Starting February 2014 this blog will be out of action.

But DO NOT DESPAIR. We've just moved, and you can still find the same riveting and informative posts that you have come to expect on our new blog:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Forest Troll: Digital Trickery

I am working in Adobe Photoshop CS5 for the digital final for this painting. (You don't always need the latest and greatest in software, but CS5 is amazingly stable by comparison to CS4 or CS3, both of which would crash regularly based on alignment of certain stars and lunar cycles. And on Tuesdays. And really just any time that they felt like crashing.)
Up until the halfway point I work in only multiply layers.  I am using these layers very much like thin transparent watercolor or acrylic washes.  

Digital Work In Progress: Midway Point

After the midway point I will switch into other layer modes, like screen and color dodge for highlighting. And some normal layers for opaque details. 

Final Digital 

You will notice that I added a few elements to the image at this stage, like the extra foreground foliage. These were decisions made after letting the painting sit for a few days and then coming back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.  It can be a risky business to always be going back and correcting an image.  Sometimes it is better to just leave your first ideas alone and move on to work on new projects. (You hear me Lucas?)  I will only do it if I feel I absolutely have to.   In this case, I had lost some of the forest-ness of the scene, and wanted to recapture a bit of it.

Troll Detail

Dwarf Detail

Thank you everyone for all the support and really helpful feedback!  You guys are awesome.

Friday, January 20, 2012

March 30th Workshop

This year I will be teaching at TLC Workshop's 2012 Professional Art Series. 

These workshops are located in the Seattle area, and focus on one-on-one interaction and instruction from a working professional artist.  See all the details at TLCWorkshops.blogspot.com

The illustration workshops offered this year are:
Beyond Reference: How to Imbue your Characters with Character with Justin Gerard, Fri-Sun, March 30-April 1. $375.
Idealized Realism and the Human Figure with Terese Nielsen, Fri-Sun, August 24-26. $500.
Self-Promotion: the Portfolio and Beyond with Jon Schindehette (Senior Creative Director at Wizards of the Coast. Blog here), Sat-Sun, Sept 15-16. $300.
Planning Great Images, From the Ground Up with Greg Manchess, Fri-Sun, Nov 9-11. $500.

To inquire about availability, ask questions or to reserve your spot, contact Tara Chang:TLCWorkshops1@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Forest Troll Part VII: Watercolor

13" x 21" 
Watercolor and Pencil on Heavyweight Bristol

Next: Digital Trickery

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Forest Troll Part VI: Tight Pencil Drawing

I am much happier with the composition this time around. Starting over from scratch generally involves an entire day of suicidal behavior and all-time-lows.  So it's always a good feeling to know that it was the right choice.
The trees do what I had hoped that they would do and the image is a lot more comfortable to look at now.

(Well... unless giant trolls with clubs make you uncomfortable. In which case there may be no hope for the image.)

Next: Watercolor

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Forest Troll Part V: Bungling It

Sometimes, in spite of all the precautions and idiot-proofing, I still manage to bungle things.

 In this case, I got halfway through the initial washes of the watercolor before realizing that I had screwed up the composition and it was really hurting the image. Since I wasn't under any particular deadline for the piece and I hadn't gone that far yet, I decided to start over. Under other circumstances I would have tried to fix it by painting in the corrections or reworking it digitally. Since I had the time though, I decided to repaint it.

Here is why it was bad:


A triangle of death is an area of the image where the composition allows the viewer to get trapped and leaves part of the image as dead space. In this case, the foreground branches at the top left lead down to the troll's face, which then points down to the boars and the helmet. This would be ok except that the sharp verticals in the background trees pull us back up into those branches, creating a self-contained compositional form that splits the image, leaving the dwarves, who are a main narrative element, as a separate dead space.

The strong red arrow in the middle shows the line where the image gets split. This can still work if you have text that goes in your image, or if this image were to be intended for a wrap-around book cover. Since my goal was a stand alone poster image, this compositional dead space was a failure.

How to solve this?
I didn't want to monkey with the characters, because I really like their arrangement and relation to one another. So I decided to employ a classical solution that has been used by artists for centuries: When in doubt, add more trees. 

Reworked Composition

 By placing this organic tree shape over the boars I am able to break the Triangle of Death and keep the composition moving, while at the same time adding more interest to the image itself.

Next: Tight Pencil Drawing

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Forest Troll Part IV: Color Comp and Drawing

The color comp is done as fast as possible. I don't want to get bogged down in the details here. This is all about the mood and atmosphere.

Color Comp

The main goals of the color comp are:

#1 Nail down the lighting.
(Sources, direction, strength. etc.)

#2 Nail down the value relations.
For instance, the tree behind the dwarves: is it more attractive as darker than the background or lighter? By exploring and solving this in the color comp I will be more confident when I tackle it in the final image.

 #3 Nail down the color theory.
This image will be confined to a warmer spectrum, one that you might find at midday in an old growth forest with patches of sunlight breaking through the canopy. I wanted to make most of the tones fall in a rather narrow color gamut, and then choose a bright color outside this gamut as an accent. In this case, it was mostly golds and browns accented with a bright green.
In the color comp I just want to make sure this theme will work for my image. I go through this on almost all of my pieces because my brain is incapable of solving value/color mixtures on the fly, so I need a cheat sheet. The color comp helps me idiot-proof my image so I don't bungle it in the final.

Tight Drawing

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Forest Troll Part III: Troll Studies

As some of you may remember I did several studies for our Forest Troll's bloodhound boars in a previous post.  Check them out here.

Next: Color Comp and Composite Drawing