Shamrock Faeries: Experimenting with different techniques

13 03 2012

One of the things that I always feel I need to improve is values. Not only I think this but it has been brought to my attention by numerous great artists that I consider my mentors in a way, as Chris Malidore or Karyn Lewis Bonfiglio, and each time they mention it I have to agree completely with them. This it not to say that I don’t feel I have improved much over the years, I have been putting a lot of work into it and I think it shows if you compare my work when I just got started showing my work around the interwebz.

Many great artists, as Henning Ludvigsen work with a technique that involves first working the image in grayscale and solve the values in that phase, and then lay color on top of it. This way the image is strong first and then you can worry about color once you have no worries about the foundation of values, which is what basically makes a good painting. I have seen this technique used over and again and I have tried it a few times unsuccessfully. Somehow the idea of repainting the whole thing in color once you had painted it in grayscale eluded me, how would this be logical at all? How do you keep the underlying values?

As many times happens to me I finally got it by looking at tutorials for the umpteenth time and I realized that you do not cover what has already been painted completely. You use the transparent layers that Photoshop lets you use for you to keep the values below. I wish I remembered who made the tut that made me understand this, I remember she used the base values layer, then an overlay layer for defining light sources and general mood, and then a multiply layer to finish up details with a normal layer. So I decided to try my hand at it doing a Saint Patrick’s themed image.

The thing is that I get terribly bored doing this. What I actually love is the process of painting, and while I have to give you that the values of this little piece are rather good for me, the process itself was rather painful and totally not worth it. By the time I was done sort of refining the base layer I was so ready to be done with it! I kept working with the following transparent layers on top but my heart was not in it anymore, as you can tell. I guess that I will have to keep using the Saturation layer to check the values every once in a while when I paint straight in color, which is what I really enjoy doing, because if I cannot enjoy it, what is the point?

Have you tried this technique before? Is there anything I am missing?


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13 03 2012
nicole cadet (@nicolecadet)

I use this type of process when working commissions – it helps me work out underlying problems with values and composition. I find it invaluable at times because it helps me punch out the final painting fairly quickly. When I paint for fun I tend to be more haphazard and mostly paint in colour – I actually started digital art in colour, and only started using this process fairly regularly a few years ago.

I tend to work the colour layer on a small version as I normally do a couple of colour tests, then I just expand it up over the full sized version. It kind of acts as a ‘glaze’ to start my painting. I normally do a ‘colour’ layer, and then might play with some other layers such as multiply, soft light and so forth. I then go back and paint on normal layers over the top. I’m a layers person … I have dozens of layers by the time I’m finished. Robert Campus (I think) did a tutorial years ago, and Julie Dillon did one along a similar vain. It does sometimes make it feel like ‘work’, but it’s a process that forces me to concentrate on details at the beginning, rather than thinking about things weeks into the painting. I just think of it like an under-painting

There’s no proper details, only a few images, but I used this technique for http://www.nicolecadet.com/blog/ruchira-ipsita-commission-process

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