Saturday, November 13, 2004

Art process: Watercolor Painting "Summoning a Forest Spirit" Preliminary Work

I thought I'd take a little detour and talk about art rather than game making. I've been working on this watercolor for a very long time (I'm still not finished) and thought I'd share my experiences in creating it.

This blog is only about my preliminary drawing since to do the entire piece is way too long for one blog plus I'm not done yet. I'll post the actual painting steps when I've finished.

The Planning Stage

This stage has no pictures. I rarely create thumbnail sketches for one shot pieces like this (I thumbnail quite a bit for comic pages). I've had a large piece of watercolor paper just sitting around for quite a while, it's 14x11 inches which is a size I almost never work in so I had just been gathering dust in my desk drawer ever since it had been given to me along with a few other odd sized pieces. Every so often I'd dig out these odd sized pieces and see if I could think of anything to use for them.

Well an idea for a spirit summoning piece with Noadi had been floating around in my head for a while so when I looked at that piece of paper again it struck me as perfect for this idea. So I took some of my cheap scratch paper (my aunt gave me about 30 lbs of this cream colored paper in 22x30 sheets that I use for rough sketching) and cut several pieces in half to 15x11 inches and gathered my reference material together including several articles on perspective since I want to improve my use of perspective.

I decided I wanted Noadi seated in a fairy ring (ring of mushrooms) in the forest beating a drum to call a spirit. It was going to be a forest spirit so I decided I didn't want it anthropomorphic, so I gathered some animal pictures and made it a combination of several small woodland creatures (mainly fox for the head, weasel for the body, chipmunk and fawn for the markings).

The Pose

Since Noadi was going to be the focus of this piece I decided to get the basics for her down first which is where I ran into a lot of trouble. Little did I realize that sitting on the ground with your legs folded "indian style" is an extremely tricky pose to draw, especially at the angle I chose.
Try #1: Everything from the waist down is wrong.

Try #2: Still not right.

Try #3: After some help on #pixelation it's a little better but still wrong.

Try #4: Helm stays up late with me and helps out a lot. His help on the top with the red lines, my adjustment on the bottom.

Try #5: Ask for help at Wetcanvas on the figure channel. Got some help and a sketch from yeticatcher to help. His sketch on the top my new version on the bottom.
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Try#6: After some more suggestion on Wetcanvas and taking a reference photo of myself with my webcam this is what I got.


At this point I decided to take a break from the figure even though I wasn't completely happy with it and focus on the background.

The Background

I started working on the background with the outline circle for the fairy ring, I wasn't quite happy with the shape,

BG #1: Changed the fairy ring shape and started adding grass and mushrooms.

BG #2: Continued tweaking the shape, adding mushrooms, and now there's a tree with a few shelf fungi.

BG #3: Added more detail and began drawing the little spirit.

BG #4: Posted on Wetcanvas fantasy channel for advice. Added to the background.

BG #5: As reccomended on Wetcanvas I changed the circle outline again and added more detail to the background.


At this point I had most of the background done and started adding soem finishing touches.

Finishing Touches.

On the advice of from wetcanvas I put a drape over Noadi's legs to disguise some fo the oddness of the pose, it helped imensely since I think there is no way at my skill level I could have ever made that look natural at that angle. I also added more detail like the bunny, the bird in the background and some texture.

At this point I was basically happy with the sketch. Unfortunately it was slightly too large for the paper so I scanned it and printed it at the proper size then traced it onto the watercolor paper with my lightbox and proceeeded to ink. I didn't worry about varying the line width much since I plan to ink over the major lines again after painting.


Next blog I'll go over how I added the color with traditional watercolor paints and watercolor pencil.
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