Interview with Ellen Million aka The Boss
Stars: A Walkthrough
Stardancer Walk-through: A Traditional/Digital Mixed Media Approachby Mitzi Sato-Wiuff
My art is a blend of traditionally drawn line art in pen on paper and the digital free-hand coloring in Corel Painter program using a tablet with a stylus. This walkthrough is a typical example of how I go from the line art to the final colored version and also shows some of the digital painting techniques that I use most often.
Traditional Line Art in Pen
After directly sketching my image in pencil on paper, I cleaned and inked the lines in the next phase. All of my lines are inked using a ballpoint pen. I use Quink refills by the Parker brand in black for all my line art. This ink is quick-drying, and the pen tip is reasonably sensitive to pressure, so I can do strong primary lines with varying weight as well as secondary lines light and thin with a single pen. The viscosity of the ink is perfect for the way I draw. And their ball tip never produces the dreaded random "blobs" that many cheaper pens of this kind do.
The pencil lines were erased after the inking was complete, and the image was scanned. The scanned image usually requires some clean-up for small stray lines, but mostly for dust specks that the scanner picks up.
Preparation of the Scanned Image
Once the image had gone through the basic cleaning, I lessened the contrast and brightened the entire file. The lines were then colorized to have a sepia tone. Finally, I chose and set a paper color (overall tint given to the file to serve much like a colored paper) by adjusting the red-green-blue in a photo-editing program. I usually select a light to mid-tone that will be among the main colors planned for a given piece. I wanted purple, magenta, and peach for this piece, so I decided to give it a peach tint as a paper color. This file ultimately serves as the "canvas" layer in the version of the Corel Painter I use. It will be fixed as the bottom layer upon which all subsequent color layers will be placed.
The first layer I set up in Corel Painter is always for the "background wash". This sets the tone and mood of the piece and is always worked quickly and loosely. The tools I use are wet media brush types called "diffuse water" and "salt". In digital painting programs, you can set the diameter of the "brush", the opacity of the color in percentages (the lower the number, the more transparent the color), and of course, the tablet is pressure sensitive so the harder I press against it with the stylus, the deeper and more intense the color saturation. I constantly change the size of the brush diameter to give a more natural look to my wash. I also hand pick the color from the color wheel, shifting the colors quite often to suit my needs. Here I used various shades of purple, magenta, and some orange. When I use the "salt", I also change the opacity of the effect and the diameter of the brush/tool often to achieve the natural look to avoid the stamped look.
Lifting the Wash and Adding the Stars
Next, I lifted (removed) some of the washes from the main figure area, using "gentle wet eraser" which can be set at different opacity strength and size like any other tools found in the program. I set the opacity fairly low (8 to 20%) and the tool tip diameter size relatively on the large side to give a diffused outline rather than a sharp masked edge.
On a separate layer, I put the stars with "soft charcoal" in the dry media selection. Tip size was set small for a sharp point with opacity usually at or close to 100%. I used light blue, pink, and some light orange for the stars.
Here is a close-up view of the stars at the lower left of the image. As mentioned earlier, stars of various sizes and focus ranges are created by changing the opacity, size, and the tool tip diameter. The blurry look of the glow can be easily added by using the same "soft charcoal" tool set at low opacity with tip diameter size much larger than what is used for the central bright spot.
Plumes of Gases along the Outline of the Figure
In the next stage, I added the feathery plumes of gases to the outline of the dancing figure on a new layer, situated on top of all other layers. Since what I wanted for this piece was inspired by many photographs of the nebula formations taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, I wanted the figure to appear as if being born from clouds of gas and dust particles.
I started this stage by giving a fairly thin line highlight outline to the figure with the "soft charcoal" with opacity set at 100%. Next, I reduced the opacity level to the 40% to 60% range, and reduced the tip size to do the fine hair-line plumes radiating outward from the outline of the body. I randomly wiggled the lines and let the ends feather, so the lines look like fine roots or lightning branching.
I went over these fine lines with a soft application of the same colors set at lower opacity (6 to 12%) with the tip size slightly larger to give the blurred glow appearance.
Here, in this close-up below, you can see the the gas plumes painted along the highlight on the dancer's body.
Detail of the Dress
The bright details of the dancer's dress were added in a separate layer with the same "soft charcoal" tool. Outlines were done in a smaller tip size with 100% opacity, with the look of the glow added over with a soft touch application of the same color set at lower opacity and larger tip size.
Fabric Detail, Bubbles, and the Rest for the Finish
The highlighting was completed throughout the dancer's body. The blurred glow effect was intensified by repeat applications along her neck, arms, and upper thighs to give the illusion of 'illumination from within'.
On a separate layer, I gave the secondary highlights for the fabric streaming around the dancer. Her costume is what gives the feeling of weightlessness and indicates the flow of the movement in this image. Soft, light pink was applied in "soft charcoal" with low opacity on broad area, while the same color in higher opacity with sharper (smaller) tip was added along the edges of the fabric. The bubbles received their highlights in lines and spots on the same layer.
The total number of layers utilized in the making of this image was seven: canvas, background wash, stars, dancer's outline highlights, gas plumes, costume details, and fabric details. I am a minimalist when it comes to the number of layers used during my digital painting process. There are many digital artists out there who regularly utilize dozens or even over a hundred layers in their works.
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