little bit more energy. The composition is starting to come together. I think it’s about time to start laying down the actual painting.

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