Since most of what I’ve been busy with lately is either under NDA (awesome secrets!) or non-art-related (moving!) I thought this would be a good time to crack open one of my old hard drives and see what slithers out.
In this case, the god Pan, for a mythology-inspired beer label I illustrated way back in 2017 . And hey, is that the face of noted illustrator and occasional Muddy Colors contributor Micah Epstein??
This piece comes from an era when I was willing to allow a much larger slice of my process to unfold on the computer; like most of my digital work, though, it still started with traditional media in the form of a very rough thumbnail sketch…
…which underwent extensive client revisions, eventually spawning a tight drawing in my beloved, discontinued Tuscan Red Col-Erase pencil (farewell, old friend).
I finished the piece out in Photoshop; I think of the method I used here as a “digital oil” process — a lower-contrast monochromatic underpainting in brownish-grays and white before glazing over with more intense colors and values. I really liked how the warm lineart from my traditional drawing interacted with the soft grays at this initial stage, which inspired the final color scheme.
I recorded the digital phase of the painting for this one (video below). As I’ve mentioned before, looking back on my process is one of my sacred art traditions, and, occasionally, it serves as the boost I need for leveling up — or at the very least, not backsliding too far! Even though this particular painting process isn’t one I use much nowadays (I’ve been getting more milage out of my digital toned paper process lately) it’s still useful to look back on how I used to handle the challenges of finishing a piece, and consider what elements of the process might benefit my current work.
The upside of working digitally is that it’s possible to cycle through my ever-present artistic indecision much more rapidly (and dial back any particularly poor choices with a few keystrokes). Color is often an “I’ll know it when I see it” proposition for me, which leads to a lot of false starts and frustration when working in traditional media.
While traditional-media color studies can help, I’m usually too damn impatient to really sit down with one and work out all the issues before starting the final; as much as I hate to spend time in front of a computer screen, I’ve begun to realize that frontloading my process with a bit more digital problem solving is the key to many of my woes — I’ve never regretted taking a few minutes away from “real” media to whip up a color or value study in Photoshop.
Photo via Untappd.com
Even though I’ve made a name for myself in fantasy/sci-fi, my secret passion has always been product illustration — so it was especially cool to see the finished art for this one out in its final form.
This was one of several beer labels I illustrated for this client — some of which are still in circulation, some of which now exist only in legend. I’ll share a few more of these paintings (and brews) in the future, once I’ve unearthed them from the crypts of digital storage into which they’ve disappeared!