Painting an environment

This week I made a last portfolio piece for CTNx. I wanted to practise an environment for my comic. I had this image in my head for this mountain landscape and since I absolutely love being around mountains (since in my country we have none) this was begging me to be painted. Here it is:

I think this is one of my best paintings as of yet. I really felt I could implement some of the things I’ve learned in the last few years.

Here are a few thoughts on my process: I had drawn a little tiny thumbnail in my sketchbooks, not more than a few strokes and dots and a triangle that looked like a mountain. I liked the simplicity of it though, so I tried out some rough sketches in Photoshop and got something that started to look like what I was going for. I wanted a quit, grand environment that made the characters look small and was kind of eerie and beautiful at the same time.

I gathered some reference for light sources in the mountains by night and found some great images of mountain villages. Their lights casts a great, warm light on the mountainside (especially in the snow) that fades to pinkish orange and purple. I used that kind of colourscheme in the sketch.

wip1I picked some colours from the sketch and made my own colour palette by adjusting and mixing those colours. I then blocked in rough shapes with rough brushes as to not go into “rendering” mode. I put the colours directly over my sketch while trying to keep the values in check:wip2I then blew up the canvas to A4 format in 300 ppi since I wanted it printed and fitted on A4.

Still using rough brushes I defined the shapes of the rocks, the fog and some trees and rocks. I tried to not define every edge and every form. Since it`s dark and since the characters are the most important part I don`t need to show the whole environment in full detail. It will distract from the stars of the painting, which are the characters with the light.
Read more about keeping your textures and detail in check in Chris Oatley`s painting tutorial about the Texture Monster.
wip3Keeping the brush strokes rough and the shapes more unrefined actually took me a lot of effort. I really had to restrain myself and think about the strokes before making them. I usually go into “make this look as 3D and realistic as possible” mode and it`s easy to fall back on your bag of tricks and not really think about what you`re doing. At least for me.
This was a great lesson.I also noticed that, while focussing on the rocks and getting some nice shapes out of them, I had lost sight of my composition and I was actually breaking it. I painted the rocks many times and had to rework it a lot to make them look natural and make them support the lines in my composition. That was the hardest part for me and, now that I think about it, those were the things I probably should have done multiple studies for before putting them in the painting immediately and trying to wing it. Eventually, after getting back to
reference and getting back to broad strokes and gesture, I think I made it work:

wip4Then, all I was left with were the characters, the torch and to make some minor adjustments to the lighting and colour. And that`s what you see at the top of this post.

The coming weeks I’ll be very busy with preparing for my trip and then I’ll be in the US. I’ve prepared blog posts in advance for while I’m there so i won’t have to put the blog on hiatus.
I’ll blog about some of the things I put in the portfolio. They’ll be related to the comic project. Thanks for reading!