Sunday, December 1, 2013

Smaug - Sketches and Studies

Lately I have been working on larger canvases and in acrylic - quite a change from my preference of painting small and with watercolor.  After returning from IlluxCon in September, I have decided to try and focus on the basics - better composition, greater value, and a better handle on color.  I also decided to strengthen my portfolio with non-avians, since I love to paint fantasy creatures of all types, but you wouldn't know it from my bird-centric portfolio!

I came across the Harper Collins Smaug Art Competition a month ago and decided it would be a good exercise to add a dragon to my portfolio.  Though I read The Hobbit back in middle school, I wanted the vision of Smaug to be fresh in my mind, so I re-read it before beginning my sketches.

Thumbnail Sketch:
To me, Smaug was his most terrifying when laying on his treasure, just rising to speak with the 'thief' he couldn't see.  Not only massive and powerful, but cunning as well - even the strongest and most clever could fall prey to his 'dragon-spell' if he spoke to them for too long.  I wanted to show him just rising, peering in the direction where he knew Bilbo to be hiding, but even his sharp eyes could not spot the invisible hobbit.

Second Sketch:
There were a few things in the thumbnail sketch I wanted to change, such as the size and placement of Smaug's head, and the position of his forelegs. I scanned the thumbnail sketch in and repositioned and resized things in Photoshop, then printed it out and refined the sketch with pen.  Here I began adding the details, such as a 'crown' of spines and horns.

 Since I will be painting this on a piece of gessoed Masonite, I transfered the final sketch onto the 11X14 primed board with red transfer paper, since the dragon will be mostly red and gold.

Value Study:

 In Photoshop, I painted a grayscale value study over the final sketch to figure out where my shadows and highlights would be.  I wanted the main light source to be the reflective gold he is laying on.  In the book, it seemed to me that there was very little light in the great hall where the gold was, save for from the gold itself.  Obviously gold does not emit its own light, but does reflect light very nicely.  Here, for the sake of the illustration, I made the gold glow more than it would, and made it the main source of light.  There is also a bit of light coming from Smaug's fiery throat, and from his glowing eyes.