Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Cave of Montesinos" Process

I love seeing other artists' processes, so I like to share my own now and then. I've been using these Don Quixote pieces as a way to explore/experiment with my working methods, which have become more and more a mix of digital and traditional approaches.

After rereading the chapter I intend to illustrate and making some notes, character sketches, and thumbnail composition sketches, I drew this sketch. Just pencil in my sketchbook. I scanned it at a high resolution and began to play with it in Photoshop.
The undead knight who is reclining with the cards is based on a sepulchral effigy from 1500s Spain.

Next, I added a paper texture I scanned years ago. This gives the image an old-fashioned, natural feel. I used a multiply layer.

Now that I have my sketch and a basic texture, I'm ready to start with the background. I tried a few different colors for the sky (one of the luxuries of digital work!), and settled on this green because I felt it gave the picture an eerie, off-kilter feel. The architecture of the castle is based on medieval/Renaissance buildings from Spain (the setting of the novel). Throughout Don Quixote, the Moorish culture is referenced, so I  thought an allusion to that in the architecture would be fitting here. At the time the book was written, the Moors (Muslims) and Jews had recently been expelled from Spain.

With the background more or less in place, I painted a block of shade to create my basic value structure. I wanted the figures to be in shadow, almost silhouettes when you squint, and the background to be brightly lit.

I added a couple layers (multiply) of shadow to establish some of the basic modeling of the figures.

Next, I began to work out the local color of the figures and their costumes, and continued to build up layers of light and shade.

I finished modeling the figures, and then added a few more layers (multiply) of shadow to deepen and reassert my value structure, which had begun to become lost in the modeling of the figures. I also wanted this area to be warmer, so I used a sepia/orange color.

The painting portion is pretty much complete now, so I drew a new layer of lines. I'm essentially creating an ink drawing over the image at this point. But it's digital.

Another texture element I worked with here can be seen above. I imported a texture dot pattern--it's a piece of gray film stock scanned at high resolution. When used as an "overlay" layer it creates a nice, subtle, dot-grain effect. If you click on the above image to see it larger, you can see more clearly how this grain pattern helps the modeled layers look more natural. The original image is on the left, while the image on the right has the grain overlay.

In total, there are some 50-60 layers of color and texture in this image.

My last step is simply to clean up the edges, outline the box and sign it. All done!

I hope this was helpful to someone--I learn a lot from seeing how others work! My digital methods are probably not the most advanced out there, but I'm enjoying the exploration.

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