A lot of people probably assume that artists get up in the morning, rock up to their easel and start flinging paint at a canvas until they produce something they are happy with.
This may be the case for some and it can have it’s benefits. Painting Alla Prima (all at once) is a good exercise but when you are spending a lot of time and effort preparing your ground (I paint on chalk/rabbit skin glue over board which takes some time to prepare but produces a wonderful surface for oils) it is best to plan things a little, to at least increase your chances of success.
I have often thought about painting biblical scenes or scenes from imagination but haven’t really seen anything through to completion as of yet. My painting process will however remain the same as always. For a completely imaginative piece like this, the build up is as important as ever.
I’m always inspired by work that is purely conceptual, I think, if done well, and especially when the human figure is incorporated, it is a great achievement and demonstrates a catalogue of skills in drawing, composition, use of colour etc..
Here are some illustrators that I enjoy looking at and help inspire me to work from imagination.
Non of these artists really need any introduction. It seems obvious at first glance that each one has a vivid idea of what they want to portray and it can be disheartening to see the finished product and wonder how on earth it could ever be achieved.
Well, firstly, nothing of this caliber just comes from an innate, birthright. In fact it is pretty obvious when you read into these illustrators work methods, that a LOT of effort goes into each piece and, certainly in the early stages of their careers before any real visual library has been developed, a lot of time is spent gathering visual reference.
I know for a fact that Syd Mead makes dozens of marker sketches to work out the costume designs, vehicles, perspective etc etc.. before progressing onto painting the pochade.
Now visual reference alone will not guarantee a good piece but it will help fill in the gaps of our imagination and give us something to ‘grab’ when we get to that stage of painting. As experience grows, the need for reference is less and less, and our observations of things around us become more acute.
My Painting ‘The Vision of the Beast’ started out as a doodle of a lizard while pondering what to paint and I got the idea of loosely basing a painting on the vision of John in Revelations of the 7 headed beast.
So, the first thing that I do with my idea is to work out my Notan
sketches which are the light dark arrangement.
This needs to be strong in order to grab the viewer and make the painting ‘stick’ to the canvas. I do a lot of these, or I will work on one in Photoshop and keep on pushing and pulling, erasing and moving until I am happy. I even flip the image vertically and horizontally to see it it reads in all directions, which a solid Notan arrangement should. It is so important to get this right before going into painting. You don’t want to wait until then to realise that the image just isn’t packing any visual punch.
Here is an example of one.
This was worked out in pure black and white before adding a 50/50 grey. I would advise you to do the same. Beginners should just stick to black and white until you have got a good few hours under your belt.
I more or less settled for this one
Secondly the Drawing and composition:
Now, I used to spend ages working out composition in Adobe Illustrator before doing too much drawing but I found this process just went on too long and often resulted in me going round in circles and not finishing anything.
These days I just take my best guess at the composition and begin the line work in Photoshop before playing with composition and deciding on the eventual canvas size.
This is the first rough concept idea.
I am using some references here, in fact, when I started I was just going to paint a fantasy image of a giant lizard and a woman in a sort of woodland scene.
Another point to note is that I am referring to the Notan in a separate layer so that I can later vary the weight and intensity of line and detail in the areas that are darker.
This piece was going to be mainly line work orientated with some washes over the top and, it may still. But I am toying with the idea of making it an oil painting.
Below is a great example of what I mean by referencing my Notan and actually using line-work to place it. I love this drawing by Rembrandt. That elephant in the background too!!
Rembrandt is using his deft hatching ability to simultaneously place tone and line work.
The drawing is more or less finished. Not sure what to do about the 10 horns and crowns yet, as depicted in the Bible, I may leave the crowns out.
I have placed everything succinctly on hidden construction lines that are used in the building of a dynamic rectangle as mentioned above re: composition.
This is better explained Michael Britton – here – if you are interested. This use of composition is something that every artist and illustrator should know and many of the greats (probably all of them) used a lot.
The next step is to produce a small pochade to work out my colour scheme before going for the final image. I haven’t done this yet so, stay tuned…