As a huge fan of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, I was incredibly excited for the film adaptation. I did a digital painting of Clary from one of trailers, and then I decided to start in on another one in hopes of completing it before the release of the film. Life kind of got in the way and a long series of complicated and traumatic events delayed finishing it until recently.
I thought that you might enjoy seeing a progression of the piece and hearing some talk about my process.
First of all, I set up a grid and then worked on getting a really clean outline. This is one of the most important parts. From there, I set up a few more layers, did a background gradient, added red bits that I’d eventually have show through, and then began a color layer on top of that, which you can see a few pieces of here. I started filling in her skin and smoothing it out bit by bit. The colors didn’t look quite right so I started veering towards a more lavender skin tone.
I eventually went though and changed almost all of the skin tones, erasing a lot and starting over. This looked better, and was an important lesson in color and light and the relation between light color changing skin color and what we perceive to be right being not at all what we’d think. A lot of her skintones are lavenders. Not at all what I’d expected to use. I started working on her hair, and by this point, using blues and purples instead of browns and reds didn’t surprise me at all.
Continuing on with the skin, I kept having to change to bluer and bluer tones.
I spent a ton of time working on trying to get her mouth right, and at this point I was annoyed enough that I moved on to working on more in the background and then her hair and jacket. A ton of purples, but it was reading right, and that was the important part. Kept working on her hair. Some of the reds I initially expected to use were slightly used here. Went back to working on her face and added her eyebrows and tweaked her mouth.
I got annoyed and didn’t want to work on Clary for a while, so I went and worked in the background and the light grid. This is normal, where I get annoyed with one part of the drawing so I have to work on another.
I finished up her hair, then went back to working on the background, and at this point I’ve finished the entire background, although I haven’t finished the light grid or her eyes. I kept putting off her eyes because my reference photo was small and blurry and her eyes were completely lacking any kind of detail.
I spent hours working on those eyes, tweaking them, repainting them because they weren’t right, tweaking more, then tweaking more, then repainting then tweaking another few times before I was finally satisfied enough. I also spent more time tweaking her mouth. Every artist has a perfectionist inside screaming at them when things aren’t right, and sometimes we’ve stared at the image for so long we know it’s wrong, but we can’t see why. It takes stepping away or getting another set of eyes to explain it. Mt sister did some of that when I was working on the eyes.
So overall I learned a lot about color and perception. The individual colors, if I saw only those, wouldn’t look right, but within the environment and with the lighting as it is and all the other things within the frame lining up with that, it looks right. I’ve continued using what I’ve learned thus far with digital paintings, especially with making skin have texture and definition in the light areas, not so much in the dark. I constantly have a hand hovering over the keyboard to either press ALT for color pickup to help blend (I don’t use a blending tool) or Command Z, which is the oh shoot I didn’t want to do that, and often Command S so I can save everything I’ve done in case photoshop crashes. It’s only done that a few times, but saving often is major, even if I have autosave set up on small intervals.
Stay tuned for the final version! I finished it, but it’ll get its own post.