Sunday, July 10, 2011

Illustration in Progress

I was asked to post some step-by-step images of a painting I'm working on, so here's some of it so far. This isn't based on any particular story; I was doing some sketches of trees from imagination and this picture popped into my head. It's a kid following a fairy up a tree.

I only went through a few rough sketches before arriving at the final thumbnail, which is probably 2X3 inches at most. I had a pretty good idea of what it was going to look like, so I mainly needed to work out the pose.

I often try to skip the color study stage of a painting, and I regret it every single time that I do. I think I've learned my lesson now. These are fairly small, so they stay very loose and are usually higher chroma than the final painting. I used to do these digitally, but for some reason I actually find it harder to think in Photoshop, so I don't explore as much. Nowadays I do color studies in gouache.

I did the final pencil drawing straight on the toned panel (no photo, sorry) and then massed in the values transparently. The lights are scrubbed in with lead white. The two large masses of leaves on top are now a dark value instead of the light one from the sketch, on advice from my teacher.

With the underpainting dry, I started blocking in the background color, following the study as closely as possible. The color temperatures become a little hard to read for me at this point because of the warm underpainting. I know that the greens I've blocked in are going to appear warm later, but at this stage it takes a lot of faith to not keep dumping orange in them.

More of the background is painted in. Adding the violet branch and the cool green accents in the foreground make the background color temperature look more correct, although there's still a ways to go. The values are thrown off a little now, but not worringly so.

The darks in the foreground are laid in, so the values are mostly corrected. Until about a week ago I would've tried to be really fancy with the brushwork on that big branch and it would've come out looking thick, muddy and awful. I'm not experienced enough at this to try being clever with brushes yet. The darks here are mostly scrubbed on transparently, nearly all of the 'modeling' is just the underpainting showing through. I added some violets in the midtones more opaquely, as it approaches the light. The painting looked its best at this point I think- from here on I start ruining it

I got a little carried away throwing greens on to the branch. It took away some of the modeling from the previous step, when I fix it tomorrow I need to be careful to lay it on in a way that describes the form. Color is very far from being one of my strong points, so when I try getting cute with it, the day ends with sad Sid.

This is where it was at the end of the day. I hate painting lots of little objects so I got lazy with the leaves; the shapes need to be more refined and less "yay, (bad) brushwork!" I'm also not too happy with how a lot of warmth in the painting is gone, but it's hard to judge at this point. I'll have a better idea of where to go once the boy's shirt and skin are painted in, since those are the strongest warm notes in the color study.

I'll do another post when this is done. Expect more self-loathing as it approaches finish :).


  1. Thanks for the comment over at! This is an amazing process post. Looking forward. :-)

  2. Really fantastic to see such an in depth workflow!