Friday, 18 June 2010

End Of The War – Creation of a Digital Painting, Part II

Composition and Crumbling Worlds
(Click here for Part I)
For the layout of the painting, I initially divided things up into the old 'golden sections'. In other words, thirds, both horizontally and vertically. It just helps a little visually, in a general way. On the other hand, I also believe it shouldn't be stuck to religiously. At the end of the day, it's art, and what appears correct to the eye when drawing, should (hopefully!) appear correct to the eye of others. If you position something in a 'classical' way that doesn't feel right, and then find when you shift it elsewhere the weighting of the image works more comfortably, I say damn well move the thing! You have to feel your way through the composition of a piece, you can't just use technique the whole way. The composition of an image is as much about gut feeling, as it is about using established proportions of perfection.

So, as you can see, the creature is positioned to take up roughly two thirds of the image height. The position of his light-staff also breaks the image up diagonally, along with the wall behind and the line of the embankment upon which he is standing. The sky and ocean are two thirds and one third respectively, whilst the crumbling planet is somewhat of a compositional mirror diagonally to the land on the bottom right, as well as horizontally to the creature himself.

It's not great by a long shot, as I'm effectively designing it around the original creature, which was never drawn with any particular composition in mind. However, hopefully it works well enough and balances reasonably. Only you, the viewer, can decide if I've succeeded. Personally I think it's a bit cramped and heavy, but I'm going with it for now. In retrospect I perhaps would have liked to go for a  more cinematic 'widescreen' look, but I chose the size based on the possibility of printing it (it's A4 at the moment). I'll leave it that way for now, and perhaps consider cropping later on.

Often, I'll make the mistake of working on the primary element of the piece first (In this case, the creature). After all, it's the main reason you're doing the painting, isn't it? You want to jump straight to the fun part! One big problem, though... The backgrounds are likely to feel a chore, once you've completed the most exciting bit. In this case, I'm being strong, and I'm going to paint background to foreground, and leave the creature till last. In the case of traditional painting, it's also wise to paint the background first simply for practical reasons.

When you have a primary element like a creature or character in your painting, you have to make an important decision about your background. Do you make it detailed, or keep it rough and indistinct? Detail obviously fills out your character's world and makes it as much about the 'setting' as the main element. Unfortunately, that does mean sacrificing just how eye-catching your creature or character is in isolation. If in doubt, go for a vague/rough background and maintain your focus. In this case, the painting is as much about the setting as the creature itself, so I made the decision to work in equal detail on the rest of the image.

I started with the sky and ocean, which aren't the most pleasing aspects to paint, as I do tend to find skies and oceans to be deceptively simple elements that contain a whole host of problems. It's a tricky thing to take a sky from meaningless blotches of random colour, to being a glowing sunset or a stormy sky.

For the ocean, I simply remembered that the distant wave lines would be small and very thin, right through to larger and more prominent at the fore. It's all just basic perspective, distance, what-have-you. I didn't want to overwork it, as at a later point I'll be dealing with the water around the outcropped city/building, and the shoreline. Similarly with the sunset, I just needed to look at a few reference photos for the general gradation of colour, and remember that distant clouds will be small and thin, while closer ones will appear larger and more sweeping. Luckily they didn't take too long, and I was reasonably happy with the results, especially considering that a lot of the sky and ocean will have other things on top.

I moved on to the crumbling planet. As with the sky and ocean, the tricky thing with painting planets, is that they are made of a seemingly random collection of details, but those details have to add up to a whole that becomes a believable planet surface. As I worked on it, I made little decisions, working bit by bit. First the random shapes of the land masses versus the blue of the oceans, with islands and inlets. Then details on the land masses, trying to give rough approximations of mountain ranges, heavily forested areas, deserts, etc. Over it all, a swirling cloud layer.

As with any item that you paint, it never looks quite right up until those last few details and touches that finish it off. When creating an object or character, however, you can usually tell if it is progressing reasonably to the final stages. With something like a planet, it is rather disconcerting. The surface details of landmasses and oceans can look very child-like and poor (In my case, anyway!), up until those final few touches (such as clouds and a gradation of light over the surface to produce that globe-like shape). Until you get to that point, you really can wonder what the hell you're doing with this mish-mash of muddy swirls and random blotches.

I don't know about you, but I was rather pleased with the results by the time I had finished the planet. Always remember, there's nothing like the feeling of completing either an element or the whole work, and being able to stop and think “Hey, I did that!” Whether you are completely satisfied with a painting or not, it's important that you can look at it and have a level of satisfaction at the result, and pride in your talent.

In Part III I'll be covering the creation of the 'cloud of destruction', the city, and the ruined fortress.

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