Sometimes when I’m looking at other artists’ wips I’m amazed at how the sketch and each step that follows on the way to a completed painting looks like a completely logical and natural step from the previous. My paintings often take a more meandering path, which I’m going to share here as both an example of a workflow that feels ineffective and roundabout but through persistence ends up in a pretty good place.
I liked my last Doctor Who painting so much I decided to make another. This time, though, I didn’t want to just reproduce a reference, I wanted to make a unique scene. Season 2 punched me in the feels and I’m still sad about it, so that seemed like a good place to draw inspiration…
Here’s where it ended up:
But where it started was a little different:
Right about here was where I realized I didn’t like where it was going. The Doctor looks out of character with his back turned and even though he totally did dump her when he put the teleporter on her, it’s not quite right. I thought he’d look better with his head looking back at Rose, so I made another sketch (maybe 10 minutes? I didn’t spend long here, I don’t like sketching I guess. :D)
Okay, I like this one better. Let’s spend another 5 minutes figuring out where the lighting might be. It’s never too soon to think about lighting, and even though this is loose as all get out it tells me a few things: the light is behind them, putting his face mostly in shadow and hers a bit lighter.
It also means I’ll get to do rim lighting which is like my favorite thing ever (I abuse it constantly and should seek help).
This next step looks like a big jump, but it’s not really. It’s just a quick buildup of paint over what used to be the sketch. I’ve flattened it down to one layer and the sketch is pretty much buried in the digital paint by now. I did a hue/saturation shift on the whole thing to see what it might look like in a red and yellow palette, but now it just looks like a phoenix is exploding behind them.
More refinements, especially on their faces. Ugh, these faces suck. Time to get some reference art (probably could have done that sooner).
I took a couple screen grabs from the Season 2 finale to use as reference:
Here I decided I didn’t like the exploding phoenix background. Since this whole thing’s on one layer, I just painted over it with the dark blue. Took 1 minute. I instantly liked this new direction way better – now the characters pop out more. Time to get to work on those faces.
More work on faces. Faces are somehow the first and last thing I do in a painting. Getting the faces right is super important to me, so if it’s not quite right yet I go work on something else for a while to clear my brain, come back, and immediately see what’s different between my painting and the ref. Nudge / resize / repaint / repeat.
As usual, my work trends towards low saturation / greyness (probably because I sample colors out of the painting itself instead of out of a dedicated palette) so I occasionally punch it up with the brightness/contrast adjustment and the saturation sponge.
As Lost as I Get – Painted in Photoshop CS6 in about 7 hours
Named after one of my favorite songs, because I’m convinced these two will somehow find each other again.
More Process Talk
I painted the whole thing with this “Rough Round Bristle” brush and didn’t add any textures or gee-whiz Photoshop effects besides good old saturation adjustments.
My love affair with the “Sharpen” filter continues. I apply it at the very end (on a duplicate of the painting’s layer) and it makes everything look just a bit rougher and more like real paint.
This painting took a while to get where it was going, but I’m glad I stuck with it. The end result is easily one of my favorite pieces of art.
For those curious about layer setup, here’s how I usually work. Painting exists all on one layer near the bottom, and experiments go on a layer over it (which gets collapsed in once I decide I like the experiments). Sketches and WIPS get stacked on top and turned “off” visibly. This way, all the WIPS and refs and sketches are contained in one tidy file instead of a dozen files.