By Justin Gerard
I recently had the opportunity to work with John Fleskes on the Spectrum 24 Call for Entries poster. It was a great project to work on and today I’m going to share a bit about the development of it with you.
The scene is inspired by Tolkien’s depiction of the fall of Gondolin in The Silmarillion.
In the above comp I have drawn from several other development drawings that I created while immersed in the story. I don’t always have such detailed comp work for my images, but I had the benefit here of a few years of drawings that I had created before I was ready to attempt the scene.
In truth, there have been a lot of false starts and failures along the way. Perhaps I just wasn’t ready to paint it until now. Perhaps I was lacking some small technical ability that has eluded me until now.
OR perhaps I was cursed. Which is why I have placed all of my miserable little failed thumbnails in a locked box, wrapped that box in chains and even now plan to sink that box to the very bottom of the sea, so it’s wretched existence and my humiliating defeats are known only to the muddy denizens of that vast watery grave.
Or maybe I will throw it in a giant volcano of doom, and make it my scapegoat for all my artistic failures and we will have a good harvest this year.
Anyway, all that to say, that painful failure is a wonderful teacher and i had all the near-hits to draw on for this one. And I had a really good feeling about the thumbnail pictured at the upper right of the comp.
of Elf knights having a bad time.
on Strathmore 500 bristol
The painting itself was drawn on paper (using Caran D’ache Pablo pencils) and then watercolored. It was scanned at high resolution and brought into Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop is great because I am practically blind and it allows me to zoom in 1000%. It also offers some wonderful tools for painting and working with lighting which feel not so different from their traditional counterparts. The digital aspect of the painting begins with working in shadows, then highlights, then colors, then details.
After adding the shadow layers to achieve the level of darkness I want, I add highlights using a light grey tone on a screen layers. Working this way feels the most like adding the whites in the dutch flemish manner of underpainting. (Which is the only painting method that makes any sense to my brain)
Working in the initial highlights is one of my favorite moments of the whole painting process. Using screen layers allows me to not only lighten focal areas, but also add sharp details to them at the same time. Comparing the above image to the previous one you can see the figures crystalize and leap out from the shadows. I love this moment.
This effect of using a screen layer to recapture lost highlights and also sharpen details is one that I will use several times throughout the painting whenever areas get too muddy.
Color and details are added next using a variety of layer types: normal, multiply, color dodge and color using both normal and mixer brush types of my own sinister design. And while the colors and little highlights are important, the main statement of digital phase is made in the shadow and highlighting phases and I consider this the most important part of the digital painting phase.
The Final Spectrum Poster will be going out in the fall. For more information on the contest and Spectrum in general visit them at Spectrumfantasticart.com.
We will also be selling prints later this year at Gallerygerard.com. Details on that and Sketchbook 2016 soon!