I've mentioned them a bunch of times, but one of the things I enjoy most is watching and learning from artists whose work just blows me away. Recently, I've purchased online digital painting classes from Aaron Blaise (creatureartteacher.com), Schoolism.com, SVSLearn.com, and ctrlpaint.com - all well worth every penny.
One thing I learned early in life is that you've gained little if what you've been taught isn't put into practice. Aaron Blaise's digital painting course includes a demonstration of him creating a beautiful rendering of a lion, and he walks you through the process as he draws it. Using a Cintiq MobileStudio Pro 16", I parked my butt in front of the screen and started drawing along with him. The result was this picture, which is far from perfect, but I'm pretty happy with it, all things considered.
After this piece was completed, I wanted to try a digital painting that was entirely unique to me, so I went through photos I'd taken, and came across this one of our dog, Arleigh. She's a beautiful Black Lab, and in this picture, she'd just jumped up on our couch. We tried to discourage her from getting onto the furniture, and she knew she wasn't supposed to (the expression on her face tells it all), but it was a rule we infrequently enforced. I had to get a picture of her in that moment, and I thought it would make a fun painting, although I also thought it might be way above my skill level.
Step one would be creating a pencil sketch, albeit a digital one, to get the ball rolling. I'd just purchased a Cintiq 24" HD, and this was the first project I'd be undertaking with it. I'd gotten down a very rough drawing, then came in with more detail. Truthfully, I really didn't like what I'd ended up with and was going to scrap the drawing and move on to something easier. But then I thought, am I sacrificing the good with the valuable experience that will come from it in pursuit of an unrealistic, at least at this point in my development, ideal? I decided to charge ahead.
Once I got the sketch far enough along that it was sufficient to act as a guide for the painting, I created a new layer and painted in the local color, or the overall color of Arleigh's fur in a tone slightly brighter than the actual color.
At this point in the process, I locked the local color layer and started adding darker values to it. At first, I'd intended to do any added values on their own layers respectively, but I'd gotten started on the values layer and was too far into it to turn back, so I rolled with it. Once I was satisfied with the first run of darker values, I created a new layer and began adding lighter values. One of the things I took onboard from the Aaron Blaise course was to work back and forth - dark then light, back to dark and so on. I found this process works really well.
After the initial brighter values were added, it was back to the darker values again. I used the color picker in Photoshop, and dropped the lighter blue gray to a deeper shade, and I then dropped the opacity of the brush to somewhere around 70%. I also had the pressure sensitivity set, so that the lighter I touched the screen, the less pigment I would add, resulting in a more controlled feel.
If there is any one element that creates the emotion captured in the picture, it's Arleigh's eyes. I decided to paint Arleigh's eyes on a separate layer, expecting to screw them up. Luckily, I didn't and while not perfect, I'm pretty pleased with the effort.
The last element I wanted to add to the figure of Arleigh was a technique used a good deal to wonderful effect, again by Aaron Blaise - very subtle rim lighting. If not overdone and crudely blatant, it adds a touch of drama to the painting.
For a guy who's more at home with a hammer or a rifle, I'm pleased with this first independent effort. I learned a huge amount by doing this painting, and I hope to build on it as I get to work on the next one. But before I start anew, I have a background in mind for this Arleigh painting, which will be pretty challenging - if I can pull it off at all. Once that's complete, I'll add a second half to this blog post explaining how I did it. Thank you for letting me share this with you.