Mar 2011

Hookah Smoking Caterpillar demo pt 2

To jump to part 1 of this demonstration click here.

When we left off the last time I had blocked in the basic colors of the caterpillar illustration in Painter. Now I open the saved file in Photoshop to begin developing some detail.

I’ll begin with the background area and loosely draw in some leaf shapes on a new layer. I’m playing off the colors I’ve already established. I “trim” around the edges of the illustration by drawing a rough oval shape with the Lasso tool, refine the edge to make it very soft, and then inverse the selection and delete artwork on every layer but the one with my imported ground art. The selection is saved, I’ll use it again in a minute.

Now I’ll create a great vegetation look by bringing in some texture. I keep a photo library of textures. They consist of pictures of things like trees, leaves, long shots of woods and close ups of bushes and plants. I can open iPhoto and browse for a suitable picture and then simply drag it into my open caterpillar file. Now I’ll play around with the imported photo’s layer style. In this case the Overlay layer style gives me the look I’m after. The overlaid photo combined with the draw in shapes underneath, form the basis for a dense forest. I’ll add another layer and then re-establish some of the larger leaf shapes and paint a few new ones.

With the background fairly complete I move forward to the caterpillar. I’ll use the oval shape tool to build some glasses. I paint in some color on the mushroom and spots on the caterpillar. From this point on I will jump back and forth from foreground to background and refine the painting. As I work I may erase or even eliminate some of the drawing layer as needed.

Now I’ll create the carpet the caterpillar sits on. I open a new file in Photoshop, draw a rectangular shape and fill it with a nice warm red. I create a new layer, clip it to the red layer and use the Fill command to fill with one of Photoshop’s pre-installed textures. The inner section is created the same way. the whole stack of layers is combined and I add some Noise to imitate carpet pile.

The finished carpet is dragged into the open caterpillar file. I use the Transform command and drag the handles to make the carpet fit my pencil and the Warp command to bend the carpet over the edge of the ‘shroom.

I could paint in/over the pencil to make the hookah’s hose, but it’s far easier to draw the hose with the Pen tool and then stroke it with an appropriate sized brush in a deep brown color. Add an Inner Bevel effect and the hose becomes 3D. You may also notice I changed the two hands on the right side. I was never sure what I was going to have those hands doing, but I knew they should have a purpose. So I repaint them to be holding the hose.

I move around refining and tightening up the painting. I’m almost there but somethings missing... Smoke! What’s a Hookah Smoking Caterpillar without a few smoke rings wafting over the forest?

A new layer is added and the smoke rings painted in with a soft airbrush and a creamy white color. Done!

Hookah Smoking Caterpillar demo pt 1

This demo post originated as a sketchbook drawing, a pencil of the hookah smoking caterpillar from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I drew him as kind of a mash-up of Sidney Greenstreet from The Maltese Falcon and Laurence Fishburne, (post Pee-Wee’s Playhouse), while some Grateful Dead played in the background. Go figure. I added a quick indication of a forest behind him, mostly to create a mental note about the overall design. I want the color version to be an oval vignette within a textured backdrop and the lines of leaves and grass help me establish that sense.

I start by scanning the sketchbook page and then import into Photoshop.

The imported drawing is pasted into its own layer and the Layer Style is set to Multiply. That allows me to see through the drawing down to my next imported layer, the textured backdrop that will serve as the painting’s base. I love to work on a ground layer and this particular piece, a scan of the back of a tracing paper tablet, is one of my favorites. I’ve done a Perspective Transform on the drawing to make the mushroom taper down toward the ground a bit and emphasize the caterpillar more.

The drawing will now get a color balance adjustment. I’ll make the line a nice cyan blue-grey. In this way I can make the line work blend into the finished illustration much better than if I left the scanned drawing as a black line. (This is a great way to create some nice sepia toned, traditional “ink on paper” style pieces.)

If you look at the screenshot below you can see my layers pallet over on the right. The active layer is my line work. Above that are two copies. One is the unadulterated, imported scan, one is a copy of the color corrected drawing. I can’t stress enough the importance of making a copy of the drawing layer. Once that drawing is gone, trying to reimport, fit to the layout, etc. can be more than frustrating. This way you always have a backup, in place, ready to go.

Now I save the file and reopen it in Painter. I add a new layer above the Canvas layer and begin to paint some color in the background. I use the Chalk brush variant with a basic paper texture.

I add another layer that I paint the caterpillar on. Both the caterpillar and the background layers are set to Multiply. This gives me a nice transparent look as if I had painted traditional acrylic or watercolor washes. This is also a much faster way to lay in the color without being bogged down by using the much slower to render Watercolor layer in Painter. I use the Paper Mover to change the texture I am painting on from time to time, to add some rougher areas. The idea is to establish value and a basic color sense.

At this point I have the basics taken care of. Next time I will move on to working up the detail.

My Studio Space

Im asked from time to time what my studio space is like, how it’s set up, etc. Since I’m rebooting my Blog, this seems the perfect time to post some shots. So here are a couple of pics of my studio - with a few call outs added for good measure.

As you can see, my main drawing/painting surface is a large adjustable drawing board with a foot-rail lock. The tabletop tilts easily which allows me to work in either a standing or sitting position and swings from horizontal to an almost 90º vertical position. No easel, as I prefer to do my traditional work on gessoed hardboard panels and this way I can lay them flat when I’m pouring and manipulating glazes, and then move the board straight up and down for “regular” painting. The taboret provides storage for art supplies and the top surface holds my pallet and brushes. Off to the left, out of view, is a monitor that I view reference on when painting. For lighting I use ceiling mounted, color corrected, fluorescent bulbs. Painting under natural light would be great, but this is consistent.

Across from the drawing table is all of my computer equipment. Thanks to the incredible leaps in tech, I now run everything with a space saving and portable 15” Macbook Pro, instead of a desktop computer. Next to that is my scanner, used mostly for importing drawings. On the other side is the single best piece of digital equipment for the buck, a Wacom Cintiq 21” tablet. Working on a pressure sensitive screen directly, as opposed to the pad type input device I used before, makes a huge difference. I can’t say enough about how great these tablets are. Being able to paint digitally, in a natural, direct manner, is fantastic, not to mention the incredible time savings over using a typical tablet device. I’ll never go back.

Last, but not least of course, is the studio dog, Riley. A good companion and gentle critic.

Sketch of Oliver Twist's Fagin

Outside of A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist is probably one of the most often produced Dickens works. Rarely is there a better place to mine colorful characters than a Dickens novel and this story has about every type character one could ask for. One of the most memorable is Fagin, the nasty, ragged leader of a pack of young boys, to whom he teaches the fine art of picking pockets. Interestingly the crooked Fagin becomes a very sympathetic character by the book’s end.

This drawing is typical of those that I do sitting in front of the tv or listening to music in the evening. Very gestural with a sort of rambling line, I like to let the pen bounce around inside what I imagine the internal space of the figure to be, never staying long in one place, building up tone more than running along edges.