Friday, July 29, 2011

Cascade step 03

Step 3:  A new approach

Remember all that stuff in the previous post about how despite looking so different from the thumbnail, the dragon fit with my composition in essentially the same way?  Well...  that was all true, but I decided to go in a different direction.

Obviously a lot of big changes, but I was excited about them because some of the concepts were starting to come full circle in my head.  Each iteration is always going to be informed by all the work done beforehand, so don't be afraid to sacrifice something you've worked on if your goal is to make the final product the best it can be.  In many cases it's at least worth trying something different to see things a another way and confirm that you are in fact on the right track.

Basically I decided that I wanted this painting to be more about the dragon and not just a mouth attacking the viewer.  To accomplish that he needed to be at a different angle to see his body in a more descriptive way and get a good view of how he's put together.  At the same time, I was thinking about how he actually fit into the landscape.  Why does he live here?  Why is this place suited to his anatomy?

What if his design was based off whales and dolphins, and he had the ability to dive underwater..?  That immediately gave me some ideas for a better direction to go in (and a unique style of dragon) so I started reforming his body to feel like it could function in water.  I still liked the wing cutting across the page, and the long tail so I kept those elements and pivoted him around to a nearly profile view.

You may also notice I flipped the background again, and zoomed it out even further.  This is a common tendency with me and one of the reasons I was happy to be doing these steps in photoshop...  I also began making one of the rock towers more architectural, backed by the idea that my dragon here was the guardian of something hidden inside.  ( Adding simple narrative elements are always a good idea and get me thinking about a piece on a much deeper level.)

As for color, adding it was out of curiosity more than anything.  I'll be getting rid of it in the next step, but I had wanted to start thinking about it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cascade step 02

Step 2:  Sketching it out

With a thumbnail I was happy with, it was time to start putting a little more effort into the look of each element and how they worked as a whole.  

The dragon might seem very different, but a few key things stayed the same.  The wing still stretches way out to the edge of the page, he's still spiraling towards the viewer, and he's still roughly the same size.  He may have flipped over a few axes, but those are the critical elements of how he fits into my composition.

As for the background, I zoomed out slightly and put more emphasis on the edge of the waterfall, as well as the rock pinnacles rising out of it.  I also started laying out basic cloud shapes, positioning them to direct the eye through the otherwise empty areas of the composition.  This is very important.  Clouds offer an unlimited number of shapes to work with and should always be used to strengthen a layout whenever their appearance is appropriate.

Finally, I've also added a curve to the horizon.  This is an entirely personal decision, but for me it adds dynamism to the landscape and enhances the action of the dragon.  It also makes the background seem that much wider (and therefore epic) by imitating the curve of the Earth because we're viewing at that far of a distance.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Welcome! (Cascade step 01)

Hello and thanks for stopping by!  I'm new to this so please bear with me while I try to get a handle on things.

I posted this image a few months ago up on DeviantArt with the intent of adding color and painting it out traditionally.  The physical piece is quite a bit further along now and has been a great learning experience so far, but there's still a long way to go on it!  I'll hold off on showing that for now though :)

I've had some people ask about my process, and usually the answer is something like "it's always different" or "it varies by piece," with a few common threads here and there.  So I figured I'd throw everyone for a big loop by christening this blog with a step by step method that's a work in progress in and of itself.  I've dabbled with oils and acrylics in the past, but my comfort lies with photoshop, and I really have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to truly painting.  I'll be doing my best to hide that in the finished piece (and luckily have some great help and inspiration to aid me), but hopefully this can offer some sort of insight into how my messed-up brain works.

Step 1:  Getting it on paper

This guy started at IlluXCon, and as messy at it looks, he was the first legitimate thumb that came out of the concept I was trying to convey.

For those who don't know, IlluXCon is an amazing convention dedicated to showcasing the work of several dozen of the world's best traditional Fantasy and Sci-Fi artists every November in Altoona, PA.  A combination of lectures from Donato Giancola and Todd Lockwood, staring at Michael Whelan's wall for hours, and riffling through my mentor Lars Grant-West's paintings all weekend got me thinking that it was time I did an awesome dragon painting.  A real painting that might get me on track for having something to compare with those guys some day.

For me, composition makes or breaks a piece, so even while I was at the convention I began thinking about how I wanted to showcase his body, and how the shape of it would direct the viewer's eye into the background; even more than what kind of dragon he'd be.  Donato's talk on abstract realism was still fresh in my mind so I knew I wanted to keep it bold and minimalist, and that hatched the idea for this sort of circular waterfall out in the middle of the ocean.  

Since Photoshop is still what I'm most comfortable with I decided it would make the best vessel for getting ideas down and arranging a composition.  By the end of this I will have bounced back and forth a ridiculous number of times.