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Friday, December 19, 2008

Riddles in the Dark: Final Digital Steps

justin gerard illustration the hobbit bilbo gollum riddles in the dark
While I am happy with the final piece, I find that it seems to work better cropped as a landscape. I think I may have gotten carried away in my inspiration from caves. In the tall piece the elements of the cave seem to fight for attention with the 2 characters, who are supposed to be the real focus point.

Next up: Smaug...


  1. I dunno, Justin. I like the portrait, too.

  2. I would have to agree that the composition is better in the landscape. Love the treatment of details on Gollum. Great job as always!

  3. I like the portrait composition because it emphasizes how small and helpless Bilbo is. But they both work.

  4. Yeah, I'm a fan of the portrait for sirvalence's reasons. At that point in the story, they're both pathetic characters, one sympathetic, the other antipathetic.

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  6. I agree with you Justin, I think the landscape view suites the scene better. It just makes it feel more closed in and cavey, for lack of better term. In a real wild cave, you don't see all that beauty and hugeness around you, you just know it's there. It makes it seem more lonely, big and unsure to only see what's in the sphere of light. Your cave details are spot-on though.

  7. yo bro-

    i agree on landscape- the ONLY thing im gonna miss is the reflection of Gollums hand in the water! arr.. that looks great...

    again- your work is inspiring

  8. Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I am still a bit out on which way I prefer it. The landscape is nice because it becomes a bit more tight and therefore threatening, but I still like the overall feel of the portrait version and as sirvalence mentions that it makes Bilbo seem small and helpless. It really is a tough call for me.

    And Wayne, the reflection is a good point. I actually did have a full reflection of Gollum at one time, (thanks to the wonders of photoshop) but as I was working I found that the reflection, if it had any details, fought for too much attention. Which is why his reflection is more of a shadow here. However, I may see if I can dig an old version of it up and post it if I still have it and we can compare them.

  9. What? No flaming fir-trees? No spiders? No wood elves? Boo!

  10. Hi Justin,

    Love your work, discovered Portland Studios and it looks like you guys have an awesome thing going there. Question: When you decide on your final layout, do you draw straight on your watercolor paper or do you use transfer paper like Saral graphite?


  11. Hi Justin,

    A little bit of feedback for you on portrait vs. landscape. I agree with you that the landscape focuses the eye on the figures a little better. And yet I think the challenge of doing all the illustrations in book-style portrait compositions is rewarding. As you can see from my site, I'm a huge fan of Gustave Dore, and think his 250 plates illustrating the Bible are among the best of all time. Sometimes it is clear that he could have done better with a landscape view, and yet working within the constraints he was given forced him to come up with creative solutions to the problem.

  12. Hey Brian,
    I draw on the watercolor paper. I have experimented using graphite transfer methods on a few projects and while I usually like the result, I find I personally get better results just developing the drawing on the paper itself. It allows me to explore the ideas a little more and it lets the drawing reveal itself on the page. There's something nice about having alot of rough framework sketching buried underneath your final painting that I feel i lose in the saral graphite method. For me building the drawing with increasingly darker and darker pencils gives the painting a little more depth and personality.

  13. Oyarsa,
    I cannot argue with Dore. Dore always win. However, I do wonder what cinema has done to how we perceive stories in our imaginations. The portrait format has been popular for a very long time, and I wonder if much of its popularity comes from the great artists who popularized it working within the constraints of the portrait-oriented format of books, mantels and wall displays. The portrait-style has enjoyed a preeminence in the arts for a very long time, especially as printing presses became more widely used. But now cinema has crept onto the scene and has fast become the way by which we communicate our stories. I confess that some of my uncertainty here has much to do with which to pursue, the classic portrait style of story, or the more modern style of the widescreen cinema format. I love them both, and am torn. I would love to ask Dore, if he was living and working now, what format he would choose for his visuals. And I wonder what he would think of the changes from his day.

  14. Justin, I just found your blog and love it. I know i'm a little late on this conversation, but if I may...

    While cinema has certainly changed how we view things, I believe the horizontal format is more accurate to how we actually see things. Our eyes are side by side giving us a lot of horizontal peripheral vision with only limited vertical vision. That being said, I do like the portrait painting better. It has more spatial depth to it, and I agree with sirvalence, too.

    Thanks for sharing your work. You inspire me to do better.