Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Allegiance - Work in Progress Part 1

First Shadows:

With my preliminary sketches complete, I start by painting in the shadows.  I will go back and refine the shadows, but this is a good way for me to establish the figure.  The light source is bright sun, situated high in the sky, but casting its light on the gryphon's back.  I have to keep in mind how each object will cast shadows, such as the banners on the trees, and the wings of the gryphon.

I use a mixture of dioxazine violet and sepia for the feathers, and a mixture of Payne's gray and sepia for the trees and stones.  The shadows of the columns are a combination of ultramarine violet and raw umber, mixed with a little white gouache.  I also put down a light wash to give the grass some shadow, to avoid flatness when I add color later.

First Washes
For the primary and secondary feathers, I mix ultramarine violet, sepia, and just a touch of ultramarine blue.  At this point, my main focus is to get a smooth was over everything - I'll go back later and work on shadows and details.  The grass is a wet-on-wet combination of green gold, sap green and viridian, with ultramarine violet in the shadows. I went back to give the columns some more definition, with a raw umber/white gouache wash, and more ultramarine violet/raw umber/white gouache for the shadows.

White gouache allows me to keep a color smooth and 'milky'.  This is especially helpful for very low-opacity colors, or colors that granulate.  Certain blues, for example, will look blotchy no matter how careful you are, and that's just the nature of the pigment.  For the background, I'm careful to use just a little pigment with white gouache, to keep the illusion of atmospheric perspective.  This is likely as dark as I will go with the background, with just a few details added later.

Building up Color
I notice the shadows are a bit lacking (particularly on the ground under the gryphon) so I begin to build them up.  It's important to keep an eye on your contrast and how dark you're pushing your pigments.  With watercolor, it's always easier to go from light to dark, instead of trying to lighten after you've gone too dark.  You might think that white gouache, for example, can fix that, but white gouache often fails to get a section as light as if you simply used a light watercolor wash!  White gouache will never be as light as the paper.

The shadows on the ground are mostly a combination of ultramarine violet and sepia, with some Payne's gray (a blueish gray) closer to the gryphon's paws.  Since the sun is so bright, the shadows will be darker and sharper closer to the gryphon's limbs, and fade as they go out.

The next post will look at the rest of the process, and include the final painting.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Allegiance - Sketches

I was looking through an old sketchbook and found a little sketch I'd done while at my table at DragonCon. DragonCon happens to be the highlight of the year for me, because I get to see friends, and because the art show just floods me with inspiration! I also received a lot of feedback about my work, and made it a goal to try more complex poses and compositions.

The sketch just kind of came out. I had an image of a gryphon bowing, and instantly the word 'allegiance' came out with the sketch. Now, several months later, I finally got around to proceeding with doing something with the sketch.

First Sketch:
I scanned the sketch and brought it into Photoshop to figure out the composition.  Eventually I started to put in columns...and banners...and suddenly what was just meant to be a single gryphon turned into scene with perspective!

Perspective Sketch:
Though I cropped it out, I originally extended the canvas far to the left so I could find a vanishing point for the lines.  The image was starting to go in a direction I hadn't planned on, but I went along to see how far I could push the composition.  Finally, I transferred it to my illustration board, and finalized the drawing.

Final Drawing:
I didn't want the gryphon to be indoors - it seems any king or queen a gryphon would pledge his or her allegiance to would be one who doesn't cage themselves inside walls.  Then what would the banners hang on?  Trees, of course.  Wild oaks with twisting, unruly roots.  I found there was a problem with the expanse of negative space in that lower left triangle, so I thought of what should go there.

My thinking process began to mingle with the story that was brewing in my head, eventually pushing the composition to be structured (with the columns and straight edges of the banners), with wildness added.  The winding trees, the woodland designs on the banners...perhaps this is a faean 'hall'?  Even still, a gryphon is a wild creature, not a being of straight lines and carved angles.  The gryphon here is a little out of his element with the columns...bowing down but still with a wary eye.

Color Sketch:
I recently received some feedback from a group of very skilled, professional fantasy artists who pointed out that my skies are consistently too dark.  Reading their comments was like light suddenly flicking on - it was something I couldn't quite figure out on my own until someone pointed it out!  Although in this piece the horizon line is almost off the paper (you can see it just barely in the upper left of the background), I had to keep in mind the background would also need to be of low contrast and low saturation.

I am also trying to use less saturated colors overall, and I plan on painting this mostly with watercolor, and using washes of acrylic to really push the values.  I hope the acrylic will also help me achieve the smoothness I usually lack with watercolor.