Walk-through of "Las Calaveras"

   Have been doing some extra bit of writing this month for submission for possible publication.  In the mood for a walk-through of "Las Calaveras", so here it is. ^^

The Beginning
   The first thing I do after I make a rough sketch of my idea onto a piece of paper with a pencil is to go over it with my ballpoint pen (I use black Quink ink by Parker brand for all my line art.) to ink and clean at the same time.  My pencil sketch is not that clean, so the inking can be tedious depending on what I need to correct before proceeding.  Once the inking is complete, the image is scanned and digitally cleaned of all the stray lines left (like by incomplete erasing of the pencil lines) and dust specks (and cat hair) that get picked up by the scanner.  Anything that doesn't belong in the image are carefully erased from the digital file of the line art.
   Next, the file is adjusted for contrast (lowered) and brightness (raised), so that I end up with grey lines instead of black.  The lines are then colorized to give sepia tone.  At that point, I decide on the color scheme and choose my "paper color".  Since I wanted to go with red and black for this piece, I decided to go with a rose colored 'paper'.  This is done by tweaking the red-green-blue balance.

Background Wash
   First, I took reddish black at somewhat low opacity (8% range) and used "diffuse water" brush, in my Corel Painter, to give the background wash.  This is done loosely and quickly by changing the tip size frequently and changing my pressure I press the stylus onto the tablet with.  "Salt" in different tip diameter and opacity are applied to give a bit of interest in the background.
    A second layer of wash is done in red, and applied much the same way as the black wash layer.  Loose and quick for the 'natural' look.  If you don't change tip size and the pressure you use frequently, in most digital painting programs, we end up with "stamped circles", though it may be just what we're looking for in some pieces, it's not what I wanted for this one.

Painting the Roses
   After the red washes were given, I went back onto my black wash layer and gave the rose petals shades in the reddish black.  This is all being done with the "diffuse water" brush which bleeds into the already colored areas within the same layer.  In another layer, I set the green leaves in subtle hues of green.  I set up a new layer on top of all others for a line highlights and start putting highlights to the petal edges to help indicate the direction of the light source.

Painting the Hair, Eyes, & Face Paint
   I experimented a little with the eye colors before deciding on golden brown.  I knew I wanted her to be a beautiful Latina with dark hair, so I set up a layer for her hair.  The hair layer is also "hosting" the black part of the face makeup.  All applied with "diffuse water" in much the same way as the background washes.
   On the same layer as the rose petals' highlights are put on, I do a bit of highlighting for the face -- eye lids, eyes, nose, and lips.

Adding Reflected Red
   On the same layer as the roses' red wash, I bring in the same shade at different opacity onto the main figure's head, shoulder, hands, and onto the skull she's holding to give the reflected red light that surround them.

Flesh and Bone
   The skin as contrasted from the skull-painted face is given a flesh tone and shaded.  I decided to give the old skull a bit of aged look by shading it in various shades of ocher.  Still using "diffuse water" for all the large area colors.  On the highlight layer, I give the hair detail.  Black background wash layer was utilized to add shades to the figure and the skull.  Color and highlights were also given to her silver hoop earring.  A separate layer for soft highlights is set up for highlights on the woman's cheek bones, bridge of her nose, forehead, hands, and on rose petals.

Painting the Face and the Skull
   Now, the fun part!  The skull painting detail for the face and the skull.  For the face paint, I chose "simple water" brush which acts like more a dry brush or marker tip, compared "diffuse water" which acts like wet application of watercolor.  This affords me more control and I apply the black, red, and green to the woman's makeup, giving it the look of hand painted face.  I do the same to the skull, staying close to the color scheme, but adjusting the hue a little bit.  Her white off-the-shoulder dress is given a hint of glow.

   This piece had an interesting shift in personality and mood from the original line art to the completion of coloring.  The woman grew more fierce with her gaze and her smile a bit sinister, though still mysterious as to the meaning of her smile.  I had a lot of fun with this one.  I love the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico and how it's celebrated.  I also enjoy making a cultural tribute with my fantasy work every now and then by stepping into a distinct, identifiable tradition, that is very different from my own, but equally rich and fascinating.


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