Some digital sketches of clouds to experiment with different methods of construction.
Composition, as defined in this article, is “the term used to describe the arrangement of the visual elements in a painting or other artwork.” There’s probably a million other ways and angles to define it, but essentially what it breaks down to is how an image looks. When an illustration has good composition, it’s almost invisible, it just works. When it doesn’t have good composition, most people can tell that something is just off about it.
I’ve been learning more about incorporating composition in my own work. I’ve been taking Austin Batchelor’s Udemy course: The Digital Painting MEGA Course: Beginner to Advanced. In it, there’s an exercise to take ten movies scenes and separate them into light, middle, and dark tones. This practice helps you learn what makes a pleasing composition that also intrigues. It helps you see an image in terms of the three basic values so you can quickly dissect it and create one.
I also incorporated a study of the Rule of Thirds into each study. The Rule of Thirds is defined on Wikipedia as a “guideline that proposes an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.” So the basic premise is you break an image canvas into nine equal sections and if you place important elements as the intersections it will create more visual appeal. It's a visual concept that once you start looking for it is in EVERYTHING. TV shows, movies, advertising, art of all kinds. It’s literally everywhere.
So with that in mind I pulled key frames from ten movies to study the composition of value and the implementation of the Rule of Thirds. Give it a try with your own favorite scenes to see how they match up.
It’s amazing to see how many iconic scenes match up perfectly with the Rule of Thirds and have really dynamic composition. Probably no coincidence there. Back to practicing!
Recently I worked on a vintage tourism style poster of the Matterhorn from Disneyland for an old friend of mine. I absolutely love those style posters, especially for places that are fictional so when she gave the Matterhorn as a subject I was very excited to experiment with it.
Here is my page of thumbnails I did to get an idea of composition and what worked. The Matterhorn itself in Disneyland has a different shape based on what angle you’re looking at it from so I had to decide which one I liked best. I did some image searches for vintage photos of the ride so I could get an idea what it looked like back then as some parts have been updated such as the luge cars.
I also played with a crest style border seen above, but that’s probably more for a patch or something like that. Here’s the finished piece...
Hand lettering seems like it would bother my perfectionist tendencies, but one of the best things about vintage posters like this are the non-perfect, hand-lettering. Graphic design can make lettering so crisp and clean that it loses some of its charm for me.
Anyway, I was really happy with the end result, aside from the fact that I didn’t get to include a Yeti because I ran out time. Love that guy. Maybe on the next one.
Lately I’ve been doing some portrait studies, something I haven’t really done too much of in the past. Working from reference as opposed to just winging it really helps build your visual library. I’ve also been putting off working on painting for a while because I’m just not super comfortable using color yet, something that only practice can alleviate I suppose.
After each portrait is the respective time lapse video on my YouTube channel.
I saw some really compelling photographs of Rwandan men from 100 years ago with fantastic hairstyles and decided to do a couple of paintings of them.
I’ve been wanting to practice some environmental paintings for a long time, but I’ve put it off because I’m afraid of being bad at it. Do other people do this? It seems so nonsensical to do this. Of course I will not be amazing at this if I’ve never done it before, but how the hell can I improve on nothing? It’s impossible! So here we go.
I saw an intriguing reference photo on Twitter and decided to try painting a haunting, Gothic style version of it in Procreate.
Here’s a quick timelapse of the sketch.
The reference photo…
I’ll definitely be working on more painting sketches (is that a thing"?) in the future to try and improve. Clearly need to work on perspective and composition, but that’s what practice is for.
This particular tutorial was taught in Photoshop, which I don’t use, so I wanted to see how I would fair using Procreate instead.
Here is the creator’s results below…
And here are my results with Procreate…
Altogether I’m not displeased with the results. I’ve never attempted this kind of crisp game art, or anything isometric, and I didn’t realize until starting the tutorial that it was narrated in Russian with hilariously wrong English subtitles and of course taught in a totally different program.
I really enjoyed working on it and learned a lot so I think some more game icon practice is in my future.
If you didn't know already, 4/26 is known as Alien Day in reference to LV-426, the designation given to the moon where humans first encountered the Alien (facesuckers anyway) in the original movie. It is near and dear to my heart as I love the space horror franchise.
In honor of the day, I painted the Queen herself in Procreate. I added the text with a new app I discovered called Typeorama. It let me create the text on an invisible layer then import it to Procreate. Very handy. Go watch an Alien franchise movie tonight!
Starting to work on a webcomic for someone who isn't a very experienced illustrator leads to all sorts of interesting problems. Namely, I don't know how to draw landscapes! The backgrounds, the ground and sky that make up any given comic panel, well, I've never really drawn any of that stuff!
I've always drawn figures and objects and even plants and animals, but sketching out entire environments has always seemed so overwhelming that I've never actually given it a shot. Well the time to start practicing is now.
The first story in the Zodiac webcomic I'm working on will be "Gemini". This story takes place in a desert landscape following a small nomadic society who worship the twin constellation of Gemini as their deity. Deserts are beautiful. They're also roughly large chunks of similar colors, so they should be a good entry point into the wider world of illustrated environments.
I decided to follow a YouTube tutorial on a cloudy sunset in Procreate on the iPad to test the app's capabilities and mine too.
For this I followed one of James Julier's many excellent YouTube tutorials. The end result was pretty meh, but the real key here is learning how to "paint" digitally. The video had some really good tips about lighting in clouds, sky, and horizons.
So, not the worse ever, but there's obviously a lot of learning to do here. Procreate is really versatile and I like how it's simplified visually so it's not as overwhelming to an amateur as something like Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint.
I used Mischief to make this next simple painting of some dunes. Mischief is an amazing digital sketchpad. The tools are dead simple to play with and the infinite canvas is a dream. I don't know of anyone really using it for professional stuff or webcomic type work, but if you know of any, send them my way as I'd love to check them out.
Now that I had a chance to play around, I really wanted to knock out the first panel of Gemini. It's important to finish something and start digging deeper into this. The whole project is a kind of a dare to myself to see if I can follow through and make some progress into illustrated work so now's the time to do it.
Here's the first finished panel of Gemini in the Zodiac webcomic...
Hope you like it. The text will come later. What's really going to be fun for Zodiac is that with 12 different short illustrated stories I can play with many different styles and mediums of art. The Procreate process video is on my Twitter if you want to see the whole thing come together.
Here's to starting something new with whatever you have, wherever you are!