Cover by Janet Chui

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November 2006

November 2006: Ghosts

Gallery

Columns

  • Healthy Green Artists:
    The Safety of Paint Pigments
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Life's Mulch
  • Behind the Art:
    The Big Boo: A Tutorial
  • Myths and Symbols:
    A Goddess's Gift
  • EMG News:
    News for November!

    Features

  • Seven Steps for Sales Supremacy
  • Using References

    Fiction

  • Fiction: Forensics
  • Fiction: Lodun
  • Fiction: Jasmyn Smiles
  • Fiction: Ghosts in the Forum

    Reviews

  • Movie: The Prestige


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  • The Big Boo: A Tutorial
    Behind the Art
    by Annie Rodrigue

    As promised, this month will be about a step by step tutorial of the painting I submitted for this month’s subject: Ghosts. I wanted to do a little revision of what we had already covered in previous columns by doing something a little more concrete. So we will be using the theory to create a painting!

    Step 1: Brainstorming and thumbnailing

    No, I’m not even skipping this stage! To show I have done my homework, I even included my first thumbnail draft of my Boo painting! When I first thought about the subject of Ghosts, I was thinking of doing some kind of romantic ghost story (a ghost violinist playing to a young girl) , but quickly switched to haunted items (vase, house, anything unusual would have been fun to do). I also thought about Halloween, but since all this is for November, I quickly moved this idea aside also.

    Since the traffic in Montreal is terrible, I often brainstorm while in my car going back home (in my head of course!) since I have nothing else better to do and somehow, one day the words Big Boo stuck in my head. Inspired by them, I quickly sketched this little thumbnail:

    Very happy with the result, I decided this would be the illustration for the zine! You can see that even in thumbnail stage, we can have a clear idea of what will go where and you also start thinking about composition. Remember that a thumbnail will only takes a few minutes of your time, so if you are not completely happy with what you see, you can always draw another one quickly.

    Step 2: Composition

    I’ve got to admit that most of the composition came out in the thumbnail, but I decided to make a few corrections in the full-size sketch. First, since I wanted the ghosts to feel like they might come out of the boy’s imagination, I thought it would be important to remove the small ghost that was in the front of the bed, where the boy could see him, and put him in the back. Secondly, I wanted the expression of the boy to be clear. I first wanted to cover his mouth, but modified the sketch so that we could fully see his face, making him a little more convincing.

    Go for Odd Numbers: I personally like composition tricks. I often was recommended to put certain items in a drawing / illustration / animation in odd numbers. It is said that it is more interesting to the eye. This is also the reason why I went for three ghosts and not only two.

    Step 3: The Sketch

    Since the bed is in perspective, I needed a vanishing point. Here, we have a very simple frontal perspective. I only needed to make sure the bed was well centered in the painting. My vanishing point is in the middle of the circle pattern of the bed frame. I traced two lines for the bed sides and I was done with perspective! (I’m lying a little bit here; I will later use the vanishing point for the patterns in the quilt.)

    I used big shapes for the pillow, the boy’s round face, the ghosts, and the bed frame. Nothing too complex for the sketch stage. I am making sure everything is in place. You can see that I don’t erase my guide lines. I will only do this in the next stage. I have removed the small ghost in the front and put it in the back as I had decided in the thumbnail sketch and also made the boy’s hair a lot messier to amplify his expression. I tried a few patterns for the quilt, but didn’t want to get into all the details yet.

    Step 4: The Clean Pencil Lines

    Now everything is getting into place! I erased all the guide lines and reworked most of the lines also to make them thinner and more detailed. In this stage I decided I would try to make the ghosts a bit translucent by making part of the lines inside their body thinner or unfinished. This part will be refined in the inking stage, but tried it out by erasing part of the lines to have a small preview of the final result.

    I also reworked the boy’s face because his nose and mouth weren’t exactly centered and it annoyed me a bit. I also focused a lot more on the quilt, putting patterns everywhere and darkening the parts where I would put black ink. I made sure the quilt was the only element in the painting that would be very detailed or else we wouldn’t know where to look when the painting would be done.

    Step 5: Inking

    Another composition decision was made before inking: I was not going to ink the ghosts to give them an even more translucent feel. I decided I would watercolor the lines with a small brush instead. With that in mind, I started inking the rest.

    When inking, I try my best to start from the upper left corner, going from left to right and from up to down. Why? To prevent me from smudging what’s already done. I am right handed so going from left to right is the natural way to go. Left-handed artists should go from right to left of course. Not only will this prevent smudges, but it will also prevent you from having to wait for the ink to dry to continue your work.

    Of course, the quilt took most of my time. The lazy artist that I am decided that I would ink all the patterns in black instead of having to color every single one of them! But it turned out to be a good decision after all, since the color scheme I chose to work with later on was a perfect fit with the black and white patterns of the quilt (more on this in the next step).

    You can see in the inking that some parts of the bed frame are lightly inked or not inked at all. These are the parts where the ghosts’ lineart cross. (The pencil didn’t really scan, but it is still there.)

    Step 6: The Coloring

    Since I could not remove my painting from the board, I had to take pictures of it instead of scans, so parts of the images are a bit blurry. But they still give a fairly good idea of what it looks like.

    I always start with a light wash that gives a general idea of the mood of the painting. This drawing is a night time story so I went for blues and purples. You can see a gradient that goes from darker colors in the corners to much lighter colors near the character and the ghosts. (It looks white in the picture, but it’s actually light blue in the middle of the painting.) This lighter section of the painting is where I want to put focus in my painting. I want the viewer to see the boy’s face first, than the ghosts, so my wash will amplify that idea. I will work the rest of the coloring from there.

    You might have noticed that I just do my wash regardless of the elements in the painting. Since watercolor is best worked in layers, I always do my first wash all over the canvas. This will force the colors to work in a similar scheme. Every color I will layer on top of this first wash will take a blue-ish tint.

    Now I have to decide a light source. My light source here doesn’t make much sense since it is a night scene (thus there isn’t really any light). I decided the light would come from the center of attention: the boy and the ghosts. Even though rationally, it is impossible, this choice of a light source gives a really dramatic feeling to the painting. It also makes it easier for me to keep the symmetry of the painting. So now I have a bed frame shaded with the same colors I have used for the first wash. Some of the quilt’s squares will also be colored with the same scheme, since there is really no need to start adding color to the already very complex pattern that was inked.

    The second reason why I am shading everything in an analogous scheme is to, again, to give more focus to the main subject: the boy. As you will see in the next picture, he is the only element in the piece that will have other colors.

    But he won’t be a complete stranger. I am still coloring his shadows in the same shades of blue.

    I have now added a little bit of shading to the pillow and the folds in the blanket. Notice that I have also added a light pattern to the upper part of the wall.

    Now I am moving to the ghosts. Of course even if I have shaded the interior of their bodies, I still need to make them pop. The only way to do this is with white acrylic. By diluting the acrylic with water, you can get translucent white paint. I have used a few layers of the diluted paint on the borders of their bodies and only very small washes for the darker part of the bodies, mouth and eyes. What’s great about acrylics is that they will cover ink, so now part of my lines will look grey instead of black, perfect for the ghost illusion!

    I then finished with a light purple wash on the upper part of the wall around the ghosts to make them look a bit lighter and added freckles to the boy. We are done!

    What's Next?

    We will try to give life to our characters! We will see how we can create interaction, make plausible poses, and show movements. We’ll also see the good that life drawing can bring in our work!

    Annie Rodrigue
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