Sunday, October 23, 2016

Process Post: 'In a World'

Alright - after my long foray into how I made a movie, it's back to process posts, where I take a detailed look into how I made a specific painting. I'll be picking up from my last process post which was...BACK IN FEBRUARY 2015?!?

Oh boy. I've a lot to catch up on. Luckily, since then, I've been doing a lot of painting and sketches so I'll be covering all that and more in future posts. Today, I'll be focusing on In A World, seen above.

This one is an interesting painting for a number of reasons, both good and bad. First, it was created in a completely unplanned manner. I was on a flight to, or from San Francisco, or Cleveland. I can't really remember. But it was a work trip and I brought a sketchbook to just play around with during the flight. After a few hours and getting motivated by the person next to me who was watching what I was doing, I ended up with this sketch in pencil. Ignore the clouds at the top, it was just me playing around with what I saw.

It was some kind of creature flying in the air because of obvious inspirational reasons (airplane, flying, clouds, etc - aren't I creative?!)

I quickly scanned it and colored it, which brought me here (ignore the floating foliage near the creature). Note that I added a few elements, the clouds, the plants, and the creature's scepter to add more balance to the picture as a whole.

At this point, there was a ton of back and forth. I'll just show you the final version again and talk about what I had to keep shifting back and forth.

First, the outlines.

Outlines is something I've always had a ton of trouble with. Sometimes I want completely black outlines akin to a comic, sometimes I want thick outlines that are darker, more saturated versions of what's being outlines. And most recently, I've played with light outlines that more just accentuate what's already there (which is likely the more correct decision, as that's the point of outlines).

Here, however, I have something else to consider - the original sketch's outlines. These are pencil/pen outlines that add a lot of texture to the drawing. Coupled with some of the other textural elements that the paper brought (see the clouds on the upper left hand corner), I thought keeping those elements intact would add a bit of an interesting flair to the piece.

Then I moved on to the bottom part of the image. I wanted to give the image a larger sense of depth, a sense that we were looking up at the creature. So I played around with the bottom foliage a lot, shifting the positioning and the colors. Ultimately, I took a little technique from some images I had seen: the blur tool.

It's a technique digital artists often employ to represent movement or depth. It's a camera function, not a painting function, bringing elements out of focus in order to further pinpoint focus on non-blurred elements. What I wanted to do was blur the plants and foliage and make the character much more in focus.

Here, I played around with the Gaussian blur tool, shifting how much the plants were blurred. Ultimately, I don't think it worked out for a number of reasons.

1) The blur doesn't add much.

There's no reason to try to add more focus to this character using the blur function. The character is clearly the element a viewer is drawn to because of the negative space around it, so a blur doesn't do much.

2) The blur is distracting.

The blur looks so different from the rest of the picture, which is more painterly and very non-digital because it's a mixed media piece (both pencils/inks and digital coloring).

3) The blur is not very well-done.

The blur would look better if it was done better (duh). The reason I highlight this is that it's done digitally and it's very obviously a digital technique. If I tried to apply a painterly technique and blur it manually (which I don't know if I could do, really), it would blend in better.

While I took this time to semi-crap on this piece, I like the rest of the piece in general and overall, looking at it again, I'm really happy with it. The character feels really original, despite taking from a lot of inspiration, I love the clouds, and the colors are a little bit off from my usual color palette but familiar enough that I was able to paint comfortably with it. The more I look at it, the more I also enjoy the feeling it brings. A strange sense of wonder and discovery. It works for me. Would I try the blur technique again? Yes, but in more subtle and careful ways. I'd like to practice with it a little more before using it in a final image and I'd also work on painting the blur rather than applying a blur. In other images, I've been paying attention to how other artists use and apply blur. Hopefully by next time, it'll work out better.

Thanks for reading.