Step Three: Painting
Part I is here.
I do my drawings on the computer using Corel Painter—even if the finish is going to be done traditionally. It simply saves so much time. Here in this time-lapse of the painting, you can see that I begin with the final sketch on a ghosted back layer to help position the elements. Though I started the drawing of the vase in purple, color doesn’t really matter at this stage. I want to establish my main masses before I get too invested in color. I also want to watch my narrative content. It was especially important that Bren, Ilisidi, and Machigi look like they were admiring the vase, and not spotting the monkey. At first I had Machigi gesturing toward the vase, but he looked like he was pointing out the little intruder! With grandma gesturing instead, the group narrative came together.
Once I’m satisfied, I take my monochrome drawing into Photoshop to colorize it a little bit, turning my drawing into an underpainting. I will typically turn all the noses, ears and knuckles pink, for example, determine warm and cool zones, and drop in some colors that I want to show through my glazes to come. At about 32 second into this video I have what is essentially my underpainting.
You’ll note that I like to work from background to foreground initially—a holdover from my traditional habit. My usual digital approach is not terribly different from my traditional approach: transparent glazes first, followed by opaque highlights, working back and forth that way through as many layers as it takes. In this illustration of dark-skinned people in a white room, once the background was more or less finished it was easy to go straight for the faces, to establish my dark and light extremes early.
At about 1:19 you’ll see that I became dissatisfied with the arrangement of heads on the right side. The two background characters on the right echoed Ilisidi and the boy too perfectly, causing stagnation in the choreography. I spent the better part of a day moving heads and bodies around. In the end what was required was what my friend Greg Manchess calls “uncomfortable overlap.” Meaningful groupings, in this case abetted by adding more heads in the background to complete the clusters and give movement to the scene. Click the image below to view the movie:
Next: Characters in Time-Lapse