Monday, 19 September 2011

...and we're back

I haven't blogged in ages - so long, in fact, that I didn't notice my existing blog had fallen into disrepair. This is partly because I have a new website to showcase artwork on. Still, this gives me the opportunity to use this blog for slightly more informative purposes.

Sooo... right now I'm in the middle of producing new work for an upcoming exhibition at Grounded in Redfield, Bristol alongside fellow Bristol Illustrator Dave Bain. The theme is "Animals" and while I have a decent stock of images on that subject to choose from already, I've been working on a short series inspired by traditional livestock portraiture.

Which seems like a half-decent reason to do a tutorial.

As I've had quite a few questions about my process, I've decided to use my first "new" blog post to write about the work that goes into creating, say, this two-headed eight-legged cockerel:

The first thing I do is draw the complete picture in black & white on paper. I use liner pens and various pencils to do basic shading. When drawing feathers before, I used to pencil in the textures at this stage, but I'm lately I'm finding I get better results after scanning.

After that I scan and clean the image up a bit.

With this layer set to "multiply" it's time to start colouring. I begin with flat colours, keeping each area of colour on a separate layer. This means that we're already looking at roughly 15 layers at this early stage:

Locking each layer, I airbrush in very basic highlights and shadows.

Now it's on to those feather textures I mentioned before. This involves covering the entire image in lots of tiny, subtle lines. Again I use a multiply layer at very low opacity. It would take forever to draw each line individually, so it's time for a custom brush - nothing all that complicated, just a series of dots that forms a set of lines when dragged, much the same effect as tying a set of chalks to a ruler (or whatever). From there I can easily draw in large sections of feather while still keeping the lines directional and size-appropriate.

It may be quite hard to see what I've actually done here at this size, so here's the texture layer in question, complete with examples of said custom brush. As I said, nothing special, but very useful:

After that I use the same technique on an equally low-opacity "dodge" layer to bring out the highlights in the feathers.

Then it's a little more airbrushing on the beak & claw areas to give them slightly more definition...

...and I do the same for the fleshy areas around the head. What I've also done here is use the same custom brush from before, this time scattered with random rotation to create a bumpy effect.

Now I want to make his feathers a bit more exciting by adding colour to the tips - it's actually the same brush again, with a slightly smaller scatter area to give the impression of mottling. I do this on new layers, selecting the areas of colour I want to mark and playing with layer blend modes to find effects I like.

It's basically done here, but I want to tie the colours together a bit better with a faint blue overlay. The effect is quite subtle but I find it useful.

...and that's the finished image. All that's left to do is paint the scene to go with it - something that takes another several hours and I'd rather leave for another day! A lot of the above images look very similar - changes are subtle and precise, but by removing the original pencil & ink work we can see how much has really gone. Usually by the time I finish work I've virtually recreated the original drawing in detail.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully this informative / vaguely interesting for some of you. I'm looking forward to updating this blog more.

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