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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Battle of Five Armies: Digital Steps

This week, I have begun working on the digital stage of the Battle of Five Armies. I was not as pleased with the overall results of the watercolor painting and have begun using the digital tools more than I had originally intended. 

"Blaggard! Gerard, you foul villain! You said we wouldn't be digital this time!"
Now, I know that earlier I may have implied that this piece might be rendered more traditional than digital, and so some of you may cry foul at seeing the amount of digital painting that I fear may make its way into the final piece. While I think that some of you will appreciate the results, others of you may not find them as quite as charming...


And some of you will think, "it's all a sham," and "why couldn't he just leave well enough alone and stop monkeying with everything on the computer." 

This new method that I used on this piece has offered some really interesting accidents, but overall I think I prefer the method that I have used on the previous Hobbit pieces.

To elaborate on the difference of the 2 methods, the previous illustrations utilized the watercolor stage only as an underpainting, which meant that the pieces would be incomplete without the digital stage where I would do the final rendering. I found this offered greater control and played to the strengths of both mediums, while minimizing their weaknesses. The other method, which I used here, was a straightforward attempt to render the entire piece as a watercolor, avoiding any digital work altogether. 
Unfortunately, this did not work out. In the end I couldn't help myself and after rendering the whole piece to final, I found that I had to use a lot of the digital tools to fix problems in the painting anyway. The digital tools offer so much versatility and save so much time (for me) that it seems almost absurd handicap to try and work without them. At this point, it may be too late for me to go back to working in watercolor alone. I would value your feedback on the matter.

"Gibblegrok Gnok!... 
Throw us down his computer, so that we may eat it!"  


  1. Hi Justin, great blog you've got going here and amazing illustrations! Many of us have struggled with the same issue of if/when to use the computer on our work. I realize the “purist” may object to use of the computer--but I really feel it is simply another tool the artist has at his/her disposal. That being said, it can be a temptation to “jump on the computer”--often sacrificing creativity and the sometimes desirable “mistakes” that come from traditional methods. You're not sacrificing anything here on this piece--you're enhancing it. (Just my two cents.) Best wishes!

  2. I say do what you gotta do to get the job done. All that matters is the end result, not how you got there. And frankly I prefer your digital/traditional hybrid look over the more traditional stuff you do.

  3. Can you let us see the "failed" painting, to understand your need for the digital approach?

  4. (I mean, not that we don't understand - it's an incredible tool - but the contrast would be neat.

  5. I think at the stage you had it on your "Day 4" process post. it was better than ANYTHING I've ever attempted in WC's and I would Proudly hang that over my coutch and call it a finished piece.

    *inflate head now*

    Needless to say, I love your method of mixing the two mediums, It has a unique flavor to it that is hard to pin.. "oh that digital" or Oh that's Traditional"

    keep doing what your doing... I'll love it either way!

  6. If the tool you choose gives you the confidence to complete the image to the standard you desire, who can judge you for using technology over tradition?
    A few years ago, you wouldn't have had the choice and you'd have persevered in watercolours.
    My only downer on a hybrid piece is the lack of a finished painting that I'd want to buy from you - I don't like prints.
    Thanks for producing great work, keep it up.

  7. Your struggle between traditional and digital is almost as epic as the scene you are depicting! Listen, it sounds to me like you have sold yourself on how things can look digitally - which is DIFFERENT from traditional.

    All methods come with certain limitations and benefits. If you want a piece to look like a watercolor painting, then you only do it in watercolor and be happy that it looks like a watercolor painting. Work within that medium's parameters. If you don't want it to look like a watercolor painting, then throw in some digital. It's all about your expectations for how you want the final to look. That's the art answer.

    The commerce answer is this, and I've said it to you before, there's a lot of benefits (mostly financial) to you to have a physical painting at the end of the day. Look at what Drew can charge for his work: http://www.DrewStruzan.com

  8. As someone who wouldn't know one end of the brush from the other, I'd say that the watercolour versions are lovely, but the final, digitally rendered pieces have a lot more depth and emotion. I don't know if that sort of intensity is possible with watercolour at all, but it seems smooth and natural like this. These hybrid pictures are simply amazing.

  9. What you have already achieved here is amazing! I just love the image as it is so far.

    Personally I am really looking forward to you digitally finishing you this piece. I think the main reason is because of what you yourself stated, not being satisfied. This series was originally stared because you wanted to solidify your memories of the story on paper before they were tainted by other creative peoples views. So carry on. It's your vision!

    The other reason is that I relish the thought of coming back here and seeing an already amazing piece or work taken to an even higher level!

    Rock Rock On!

  10. Stop second-guessing yourself - your mixed works are fantastic. If it ain't broke, don't fix it...

  11. The combination you have going with watercolours and digital grading is sensational. I don't see any reason why you wouldn't continue in that vein and I agree with everything you have said about the benefits you get combining these techniques.

    If you are cheesed off that you didn't quite get what you were after with the watercolours alone it might be because you are expecting too much from them. Your digitally graded pieces would be so difficult to recreate with just watercolours.

    Oils and/acrylics on the other hand...

  12. Justin
    I'm a big fan of your watercolour style but this is Your art and whatever works for you is cool with me. It's your job to be happy with the process as well as the results.
    Rock on brother.

  13. It's no different than 19th century watercolourists going back in with gouache or Chinese white. They argued about it back then too but the good paintings done then still look good today, whichever method was used.

  14. I don't care if you painted it with backyard mud, crayons, and touched it up with MS Paint!... If it really looks as good as those thumbs are showing nothing else matters! haha

    It's the end result that counts, and those sneak peaks are freakin amazing!

    I love how there's a more sepia overall tone instead of the strong extreme amount of blue.

    This is going to be incredible... :D
    no pressure ;) haha

  15. I think your work is brilliant and that you've found a great combination with the watercolor and digital. The most important thing is that you get the results you're looking for in your painting and you have fun while you're doing it. Thank you very much for sharing your process and results. Cheers

  16. whatever works, works. It looks fantastic.