While painting The Horned She, I stopped and save a number of in-progress shots to chronicle my process. I've added a brief description of each panel, though this is not intended to be as exhaustive an explanation as a full-blown tutorial.
Moving Left to Right:
Panel 1 ||
Sketch, scanned and taken into photoshop. I duplicate this layer several times, and set one copied layer as the very top most layer of the file and set it to multiply. The others are used in the underpainting.
Panel 1 Detail Shot
Panel 2 ||
Underpainting. Basic colours laid in to set mood, establish palette, and figure out where my light source is coming from. I want the piece to look as if it could be underwater, even though it isn't. Deep blues, greens, teals. She has pallid, cold skin which I will fully admit was influenced by Brom's pale women.
Panel 2 Detail Shot
Panel 3 ||
Refining the underpainting, which has about four main layers: background, octopus midground, woman midground, and octopus foreground. I continue to darken the background, and hint at pillars and halls and corridors. I'm also trying to roughly determine how I want the octopus's wrinkley tentacles to work. I'll end up painting over it later, but for now it's just to define where I want detail and where I don't want it.
Panel 3 Detail Shot
Panel 4 ||
Somewhere between panels 3 and 4, I flattened my underpainting, although not before saving the psd. I start a new psd with the flattened underpainting as the base. Of course, the multiplied sketch layer comes along to the second psd though--it's my guide to make sure I'm not losing the feel or details of the sketch. From this point on, I'll have a lot of layers to deal with and I work with my layers moving back to front. The face and lower part of the mask was mostly finished in the underpainting--I tend to go straight for the face when starting. I think it's because the face colours the whole tone of the painting and will affect lighting issues and colour choices.
Panel 4 Detail Shot
Panel 5 ||
I generally start by picking on a part of the picture to work on, say the octopus's furthest back tentacles, which in this case, were mere suggestions in the underpainting. So I lay in more solid colour, set their layer to transparency and then work on sketching in rough detail. Then I lay in the rough shadows and highlights, then I go back and refine, tightening it more and more. Sometimes it's helpful to create a texture base to work from. You can do this by roughing up the solid colour with various brushes, or creating brushes from sampled textures. I also use a lot of photo reference during this period of time.
Panel 5 Detail Shot
You'll notice that I have two copies of my file open. One is always viewed at 25% since that's the closest approximate size to what the final picture will be at once I reduce it for screen viewing. I am actually painting at 300 dpi, but the file appears so big onscreen, that sometimes you can end up noodling detail and then zooming out to discover its all wrong. Hence, dual windows. Photoshop can size your viewing window to any percentage, but the aliasing will appear wrong unless you are at 25% or 50%.
Panel 6 ||
The belly is almost done here. I actually painted the cave fish at super large size and resized 'em down. They lost a lot of detail and I was sad until I realised that too much detail in her belly and it would all get lost in the octopus detail. The Horned She is supposed to be smoother and sleeker than the octopus or her background, so that she pops out more.
Panel 6 Detail Shot
Panel 7 ||
I went back to detailing octopus once I got the skirt and the corsety-torso bits mostly done. I had to take a break because the octopus texture was pretty carpal tunnal inducing. I could only do so much before going insane. (You know how if you play a video game long enough, and you finally step away from the computer, your brain still keeps on playing it? I was texturing stone and tentacles mentally for days. I'd be reading on the couch and catch my fingers doodling suckers and shadow forms on the sides of my legs.)
Panel 7 Detail Shot
Oh, the skirt got a lot darker--I took a more refined layer and set it to multiply and liked the result much better than the deep purple I had planned on. You'll also notice that in panels six and seven that as I add more and more refined layers that parts of the underpainting seem to disappear. Don't worry, I don't plan on leaving her without a lower arm.
Panel 8 ||
The metal work on the corset and the brackets that brace the glass belly. I referred a lot to the original sketch to make sure that the line work wasn't getting too fat or clunky. Highlighting these were the funnest part of this painting. More octopus refining. I kept putting in cracks and crumbling bits because those were fun. I had to go through and refine the front tentacles several times, since the first couple of passes they didn't see as if they were sharper and more in focus than the back tentacles. I was getting pretty tired of stone octopus by this time.
Panel 8 Detail Shot
This is about the stage where I copied the head from the underpainting and finally gave it it's own layer. Necessary so that I could paint and refine the background with big sweeping strokes without worrying about whether or not I was going to destroy some delicate detail somewhere.
Panel 9 ||
This is a detail pass that Lee (my boyfriend) did for me. He's a texture artist (and my major consultant during the Time of the Octopus, as I like to call it) so he flattened my psd and went in and pulled out various highlights, darkened various shapes, and gave me an inspirational push concerning the background. This WAS not used in the final painting, but was more like my reference and checklist to keep me from getting too tired and declaring the painting done before it's time. (I've done that before. Iocaste, another painting, looks at me reproachfully--I never did finish her.)
Panel 9 Detail Shot
Panel 10 ||
I worked in the background. More cracks, some fancy inlaid panels on the pillars, swirly stone over the arch. I add some of the highlight changes that Lee suggested, although not all. (I liked his highlights on the hands better than I like mine actually. Sniffle.) Anyway, after touching up various highlights and darkening her shoulders and the back of her arms just a smidge, The Horned She is done. DONE! DONE! (And then when I show her to my friends, they all point out lots of tiny things to fix, and I throw up my hands and go, I absolutely can not stare at this painting any more. And then my friends say, Oh, okay, we know that point, you're right, she is done.)
Panel 10 Detail Shot
Panel 11 ||
My layer folders for the final piece. Some of those layer folders have up to ten or so layers in their subfolders. The bottom three layers are the flattened underpainting and background.
Panel 11 Detail Shot
Props to Lee for keeping me sane and keeping my butt planted in front of my puter.
|| Media + Technique ||