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.

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