Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"Water Gun Sky Attack Solves A Problem Like Maria" Back Cover Process pt3


In the last installment of this series, I'd just made major changes to the layout of the piece after having come to a point that I thought was acceptable.  Looking at it now I realize that this is a much improved piece, and I'm glad I made that decision.  I made a few changes to the piece since the last iteration, so let me go over them one by one.

The most important change I made was to flip the truck over so that it was facing the sign instead of the town.  I've added to the narrative I created earlier by having Panic crash into the sign while being attacked by zombies, rendering the car useless.  What I like about this is that it gives reason to the sign being there.  It wasn't just up as a composition element but now fits neatly into the story.  Having the car facing the sign also allows me to use its roof lights as a lighting device for the sign.  Although I'm not sure it ultimately matters, this kind of efficient use of space in an illustration tickles my brain and I like to do it as much as I can.

I also changed the background elements some so that the flow of the piece is more clearly illustrated, starting from the sign, some minor emphasis on the zombies, then the girl, then finally the town.  Some of you might notice that I left out the "flow arrow" in the last iteration, and that's because at the time my composition was very broken.  Now it's fixed up so I go once again into a value study.

Value Study 2

After posting I got these replies from cgsociety:

Looks better now. 
The only two crits I have now are that the base of the sign looks more like a fence (I imagine it would be one column, like a billboard), and that you should have a stronger light falloff on the sign in order to look realistically lit by the car lights, except if they are super wide angle.

You previous composition with the moon/building higher was better, because now the sign and the moon/building line up side-by-side and occupy similar amount of space in the image--that's not really a good thing for composition.

According to your narrative, I thing the sign has to look like it's been hit hard and partially destroyed--same with the front of the car. You want to spell these things out clearly, so your audience won't have to guess at what's going on. It's also important to show a couple of zombies as very obviously walking dead corpses, or else they just look like dead people she might have killed. You want to show the rotting flesh, limbs hanging off a tendon, jaw missing, eye missing...etc.

Bearing that in mind, I came up with this:


I mostly just started adding color here, and there aren't many major composition changes.  I'm not going to go into too much detail about my coloring method since I conceived of this series mostly as an exercise in composition.  However the simple explanation (for someone well versed in Photoshop) is that I used my value study as a base, then created separate overlay layers for the background (forest, path, town moon, sky etc.) and the foreground (sign, truck, girl, zombies).  I then painted some flat colors on each layer to try to establish a mood. On top of each specific layer I then added a normal layer that I would paint on for the final piece.  These layers are the ones I will spend the most time working on.  It's similar to the method Donato Giancola uses in his oil paintings, except obviously its much easier to do in Photoshop than with oils.

One big difference was Lunatique's suggestion that there was too much balance between the sign and the moon/town, which led to bad composition.  I changed that by making the moon smaller and it made a world of difference.  Everything is much more balanced now and aside from some slight tweaks here and there this will be the base of my final composition.  Which isn't to say there aren't things to work on.  Indeed, after I posted this, I got this comment:

The lighting currently doesn't look convincing because despite your two main light sources being very directional, your main focal point doesn't reflect that enough--it looks too diffused, with too much ambient brightness in areas that are facing away from the light sources. 

Is the red lighting on her from the car's rear lights? If so, you need to consider just how far can the rear lights actually reach behind itself to get to her. Most likely only her feet and calves would be lit by the rear lights, and the rest of her quite dark (being back-lit by both the moon and the headlight bouncing off the sign). You can try to depict maybe a fire close by off camera, so she could be illuminated by the fire.

Now I'll admit that lighting is a very big weak point in my work.  I simply haven't devoted enough time to it to really understand how light works so I don't know that my next step really addressed Lunatique's concerns.  Along with color, lighting is another element of illustration that I need to devote time to.  Bearing that in mind, this is the next WIP I came up with.  


I'll leave it at this for now since this post is pretty long.  The next post will be the last one in this series and it'll address the process of cleaning up the image so that everything looks right.  There won't be major changes from this basic painting, but there will be a few key things that I made changes to that I think are very important to discuss.  Till next time!

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