Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bridge Too Far - the painting and the process

I really love warm colors so I decided to paint a volcanic-themed environment. I call this latest piece of mine "Bridge Too Far". I got inspiration from a couple of scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy- the one in which Gandalf casts away the Balrog and another where the final confrontation between Frodo, Sam and Gollum takes place.

For what it's worth, I would like to share with you how I did this. The following are images showing various stages of the creative process.

STAGE 1: Roughs

You really can't go wrong if you start with roughs. That's a lesson experience has taught me. The two images above are both color thumbnails that served as the bases of this particular illustration. I usually make a tonal (black and white) thumbnail first before I make a color thumbnail. But for paintings where hues are in direct proportion to values such as this one where colors are analogous to orange, I tend to begin without a separate rough for the tonal layout. The difference between the two roughs above is that the second one has slightly cooler hues.

When at this stage, I only use broad brush strokes. There's really no point in getting nit-picky right away. The only thing that matters at this stage is to establish the mood of the painting and to get a quick preview of the composition. Speaking of composition, I followed the rule of thirds for this one.

Another reason why I think it's important to establish both mood and composition during the rough sketching phase is that I can easily revise or discard roughs (if I have to) without feeling bad at all.

STAGE 2: Drawing the perspective grid

I don't think I can paint an effective-looking environment illustration without utilizing perspective- atmospheric or otherwise. I used three-point perspective guidelines here. The blue lines on the image above lead to three vanishing points located way beyond the canvas.

Other than modeling a block mesh in any 3D application, there are no shortcuts when it comes to establishing perspective. This stage is just as important as the rest. It should not be skipped especially if the painting is supposed to have geometric forms in it.

STAGE 3: Initial form sketch

I find it easier to make form sketches such as the one above once I've gone through making roughs and perspective grids. When I make form sketches, what goes on in my mind is that I am just assigning particular materials to each element in the picture. That's why I still keep it loose when I am at this point. This is the stage in which I decide if a certain element is going to be rough or smooth, dull or shiny, and so on. This is also the part where I finalize the light sources in the painting.

STAGE 4: Painting the farthest elements

As the old saying goes, "You can't put the cart before the ox." That is applicable to a lot of things including painting. I paint the farthest elements first because I don't want to get stuck fixing up missed spots which inevitably appear if the foreground is painted before the background. For this particular painting, the most distant part is the lava fall so that's what I painted first. When I am at this stage in any painting, that's when I say the fun part has officially started.

STAGE 5: Overlapping elements

The four images above show the development sequence of the left side of this painting. I still followed the same procedure of painting the more distant elements before the nearer ones. When I speak of distance I mean the distance relative to the camera. Well, we don't really have a camera here because this is a painting but I'm sure you understand what I'm saying. It is during this stage that I draw the details in. This is the best part to get busy with.

STAGE 6: Additional effects and post-processing

After detailing, I refine my paintings further by adding subtle effects. In this painting, I threw in some vapors coming from below. I then ran a smart sharpen filter before I decided to wrap this up. The effect of the said filter on this artwork is subtle as well. It's only noticeable when you look at the painting up close. It's not entirely necessary. I only did it because it produces what I think looks like a dried paint effect which I like. The final result is the first and topmost image in this entry.

I hope you liked this documentation as much as I enjoyed the creative process! :)

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