Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Romanza" Walk-through

   Here's the finished version of "Romanza", my commission for a very dear friend and supporter.  The colors turned out more vibrant than I originally planned, but I like it.  It's infused with the warm glow of sunset orange.  I wanted to make this commission piece extra special, so to mark the occasion, I'm going to write up a walk-through of this using my work-in-progress files I saved while I worked on this project.

   First, of course, is the line art.  In my case, it's an inked line art over the pencil rough.  I ink as I clean the lines.  The pencil rough acts as a guide.  The inked line art is then given a clean-up with a high polymer eraser to remove all graphite lines.  The piece is then scanned.  The scan is digitally cleaned for dust and cat hair that the scanner picks up, and a few stray lines in ink and some, if any, graphite lines missed during erasing.  I've had young people ask me before about my scanner since they thought my scanner scanned so cleanly.  No, there's no magic scanner.  Dust and other particles get picked up and we all have to remove it one speck at a time.

   The digital file gets some preparation work done next.  First I lower the contrast and brighten the whole piece so that the lines fade into grey.  I then 'colorize' the lines with low intensity brown for the sepia ink look.  Next I adjust the red-yellow-green to give the entire image the 'paper color' by giving it a mid to light tone.  I tend to use light ochre, light blue, light lavender, or light green, depending on the overall color scheme planned for each piece.  Since this one will have a lot of orange and red, I chose the soft warm yellow.

   Since I work in Corel Painter (Essential 4, which came free with the Intuos 3 tablet when I bought it back in January of 2009), the original line art file, when I open it in Corel Painter to paint over, becomes the 'canvas' layer, and it is fixed at the bottom of the 'stash'.  I add a layer and name it 'base shades' (I often call it background wash.) and work with a shade of yellowish brown, using a 'diffuse water' brush found under wet media section of the tool box.  I always set the opacity of this tool to be very low (mostly between 6 to 12%) and vary the tip size greatly from stroke to stroke to achieve the random and more natural look.  I'm working free and loose at this stage.  It is a phase for setting the overall tone and mood of the piece.

   I add another layer on top of the 'base shades' and name it 'poppies'.  I used to work without naming each of the layers, but it's just easier and quicker if I give each layer a name for reference.  This 'poppies' layer will have all the red applied.  I don't use the color mixer or the palette that's built in the program.  I pick from the wheel directly and it usually works for me just fine for my method. Once again, the poppies' red is applied with 'diffuse water' with low opacity.  It's the wet tool set at low opacity that gives the look of watercolor in my pieces.  It's not exactly like watercolor on paper, but it's a pretty good approximation, I think.

   Here's a close-up look at the poppies and a monarch after the first stage.  Only the base tone is quickly painted in.

   On top of the 3-layer stash that has already been created so far, I add a new layer for the butterflies' orange wing color and name it 'wing orange' for reference.  Same tool as before, and color is applied.  I change the shade of the orange quite often and also paint over previously painted strokes to deepen some colors and give it more saturation.  Basically, most of my colors are applied in small section of wash after wash to build up the colors.

   Upon the 4-layer stash, I add a new layer, named 'black'.  This will be for the darkest of the dark in the image, namely the black markings on the monarch butterflies, but also for the dark spots on the poppies.

      Hair color was laid in on the 'wing orange' layer.  I don't make layer for each of the elements like many digital artists do, but simplify and economize whenever I can by determining which elements can be safely painted on a single layer without the need for a sharp distinction/ transition between elements.  Since her hair is curly and voluminous, and has an almost fluffy appearance, and that some of the orange color can be the reflected color all around the wings, I went ahead and painted the hair on the same layer and let the colors bleed into each other a little.  I paint in the black spots of poppy blooms on the 'black' layer, the same layer that has the dark markings of the butterflies.  In between the 'poppies' and the 'wing orange' layers, I add a new layer, 'green' to introduce the green shades of leaves, buds, and seed pods.  I start the green lightly at the vertical mid-point and continue to work toward the bottom of the image, or the front of the visual field, gradually intensifying the green.  For some definition in the dark in the greens, I used 'simple water' tip, which works like markers without diffusing much.

   A close-up of the butterfly and the poppies at this stage of coloring.

   Upon the now 6-layer stash, I add a highlight layer (I write it 'hilites' when I'm working.).  The highlight layer is worked strictly with a 'soft pastel' (and 'sharp chalk' if I want a little texture to the highlighted lines, it gives more of a broken line and create a 'paper texture' which is actually not there) tip from the dry media section of the tool box, and for the line highlight, I keep the saturation set at or near 100% and tip size very small.  Here, I start to add the white spots of the butterflies, highlights on the girl's hair, and highlights on poppy petals.  Again, I'm frequently changing the shade ever slightly and giving variations to the tip size to achieve a natural look.  I selected the 'green' layer for the facial features (eyes and lips) because the green elements are relatively far away and I can paint these facial features without disturbing anything else.  The figure's overall shading, including her dress, was painted on the same layer as the 'base shades'.

   A close-up look at the fairy's face.  Everything except for the line highlights, which was applied with 'soft charcoal' tip, all colors were laid using 'diffuse water' and it has the look of 'bleeding'.

   Here's one more look at the same rectangle for a close-up.  The highlights on the petals give the illusion of the thin, crinkly, paper-like texture of the poppy petals.  The addition of purple highlights to the stamens make them look more 3D in appearance and adds the texture and detail which make the poppy such a beautiful flower.

   On top of the 'black' layer and just under the 'hilites' layer, I add a new layer 'soft hilites'.  I use this layer strictly for the soft, diffused light look where I want it.  The tool I use is still the 'soft charcoal', but the opacity  is set much lower (the color will be applied very lightly in transparent strokes) and the tip size is generally much larger than my line highlight application.   About where the upper and lower wings meet on her left side where you can see her index finger, at the crown of her head, and on her left side where her dress's material is pooled on the ground, I applied a very light (low opacity) 'soft charcoal' halo, which gives the look of glowing or blurring, softening and brightening at the same time.   Other parts where I used this 'soft hilites' layer was on the flower petals of the poppies in the foreground as well as the lights on the buds.

   I also added very subtle bit of blue to the leaves and buds in the foreground to the left to help with the illusion of the depth of field.  Soft white sparkles were added only in the mid-field around the figure also for the same purpose. 

   Here's a close-up look of the highlights given to the mid-field.  Off white lines and dots create the illustion of the blades of grass reflecting light and smaller buds of secondary flower species in the poppy field, etc.  These types of highlights also add such a magical feel to a fantasy piece like mine.  It's actually my favorite part in a painting process.

   Here's a peek at a typical working window when I'm painting in Corel Painter.   For this project, there was a total of 8 layers utilized (although the 'canvas' layer at the bottom remained completely untouched throughout): canvas, base shades, poppies, green (eyes, lips), wing orange (hair), black, soft hilites, and hilites.  This is typical for my work.  I usually stay between 7 and 10 layers in all for my digital coloring projects.  I know friends whose digital paintings utilize dozens and dozens of layers ... some even hundreds.

   I hope this was a fun walk-through for anyone who has read this far.  I basically wrote it assuming that a reader had a fair amount of working knowledge with digital painting programs in general.  I personally can't stand reading tutorials that over-explain and read like some kind of operation manual with circles and arrows pointing to screen shots of tools and telling you to set something specifically at what percentage.  My method is much more "trial and error" and going by touch and feel.  The fantastic thing about digital painting is that when you make a mistake, you don't have to turn it into a happy accident (Please don't get me wrong, I adore Bob Ross. ^^ ), but just undo it and try something different.  It's also a nice bonus that there's nothing to clean up afterwards. ;)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Romanza" Commission - WIP 2

   I am currently working on three commission projects simultaneously and none of them is going particularly fast, but then again, I'm not the fast one anyway, so that is to be expected. ^^;  Here's a look at the second WIP of "Romanza".  I am adding the subdued green tones toward the front of the image and also started adding the dark spots to the poppies.  I still have the figure to color -- she'll have golden eyes and her dress will be 'white'.  After that, some more shading throughout and then highlights.  I'd say I'm about 80% there at this point.  I am really enjoying this piece. :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Romanza" Commission - WIP

   Work-in-progress screen shot of "Romanza".  The digital coloring phase has begun.  I had fun working on this yesterday among other projects.

   Since the girl's hair is requested to be brown, and the other major elements of this piece - monarch butterflies and poppies - pretty much pull the color scheme to the warm side of the color wheel, I decided to start with the foundation of ochre.  I will be adding greens to the leaves, buds and the field, but it will be subdued shades of green so it won't distract too much from the current scheme and general temperature.  I love the nostalgia that brown, gold, and ochre lend to a piece.  Along with blues, it's my other favorite color scheme.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Romanza" Inked Line - Commission

   I have been working on multiple commissions simultaneously for the last week.  I will not be posting most of them, but I got a permission from the client on this one.  She requested a girl with a curly brown hair, monarch butterflies, and poppies.  This is the inked line art, ready for the next step, digital coloring.

   This has to be one of the most detailed line art I've done.  It's certainly full of flowers, and the butterflies required a lot of stippling. XD  I do like the look of stippling.  I've also gave this a little more shading than usual since I'm giving the original drawing to a very special client. ^^  I wanted the inked drawing to be able to stand on its own as an image, too.

   I'm thinking of calling this piece "Romanza", Italian for 'romance' - between the girl and the butterflies, and butterflies and flowers, and anything else the viewer picks up on.  Love is in the air~!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

4th Annual Young Artists Contest

   It's hard to believe that this will be the 4th YAC this summer.  I started this contest for artists ages 13 to 17 in 2009, mainly for my young daughter, who was feeling that she had no chance of winning anything in any of the contests that she saw being sponsored by deviantART itself or its members when there were so many gifted artists everywhere she looked.  It then occurred to me how blessed I had been that, when I grew up in Japan, there were city-sponsored art competitions twice a year for children in elementary and middle schools.  I participated in as many as I could and enjoyed them thoroughly, and the prizes and recognition these contests gave me did wonders for my self-esteem as well as saving me lots of money for I was always awarded a new set of watercolors in tubes for each of the gold prizes and silver prizes I had won in these events.  In fact, I never had to buy watercolors past 4th grade through middle school.

   With struggling economy and budget cuts everywhere in the school systems, arts and arts-related events are not getting their share of funding.  And it occurred to me that I wasn't seeing art contests on deviantART sponsored by individuals that were specifically meant for young artists.  I am still bewildered why this is...

   I ran the first YAC in the summer of 2009 in hopes of encouraging and giving recognition to young talents. I decided to focus on the 2D art done in traditional media only for this, mainly because I was seeing a lot of digital art by young people who totally lacked fundamental skills and clearly struggling to achieve their inner visions on their monitor screens.

   I had my friends donating mostly gift/request art and journal features with a few 3-month subscriptions thrown in for prizes for the first YAC, but we still received some 150 valid entries and some were spectacular.  It was evident that there were a lot of talented kids with passion for art out there.

   Second year on, I decided to run the contest on what the deviantART calls a "group".  It made the organizing of the event a lot simpler and gave me less of a headache, but I still dealt with questions sent in from kids who were simply too lazy to read instructions.  90% of the questions every year receive a reply from me: "Please refer to the contest rules."  But the good thing about YAC by the second year was that, based on the response I got on the first YAC, interest level was up and so was the sponsor participation.  We now had more subscriptions, journal features, gift art, etc.  The prize chest became substantial.  I had also made good friends who were reliable adults, dedicated to this cause as I was.  Things ran much more smoothly and everything was enjoyable.

  Now that I've been a professional artist for a couple of years, I've made more friends in the field, and I am getting more response from these friends as I post a call for donations and sponsorship.  The prize chest is starting to fill nicely, and this is just the first day of donation-raising campaign for me.  I've heard back from many of the previous year's judges who are all willing to help out once again, and new donors are stepping forward.  I am feeling truly blessed to be able to give back to the art community in this 'forward' way by encouraging the younger generation of artists.  I am pleased to say that many of YAC winners/graduates are continuing to pursue art in higher education after graduating from high school.  This will be my first year to invite some of the YAC winners/graduates on board the judges' panel to help me out with the process.  I am so excited that this event is growing each year in so many ways.

   Young Artists Contest on deviantART begins June 16, 2012.