June 15, 2009

Rocket's Red Glare (Process)

The following is an overview of the process I have been using to paint my last few illustration commissions. There is some information here that I touched upon in my last process post, but "Liberty City" offered unique challenges that I thought were worth exploring in a little more detail.

At this point in the process, I have already developed my idea with pencil drawings and digital sketches. Rather than transfer the composition to illustration board with gridding, or a projector, I begin by redrawing the sketch with my brush. This is sort of a shortcut, but it also means that the end result will be a little different from the preliminary sketch, (which I think is a good thing.)


As I move paint around, nothing is important except the overall proportions. Values, lines, small details, all these things will be fussed over later. Painting them now would only inhibit the work at hand. There is no mark so beautiful that I will hesitate to scrub it out and redo it in an instant.

This is my favorite stage in the process. My palette consists only of whitest white, and blackest black. Shapes are massed in one, then refined or erased with the other. But unlike using graphite and an eraser, here you are using the same material to create both light and dark shapes.

With the surface of my quarter established, I am ready to build my city. The first step is to lay down the roads. It is not important that these lines be particularly beautiful, or smooth, but if they do not appear to lie on the same plane as the quarter, the illusion of dimensionality in my city will be compromised. ( There are systems one can follow to create this illusion of depth [1, 2, and 3 point perspective,] but it is also possible to "wing it," as I am doing here. If the lines convince you they are receding in space, then you have gotten close enough to the laws of perspective to pass mustard.)

The city blocks are then divided into building size rectangles. . .

and the streets are cleaned up with a coat of black paint.

At this point, the two dimensional plan of the city has been established, and I can begin to focus on the work of pushing my buildings into space. Rather than treating each building individually (which would require a great presence of mind to keep so many small bits of perspectival information consistent,) I first paint each block as if it were a uniform, rectilinear slab.

I then "decorate" the walls of each slab with a row building shaped outlines.

Finally, I outline the corresponding roof planes. In this way, I am working from biggest to smallest plane, keeping the perspective consistent by checking the pitch of one plane against the one that proceeded it.

I repeat this process until all available space on the quarter has been occupied. Massing in my forms in white, and refining them with black line.

Mass. . .

Refine. . .

. . .Repeat.

Once the field is largely covered, I clean up the surface of the quarter that remains visible,

. . . and drop shadows onto the horizontal planes of my buildings with a thin wash of watery grey.

Ostensibly, the drawing phase of the painting is done at this point However, something isn't right.

As I had layed out my city, I had been intentionally leaving holes in the grid that would allow for key bits of the quarters surface to remain visible. But now the city feels cramped, and artificially reined in. Before moving into the final painting stage, I need to make some surgical edits to my city grid; scattering new buildings into the clear spaces, and thinning out the original blocks.




Finally the layout is complete, and I can do a final pass of painting.

Assigning grey values to the planes of the buildings . . .

differentiating the vertical planes with the introduction of a light source. . .

reestablishing the grey values of the quarter's surface. . .

adding shadows in the reflective surface of the quarter. . .

adding lots of little windows (freehand, with very diluted grey acrylic and a #6 watercolor brush,). . .

and a final clean in Photoshop. (adjust levels, clean up distracting inconsistencies in paint texture, edit out paper texture of background.)


And thats it!

Thanks for sticking with me.

1 comment:

Meg and Tim said...

Chi,
I don't know what is more incredible: how you break down this process, the fact that you did it (what made you think of a city on a quarter?), or the resulting piece. It is such a privileged to be included in this process.
Love,
Meg