Sunday, June 29, 2014

WIP: Monocle Mantis

I'm revisiting this character design I did last summer:

He's quite the dapper fellow by the name of Monocle Mantis. I'm going to create a new version based on this design--something more realistically rendered to add to my character design portfolio.

Things came together relatively quickly with having done research on victorian-era clothes and praying mantis heads in my previous design. I wanted to see if I could try giving him an antennae. It seemed like a good idea at the time to help make him look more mantis-like. I re-drew my light-source, which is why you see two of them up there.

I proceed with a soft-edged brush, which is out of the norm for me. Because I'm not using any direct reference, a soft brush is nice because you can kind of "feel" things out so you gradually build up dimension. It's kind of like sculpting with your imagination. The more you practice and observe how light works, the easier it is to create the illusion of dimension. Not that it's easy--it usually takes longer to build it up like this than to take shoot accurate reference photos with a live model.

Working out the face and the stubborn top hat. I'm still not so sure how to work with the mandibles. 

Definitely getting somewhere with the face and neck scarf. I tried out something new with the monocle, which I won't get back to until much later. I made my painting layer more transparent so I could see the figure sketch I have underneath. I'm using it to help with fold placement and to help especially with the poofy sleeves.

Folds! I really enjoyed doing those. In the process, I discovered the wonders of adding a second light source. There's a soft almost rim-light that I will be adding to the left side of my Mr. Monocle. It's great for helping the edges of the forms stand out! And it secretly makes my think of J.C. Leyendecker's work, which is definitely a good thing for this piece. 

Everything but the pants is rendered out and ready for polishing and detailing. I've decided to put some buttons on the sleeves, but those won't last long. At this point, I move on to color. If I waited until the very end for that, I wouldn't get the uniquely colored brushstrokes that make a digital painting look more vibrant. 

It looks like I just put a sepia color on overlay, but I actually used two different colors (picked directly from a Leyendecker piece) on a gradient map. This is the first time I've used gradient maps and I have to say that it's the best method I've found. Putting the gradient map on an adjustment layer allows you additional flexibility. 

More color, which I've added on layers set to soft light, allowing the sepia to affect the color. 

Here is where I'm currently at. The first thing I did was move the arm over to get rid of the tangency with the hand and the pants. Once I got the hat to a happy place, I was able to move on to other things. I did a lot of experimentation with the monocle design, but ended up with something pretty traditional. I also tried to add the antennae back in and went from one antennae to two antennae to none. The solution I came up with was to add feathers, which suggest the mantis silhouette like the poofy sleeves. The hardest parts are done! The finish should come swiftly.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Work in Progress: "Reckless"

To celebrate my summer break, I'm working on a new piece! Wait a minute...working? I was never really good at breaks.

Here's my initial thumbnail. I have a little bit of background story for this floating in my head, which made it easier to imagine a scenario for my flying eel beast and its rider. In short, you've got a world in the clouds with cloud people and cool flying creatures that resemble aquatic fauna.

At this point, I had built my flying creature maquette and then found a more dynamic pose. I re-drew my thumbnail referring back to this new pose and also broke things down to more abstract shapes. I could more easily see how the foreground and background shapes interacted. Also important at this point was determining the lighting before I took my final reference photos of my flying creature. I thought a nice light from the top left would be flattering. It would add some drama by contrasting with the gloomy lighting of the storm clouds.

Here's the beast! He's made of foil, tape, paper, and magic. I would usually add a layer of Sculpey clay on top, but it occurred to me that he is much more poseable without it. Also, the wrinkley texture from the tape works really well as it is.

A head! It belongs to the rider. I may have other plans to draw more of this character, so I spent a good two days on the head. I may bake this one, unlike my other sculptures, which I usually recycle. The eyes are baked Sculpey that have been painted white with acrylic paint.

Here's the pose I'll be using for my painting. The image has actually been reversed so I could have the smirky side of the face facing left.

Here's the shot I will be getting most of my lighting reference from. Natural lighting is a beautiful thing.

Other reference that you don't see here include those I have for the rider's pose, the clouds, and various aquatic creatures to inform my flying beast.

The current progress of the painting. Good reference makes your life so much easier. From here, it's just about adding small touches to bring the characters to life and adding color once I'm happy with the underpainting.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Poses and Noses

Just a little page from my sketchbook of two sculpted figures and bits of faces. Gouache on toned paper (recycled file folder) as usual.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Giver and a Facelift

Here is a cover I recently made for The Giver as my final project for my Illustration Markets class.

Even though I wasn't able to avoid all of the tangencies, I'm pretty happy with my clever title treatment. I don't usually create my own "font", so it's a small victory for me and my typographic endeavors.

In recent news, I updated the banner and will be re-organizing my gallery pages in the near future.