I admit it whole heartily, I am a concept art junkie. Movies, video games, and book covers, I love seeing the images that were part of the process in creating them. Any major science fiction or fantasy movie is loaded with renderings of ideas considered for locations, creatures, and clothing. “Lord of the Rings” directed by Peter Jackson is a great example of the amount of quality artwork produced to help visualize the story for other artists to create the sets, costumes, and digital creatures. I love watching all of this on my extended edition extras.
One of my favorite games from my Xbox was “PowerDrome” released by Electronic Arts. Besides being the best alternative on Xbox for Wipeout, one of the rewards for winning races was the opening of concept art files. The art for the race track designs turned out to be some very nice science fiction art, in my opinion. It was full of atmospheric renderings of alien worlds and futuristic race tracks, which were distinct for each world. Not only were areas of the world worked out but the varying racetrack equipment and vehicles too.
Finally, being a fan of Michael Whelan, I have seen much of his work, including alternate versions of covers he created as part of the process of submitting book covers for approval. One of my favorites was “Dragon on Board”, which was an alternate cover for Anne McCaffrey’s novel “All the Weyrs of Pern”. Interestingly enough, this became the cover for another book I believe. In addition, my collectible card sets art book for Michael Whelan contain several pencil sketches and color studies he did while pondering different projects. I love looking at them all. I highly recommend searching out concept artwork from your favorite sources of entertainment. You might be surprised by what you find.
This is the explanation of the image I attached for my $5 patrons.
Here is a drawing I did some time ago when I was trying to figure out color pencils over large areas. This is one of the few color pencil drawings I worked on until completion. Considering how long ago I made this piece, some parts actually hold up pretty well to what I am doing now, while others fall flat.
The image is from a magazine photo, don’t remember which, of a small bird grasping a branch. The bird was the focal point with the background being out of focus. I believe that the bird and branch turned out well, but trying to create the rest of the background over the remaining paper proved to be too challenging for me.
Working on this particular drawing, using the techniques I had learned with lead pencils, was not happening and is the reason so many of my color pencil drawings are left unfinished. On small detail areas I am good but large areas stump me. I have since seen many artists use color pencils to great results, but I am not one of them. However, all in all, this is not a bad picture. Unfortunately, it is also not a great picture.
I will admit that I am jealous of artists who can depict sources of light credibly in their artwork. I am not talking about the sun, although this is challenging too, but mechanical forms of light. Light strips, dial illumination, or screens are examples of what I am talking about. Strong sources of light in situations where there are lots of reflections and/or atmospheric effects. I remember many Michael Whelan paintings where the light source had a well-defined shape and yet still depicted the softness associated with the glow most light sources have.
I still work hard to achieve such effects in my paintings. The easiest way of creating a bright light source is to take a light color and surround it with a very dark source. But what do you do when you have a strong enough artificial light source to still be seen in a daylight situation? I haven’t tried that yet, but I have been amazed by artists that can pull off such complex lighting.
I will share one trick that I have learned from using Gimp 2.8. In my painting “Juliette and Josephus” the diffuse halo of light around the sun was achieved by painting the light color of the sun on a transparent layer above all the layers and then using the smudge tool to thin the color. If you looked at the layer with a white background, you would hardly see anything. However, if you put it against a very dark background like I did, you see a soft wash of bright color or a halo around the more solid image of the sun. The contrast brings out the light color. I hope to further explore using light washes on layers over different backgrounds after seeing how well this worked.
Here is where I am with the Y Wing part of my Carrie Fisher tribute. I have had to back track a few times and undo parts I was not happy with. I finally decided to work from the cockpit backwards, which seems to be working better for me; however, this will never be an honest reproduction. My goal is to create a strong enough image that at a smaller size will not be off so far that it is jarring. I am glad I was able to finally add the R2 unit and I think the cockpit module looks good although I have to place the forward guns yet.
Speaking of Star Wars vehicles, I tried to make my own Imperial Walker out of cardboard from a picture in my vinyl soundtrack slip cover. I never got further than the head but it wasn’t too bad for the time, given I was in junior high. They are the coolest vehicles in the series.
There are certain processes I have come to follow when creating a digital painting. First and foremost for me is to draw the individual elements. At one time I would have tried to set them on the same piece of paper and worked with them where they were, not allowing myself the freedom to rethink the layout of the final image. Because I struggled so much to find time to draw or paint, I had a bad habit of giving up on ideas if they did not work out right away. I am now thankful for Gimp allowing me to correct parts of an image without affecting the larger painting, much as word-processor allows a two finger typist to complete a large number of short stories. Another thought on drawing the initial images is that mine are always drawn freehand. Even if I struggle to get the image right, I still use my drawing. It is an integrity issue for me.
Once I have the drawings done, I scan them into the computer as a jpegs. As I have gotten more comfortable using Gimp, I have learned to keep the elements separate until I am ready to place them into the final picture. I take each image and make the drawings sit on a transparent background. Then I create a transparent layer above or below the drawing layer, depending on where I think I will have trouble working on the image. This is where I will paint the actual artwork. In addition, I will add another layer below these, which will become a temporary background that can be changed as needed to better see the painting I am working on.
Next comes the under painting. This is where I just put the basic colors on the image such as skin tone, hair color, or fabric color. I don’t work on details at this point; I just want to completely fill in the areas I intend to work on with their basic colors. After the under painting is done, I will begin the true creation of the individual pieces. The detail work is the longest part of any painting for me.
When I have the parts done as much as I can or want, I will copy them into a larger final image as different layers. I like to keep them in layers until the very end in case I need to adjust their position without affecting anything I have done on the background piece I placed them on. However, there comes a point in most images where I have to combine the layers into one to help with connecting them into one coherent picture. My current habit is to hold off as long as I can. At this point it is all about making adjustments around the parts to make them fit the larger image. Then I tinker with the painting until I am done.
Believe it or not, until maybe the 1990’s, all I used for my art was a number 2 mechanical pencil. I never tried any type of graded pencil. I was slow to embrace the need for different grades of pencils to achieve more dynamic images through contrasts. My works after investing in a set of drawing pencils are substantially better, but the lessons I learned trying to create pictures with a simple mechanical pencil helped me take advantage of my new tools.
A lot of the techniques I had learned, using blending stumps and soft erasers, were just as important with the graded pencils. Only the degree of use changed. Now I have finally moved into the digital age by using my laptop and Gimp 2.8, yet, some of the same principles still hold true from my pencil work. I think that pencil drawing was a fundamental necessity for becoming the artist that I am and I will always have a soft spot for great pencil works.
Please take time to browse my favorites at my deviantart page. You can find them by following the link on the left column of this page and scrolling down on my deviantart page. I have over 2600 examples of artwork that caught my eye from sketches to paintings and small sculptures to life-size ones. If you work your way through the pages, you will find an amphibian tiger and a horse made out of driftwood. You can also find great examples of comic book artistry. These are the people who drive me to get better at what I do and sometimes make me itch to experiment. Again, please consider rummaging through because I believe there is something for everyone including landscapes, portraits, and animals, as well as, science fiction and fantasy.