Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Process Post: White Dragon

I just finished up this small painting of a white dragon. One of my goals this year is to work in oil paints again. Digital painting is much faster for me, but oil painting will always be my true love--Something that will be a part of my life for as long as I can hold a brush. This particular painting is 2 projects rolled into one. The sketch is something I owe a friend from when he won a twitter contest last year, and the painting itself is currently up for raffle (which is still going on until Thursday night!)

I thought it would be fun and enticing to post process pics on my facebook page, but I also want to collect them all here for posterity. It began with a simple idea to have a portrait . Since I'm still wrestling with the medium of oil paint, I wanted to keep it simple yet interesting. I came up with a sketch.

I went with a traditional western dragon. Why not. I had the idea that the horns would be shiny metallic--something that looks like a valuable trophy or something, while also acting as a sort of natural armor.

I did a more "final" pencil rendering to define the shadows better and nail down the drawing. In the past I've glossed over this step which I now realize is 75% of the work! Most beginners to this school of painting, including myself, don't emphasize the drawing enough in their process. They do painting after painting without realizing why the end product never looks quite like they imagined. All I'm saying is that it helps me a lot.

I scanned in the drawing and did a quick color mockup in Photoshop. I played around with various schemes and settled on the one above. It's based on this still from Black Narcissus which has amazing visuals. The cinematographer is Jack Cardiff. I don't usually steal from movies, but when I do, I steal from the best.

I gessoed a board and painted it red, then I transferred the pencil drawing onto the board with carbon paper. Then I inked over the carbon pencil marks with india ink. I like working this way lately because it makes it easier to control my edges. I was finding that with pencil lines, I was losing the guide of the outline a bit too early for my tastes. The red acrylic underpainting is an old impressionist's trick. It'll unify and contrast with the paint over it, peeking through those little transparent areas, subtly effecting the color above it. 

Usually at this stage, I'd do an acrylic paint underpainting to build up some tones and value, but this time I decided to jump in with a build up in oil paint. This was dumb because I flooded the surface with wet opaque paint which I had to wait to dry before going in for finer details. A wasted evening I could have spent painting.

It was my intention to approach this painting in the way the flemish painters worked, by painting in monotone and building up color with glazes. I'll try that out some day, but old habits die hard and I just went in, trying to nail down the colors as closely as I could.

Here I added some "stubble" details and painted the horns. I painted these details in boldly, knowing I'd be going back and subduing the values and colors through glazes the next evening.

Finally, I went over the dark areas with a glaze consisting of dioxazine purple, olive green, and indian yellow. I also hit the horn areas with a more diluted version of the same mixture. Then I scumbled over the bright areas with a titanium white/indian yellow/dioxazine purple mixture (eliminating the gross veins in the process). I really wanted him to glow and seem almost washed out with a strong spot light or something.

I really feel ready to get started with some more ambitious paintings. Hope you enjoy this little step-by-step!