This is a demo done for my students in the Entertainment Design Summer Intensive Class, which runs through Art Center Saturday High. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching it twice so far and every time it astounds me how much the students can learn in a month when you’re drawing 9am-4:30pm, Monday through Friday, then going home with 3-5 hours of homework.
The demo is an exercise in learning how to learn. Essentially if you can learn to break down a thought process or drawing process, you can take it step by step and learn a lot along the way. By doing a master copy you’ve got an artist holding your hand every step of the way. The important thing about a master copy is not to get lost in trying to mimic the painting 1 for 1 but instead try to focus on a few key concepts and understand the process to the best of your ability. I’m also amazed every time I’m reminded how much love goes into each of these pieces. The piece I’m studying is “Her Favorite Place” by Gerhartz.
Rough tone on the canvas:
In this case I’m using light orange and yellow because it will contrast the overall muted purple of the piece. In this demo I’ll be focusing a lot on the diffused light and the values of the piece. The tone can also set up the key of your painting, in my personal work I often try to use an extremely offbeat color like a screaming red to start with, it pushes me to experiment more.
Rough line Drawing.:
Here I’m simply trying to get the overall gesture of the piece. I’m drawing in the figure and key background elements, and since I’m doing this digitally I can line up the original piece to double check that the placement is generally correct. Think of it as the equivalent of using the grid system traditionally. Do not trace this step, I don’t trace or color pick because it shortchanges your learning by losing out on the opportunity to train your eyes to see and analyze the information in front of you.
After putting in my rough line I’ll make anew layer below and place general colors down, trying to get an overall sense of the colors and their relationship one to another. I lena towards putting in a mid to dark tone of the colors, not worrying to much about lighting, since that will come next. I won’t use a fancy brush for this, a hard round will do fine. In this case I’m using a chalky brush so the colors start to optically mix by layering one over the other. I also make sure to paint this at a small level, maybe I the 3 to 4 in. range so I don’t get caught up in details.
Adding in the darks:
I like to start with the darks since it mimics the way I paint in acrylic, building up the lights from the dark to help the form read. I try to paint the whole image as if it was “turned off” where there isn’t much light, like an overcast day. Here I’m blocking in shadows and adjusting values all while layering stroke after stroke. Make sure to check you’re source material to double check that your image is reading and that you’re analyzing why certain strokes were made.
Bringing in the lights:
Here is where the painting “turns on”. It becomes a lot more engaging because the viewer’s eye is directed at the focal point, in this case the young woman’s face and dress. The abundance of light in this area pulls the viewer away from the corners and keeps you cycling around her figure. I paid a lot more attention to the face here, and if you can make a face or head read well, viewers will be a lot more forgiving of a painting when they can connect to a characters face. Again, I’m trying to pay close attention to how diffused the lighting is on her face, with sunlight catching the edge of her face since its slightly behind her. For her billowing shirt I’m careful not to use pure white, always edging it towards blue for shadows, yellow ochre for bounce light and cad yellow light for direct sunlight.
Average lights and brushstroke:
At this stage I’m confident in the overall read and start taking a thin textured brush to get the branches. I’m not necessarily trying to get detail, but to get the overall feeling of the branch direction and lighting if it starts to round out. Stroke economy is important, use each one purposefully, not willy-nilly.
Color adjustment and detail:
At the end I’ll add in smaller details and throw any adjustments necessary on top. In this case I needed to adjust a lot when checking the painting from my cintiq to my mac screen. I added in a lighten and overlay layer to tie it all together.
Hope this helps, thanks for sticking around!