Saturday, February 12, 2011

When Science Fiction meets Fantasy, Who is the stranger?

Occasionally while taking a break from my freelance work I do a drawing or painting just for me, just to get my mind and imagination flowing in another direction. This is sort of my self-therapy. So three and half hours ago I completed this image. Sure this is not as detail or as refined as my usual work but that's the beauty of it it's my own monster good or bad.
The idea for this painting actually occurred while looking at an older piece I created for a role playing game as it depicts a fantasy barbarian in battle with some sci-fi Orcish creatures with sci-fi weapons.
However rather then writing about this older image I decided to just do a new one. Any excuse to do something for myself is always a good thing :).

So back to my initial topic and the reasoning for this painting. I've always loved Sci-fi and fantasy, be it movies, comics, novels or illustrations. I love both equally and I am a huge geek and fan of each. There are qualities of both that I admire and can instantly relate to. Sci-fi for me is not about what is plausible through advance technology but the unknown reality that could be a possibility in our world and out there in the universe. An example would be life on another world or undiscovered life for instance in the depths of our oceans. This is what draws me to Sci-fi the excitement the beauty and sometimes the horror of an unknown reality within our world or another out in the universe. As an artist I am so fortunate as many artist are to be able to visualize our ideas and those of other dreamers and visionaries.

Fantasy has has always been the dark horse of genres in the sense it's not been taken very seriously as a form of art be it in illustration, literature and film until just recently. This is due to a few body of of works namely Tolkein's Lord of the Ring, and few other highly regarded works of literature and films. It's amazing how just about 70% of fantasy literature,film, games etc continue to use Dwarfs, Elves and Orcs in their works, that's how much impact Tolkien has had on the genre. There a few Fantasy works that create new mythos and creatures, hopefully we will see more themes that pop up that stray from whats been done before.

Though the cliches of the Fantasy genre are all around us in pop culture there are always gems that we find. Gems that are created by artist and writers who are not afraid to break the cycle of the norm. This is what appeals to me about Fantasy is that as an artist you can explore so many ideas be it Mythology, Folklore or your own crazy dreams it's so broad. Fantasy maybe should not be defined as a genre by any structural or set visual or literary elements. Basically it is what the creator/artist/writer wants it to be.

So back to my painting. I've depicted a "Fantasy like female centaur creature" meeting a few "Sci-fi beings". After looking and thinking about the piece I ask my self this question (have I really defined either genre?) what makes it sci-fi? or fantasy?. Those aliens could be mythological gods in the Centaurs world or maybe she is an Alien from another planet who's entered their world or even their dreams or sub conscious. So you see the stranger is neither. The painting is perceived by the creator the way he or she wants but also the viewer can perceive it in any way as well. I feel the line between Fantasy and Sci-fi are not always defined by the subject and themes. I also feel some of the most interesting examples of both genre's are those that mix them both seamlessly.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tutorial: Painting Dark Fantasy a Digital process by J.P. Targete

Hi all,

As my initiative to give back to all my supporters and friends I will be posting a series of steps into my painting process that I did awhile back for Imagine FX. So for those who missed it or would like to share it with your friends , please feel free to d0 so by clicking the share buttons below each post.

So I will begin with an Intro and the first 4 steps, and each day I will post another 4 so check daily for updates.

Tutorial: Dark Fantasy Digital Painting by: J.P. Targete

Some fantasy art is not all about cute elves and pet dragons, sit back as I take you through the steps I take to creating a dark fantasy painting from roughs to the final painting titled "The Purifier" .
J.P. Targete

Whats the diffrence between Dark fantasy and regular ole Fantasy? you ask. Well it's not the obvious, which is, it doesn't actually have to be a literally dark image or have a muted color palette. However it does
have to have a sense of of mystery, obscurity or a threatening mood of pending or present fear visualized in the image. Also what makes "Dark Fantasy art" distinct is that it introduces
an element of reality to the viewers visual experience which is diffrent then the typical "Fantasy" it can appeal to them or make them feel uneasy, etc. Lets face it many of us like to be scared or surprised and "Dark fantasy" can do this.
So when I was asked to do a workshop on anything, I choose to do my favorite genre "Dark Fantasy". I find it most interesting and enjoyable to play with and keeps me engrossed from start to finish.

I enjoy simplicity in concept and idea, however I love all the small technical details and processes needed to give life to those simple ideas. In this tutorial I will start with a simple idea in thumbnail form and develop it into
a drawing that we will develop into a fully detailed colored illustration using photoshop CS2. There is more then one way to skin a cat, in our case more then one technique and tool in photoshop to get the results we want. I will go over the
techniques and tools I use. I'll also discuss the ideas and concepts behind the character "The Purifier". I'll go over painting, color, lighting, surface materials and detailing. This tutorial is for
artist who have a basic to good understanding of photoshop.


For this first step I use pencil and paper and start sketching to fuel my ideas. When I first started sketching I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do.
I just knew that I wanted to do a powerful character either in battle or just standing in a "I'll kick your ass" pose. As I continued to sketch I found myself straying away from the more
action oriented thumbs because I've done many battle type paintings in the past. I chose to do the more iconic posed character in sketch # 4, the character holding the axe.
This would allow me to focus on the single character, details and background decor.


In this step I took my raw thumbnail and developed it into a line drawing, I then scanned it at about 10"x13" at 200 dpi and tweaked it in photoshop . It's important to keep the drawing mostly bold line work, I'll tell you why later.Try to get as much detail and refinment in the shapes, anatomy etc in this pass because it will save you alot of grief later on. As I am drawing it I am designing and actually free forming and embelishing my initail idea. I came up with this; the character in this image is called "The Purifier" he is a cursed lord from the underworld who travels between our world and his. He purifies the lost souls of humans and creatures of both worlds who are dammed and hopeless. He basically purifies their bodies through pain and eventually death allowing their souls to be set free and collected. The object on his back is actually a dark magic soul collecting mechanism which is attached to him always.


The next step is to colorize your BW line art. The reason to do this is because at some point you will merge your line art with your painting and the colored line can be easier to deal with then the BW line as far as painting over it.
There are several ways to colorize your line work, one is using the variations function under the >image menu>adjust. Here you can see variations of your image and change the color to the overall image quickly by clicking the desired
color. I like to give my under-drawing a sepia or brownish warm color.


As I mentioned before in step 2 your line work should be bold and clear because you will now use it as a top layer and lay a color ground underneath it in another layer. So create another layer under your line drawing. Change the layer setting of your line drawing to multiply, go back to the layer underneath. Go to your RGB color slider and set it to this R 110, G 102, B 117. Take the paint bucket tool in the tools bar and click into the empty layer. The reason behind this is because
we are creating a color and value ground which we will add highlights and shadows to.


Many artist do not like using filters in their work which is fine but I like to use as many as I can. My favorite filter is the grain filter, found in the filters menu under texture>grain. By adding texture to your ground layer you will simulate real media, like paper or a grainy painting surface. Settings in the grain filter should be set to: grain type: clumped with an intensity of 39 and contrast of 50. The filter will add small colored grainy particles to your image, this will help it to look more like natural media.


The Dodge tool gets a bad rap in photoshop, because many users tend to mis-use it making it obvious that the tool was used in the image. If used properly the dodge tool is a powerful tool.
In this step I use the dodge tool to add highlights to my ground color. This is similar to adding white chalk on gray paper. The dodge tool does not erase or paintover the grain texture so the texture stays intact as I add highlights. This is backward painting because in art school we are taught to start with our darks and shadows first and finish up with highlights. I find the backward method easier for me when I put in basic highlights. It's important to know what direction your lighting will be emitting from and how many light sources there will be as you work.


Now that I have my highlights I can now start to add shadows and some values to my ground color. I like to use the pre-made oil brush in photoshop, its not as smooth as the regular round brush but not as hard as the pencil or hard brush. I set the brush setting to darken and apply dark colors like markers keeping areas some what translucent. I try to work very quickly in this step and really focus on shadows, values and form.


The lighting effects filter under the filter menu>render is an exteremly usefull filter for painting in photoshop. It should be used to help establish quick broad lighting and color set up in your image. I've set up a creme colored spot light for my main light source and two omni red/orange lights for my edge and background light source which will be flames. By previewing your image you can move the lighting around and see how it effects your image.


Before we continue with the painting it is important to establish the surface materials of the elements in the painting. If a viewer cannot distinguish flesh from stone or metal in your paintings, your image is getting further away from realism. Just like a 3d modeler who will create shaders for their 3d renderings a 2d artist needs to establish a materials library in their heads or in a folder. For "The Purifier" there are four main surface materials: chipped carved stone of the arch decor, the characters flesh tone, the painted carved stone of his back piece and the scratched dented metal of the claws, head piece and weapon.


Once you know what materials go where you can now merge your drawing layer and ground layer and start painting on top of that layer or on a new layer. I choose to paint on a new layer in case I screw up. I roughly start to paint with my oils and soft brush with warm colors. Notice how some of the ground color is showing through. This also makes the flesh tone closer to reality.


Painting more transparently in this step I roughly block in the background leaving bits of the ground color to show through a little. I paint in the flames very quickly, they will be refined later on. I've also started rendering the character's back piece keeping in mind the materials its made out of and how light will effect it. I also am constantly aware of the lighting scheme as I paint making sure it is consistant as I work on the diffrent parts.


As I continue painting I get carried away with painting the skulls. There's nothing so raw and primordial then a skull of an animal or human, it's that basic visual chunk of reality that seeps into Dark fantasy that makes it so appealing and scary to me


Many times I will go back and forth from background to foreground and middle ground. In this step I work up the right arch decor and the flames a little more keeping in mind the material they both are made of. I also have fleshed out the characters lower body. Notice the diffrence in materials from cloth to metal.


For the arch center head piece I wanted three degrees of light. Ambient lighting which shows the form, a dominent main light source and secondary under lighting emitting from the bottom flame. For the left side of the arch decor I copied and flopped the right side and re-painted it with the proper lighting.


Using a custom made texture brush I add small speckles to the arche's surface. This brush comes in handy in more ways then one.


On a seperate layer I paint smoke in the background with a custom cloud brush I created. This brush serves many purposes from clouds, smoke and fog.


With the eraser tool I carefully erase the smoke areas where I want to show the foreground elements in the underneath layer.


After putting final touches I use the unsharp mask filter under filters menu>sharpen>unsharp to bring out some of the details of the painting. Always create a duplicate layer of the layer you want to apply the filter to, because you can always erase the parts you don't want and keep what you have painted. This filter is great for tightening and sharpening your paint strokes. Just becareful not to over use it.


After looking at the image I realized I painted it literally to dark and in consideration of it being a printed piece I needed to pump up the highlights in certain areas. I used both the level sliders under the image menu>adjustments>levels and my friend the dodge tool to bring out the highlights. So "The Purifier" is done but his reign of terror lives on.

For those interested you can purchase a print of the final image here. just make sure you click on photo prints to get diffrent sizes and prices.

I hope this tutorial was helpful. Feel free to leave suggestions or comments or share with your friends and fellow artist. I will be posting more insights and works in progress in the future.

J.P. Targete


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