Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Dragons in Progress, Part One

It's August and my turn to do one of the monthly full-colour pieces for the Outland Collective.  

I've been incredibly busy these past few months, so this came up at the wrong time and was completed a few days later than I'd have preferred.

I thought I'd start off by showing some of the development work.  I started off with around 30 or so tiny idea thumbnails, legible only to myself, so scanning and sharing that wasn't worth it.  They tend to be very simple, geometric scribbled about 1x1.5"  so I usually end up with 15 or so a page.  For a while it looked like I was designing a landscape format (wider than tall) image, but along the way I liked the idea of the clouds rising high from the sea and the portrait format took hold.

When I felt I had the shapes and idea relatively pinned down I did my initial sketch:

I do most of my development work on translucent bond paper.  I can and do often will take one sketch and place it under the next blank sheet and start sketching different elements or variations of things in the previous sketch.  As a result I may end up with several pages of paper with just parts of the composition sketched on them.  The one above is the most complete of them for this piece.  At one point the rocks were crumbling giant statues, another it was a woman and a sabre-toothed tiger lounging in the shade, and another there were dozens of dragons swirling in the sky or perched on the ruins.  Lots of variations, but working this way it doesn't take very long.  

When I was younger I didn't have the patience for the the planning through numerous sketches;  as soon as I thought I had the idea I started drawing and I often drew myself into troublesome problems.  I learned the hard way that an extra hour in planning at the start saves many hours trying to save an  image falling short through compositional or my drawing ability.

Since this image contains so many small elements, I decided to cut the sketch in half and printed the parts out each on an 17x11" sheet of paper so I could draw these tiny dragons, figures, ruins and the boat nearly twice the size I would eventually ink them.  Whenever possible I draw at a comfortable size, which means I may draw something very large much smaller to better control the perspective or proportions, or draw something that will be very small considerably larger so I can get a better gesture or pose to work with.   It may just be me, but I find it more difficult to draw good proportions, suggest costume or clearly show the action when drawing figures an inch or smaller so this is my work-around.

So this would be considered very rough pencils.  I scanned the top half of the page and. . .

 . . . then scanned the bottom half.  I assembled the piece in Photoshop then took another look at the image.  I moved elements around, while flipping the image horizontally occasionally to see if the composition held up.

When I was happy with what I saw on the screen, I converted the image to CMYK, cut the pencils and pasted them into the cyan channel before selecting the now-blue layer, C&Ping again to float the blue drawing and reduced the opacity to 21% and printed it on to 500 series 2-ply plate finish Bristol

A few years ago I stopped doing tight pencils when I realised I was just making the drawing less fun and more tedious from having to draw everything twice.  Now, unless the elements are particularly complex, once the structure of the drawing is solid (by my standards) I'm more than happy to start inking.

When I share the inks you'll see that a number of things changed once a pen was in my hand. . . .


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