Dragon and Portal
Interview with Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
News for April
Art Supplies: Quality vs. Expense?
Dragon and PortalBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
I really am on an illustration board kick lately! Itís especially good for multimedia pieces like this one, where I plan to use ink, watercolor and color pencil.
I use mostly transparent watercolors when I paint, saving my few opaque colors (the cadmiums, ultramarine and yellow ochre, among others) for the final layers. Most of my paints are DaVinci, although I do use a few other brands as well. Winsor red, blue and yellow are only made by Winsor & Newton, while most of my quinacridones are Daniel Smith. As long as you are using artist quality paint, youíll be fine.
And, surprise, surprise, we start with a pencil drawing. Very shocking, I know.
The ink will be the first step. I want the portal to be strangely, completely dark -- as if it isnít dark simply because there is an absence of light, but because it exists somewhere else. The black ink will definitely stand out against the future washes of watercolor.
Nearer the bottom of the portal I dropped in a few drops of water to allow an area of transition.
This next image shows several different steps, as I had to wait for the different layers of paint to dry.
First, I applied winsor blue over the portal, both to soften the black a little bit and to illustrate the pool of blue light spilling out from the portal onto the ground.
Once that was dry, I attacked the background, using a very light mix of cobalt blue and raw sienna. Cobalt blue is relatively transparent and has a habit of granulating as it dries, which is exactly what I want. Raw sienna is transparent, and makes a nice grey when combined with blues.
And once that layer was dry, I moved on to the rocks, which I painted in with a relatively flat wash of burnt orange.
After again waiting for everything to dry, I blocked in the texture and shadows on the rocks. I used lunar red rock, a color made by Daniel Smith -- it is dark, opaque, and granulates given the slightest opportunity, making it perfect for depicting rock texture.
There are two light sources in this piece -- soft, blue light coming from the portal, and a warmer light coming from holes in the cavern wall, some of which are unseen. Once the initial work on the shadow areas of the rocks was done, I used more winsor blue to add blue light to the surrounding rocks.
More shadow work upcoming! I used dark mixes of cobalt blue and lunar red rock to darken the shadows on the rocks. I also used some more winsor blue to add some decorative cracks to the boulders.
With the rocks basically done, it was time to bring the background values into line. More, but darker, mixes of cobalt blue and raw sienna were used over and over to darken the atmosphere. I kept the areas under the cavern holes light and untouched.
After everything was dry, I painted a flat layer of titanium buff, another opaque Daniel Smith paint, on the dragon.
The final watercolor layer! I painted in the shadows on the dragon, and once they were dry, more blue light on the undersides from the portal. I darkened some of the cast shadows on the rocks, and also some of the background.
Time to start working with the colored pencil. I did the eye first -- I often finish the eyes first when I start the face. A flat layer of blue, with darker deep indigo in the shadow and cloud blue for the lower portion. After that, I applied a layer of dark brown, with a very light touch but ensuring that it covered evenly, to the core shadow areas of the dragon, and after that a layer of Tuscan red.
With the core shadow filled in, I burnished over top of it with a cream pencil. It is a very light and opaque pencil, and covers very well. Using heavy pressure, I covered the whole shadow area with it. Now the shadow doesnít look quite so over-powering, and the dragon still looks pale.
Afterwards I went back into the darkest shadow areas with an indigo blue pencil to start really pushing the value.
Here I darkened the shadows further, using dark brown and black grape, before burnishing again with more cream, although the pressure was lighter this time. When darkening the shadow I paid special attention to the cast shadow on the neck.
I also used some more cloud blue to add a few more blue highlights to the dragon.
The remainder of the dragon was completed in the same fashion, using mixtures of dark brown, black grape, indigo and Tuscan red while burnishing with cream to darken the values on the light-colored dragon.
I also added some sporadic and messy line work to the portal, trying to create the impression that some energy is escaping the portal.
Overall, I ended up liking this piece much more than I thought I would (itís the rocks -- Iím a sucker for great rocks). Itís always nice when you that happens -- it makes it so much easier to get back in the studio and try again!
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