•  Concept 
    This was a picture I had been thinking about doing for a long time, so when the opportunity came along I jumped at the chance. The scene is this: Alice has been shrunk down to just a few inches in size, and while wandering through a garden encounters an aloof character - the caterpillar - sitting atop a mushroom. The underside of the mushroom is exactly at the height of Alice's eyes, which is why she doesn't notice the caterpillar up there at first. The tough part was setting up the scene so the viewer could see the facial expressions of both characters simultaneously. The facial expressions themselves were also crucial - the caterpillar somewhat irritated, but also bored; Alice a little surprised, but I also wanted her to look delighted with her discovery, and curious. I did a lot of thumbnails for this one.

     Planning the light 
    Along with setting up the positions of the figures for maximum impact, I had to consider how I wanted the shadows of the main objects (mostly the large mushroom) to fall. I use cast shadows behind other lit objects to create silhouettes where I want to carve out a shape to grab the viewer's attention (more on that later). I was pretty sure what I wanted to do with the light in this one: I wanted the mushroom to cast a shadow in Alice's direction, but behind her (on the ground and foliage), not right on her. I did a couple of special purpose thumbnails to establish the main elements.
     Character design - Alice 
      Next I took a look at costumes from the general era of the Alice story, but I opened it up a bit, going as late as 1920 or so to see if I found something I liked. I did a bunch of sketches to explore a few ideas. I liked the sailor bib and the loose low waist, as well as the matching ribbons on her hair and waist.

     Character Design - Caterpillar 
      I also did a little research into caterpillar morphology... and was surprised to learn that they have two different kinds of legs (front legs vs. back legs). That suited my needs perfectly, since I wanted my caterpillar to have arms and legs (the story specifically says the caterpillar's arms were crossed, or folded). When doing animal characters I like to stay as close to the real creature as possible, only anthropomorphizing when necessary to create the feeling of a character. To show you what I mean, here are some other animal characters I have created.   
    To be able to just let my pencil go and explore different character ideas, I need to study a lot of examples of the real animal beforehand - thank goodness for Google image search! Although in this case I was also fortunate enough to find a rather large caterpillar in my own garden.

      For this picture I drew a slightly more detailed drawing than I customarily do, although I still did not let this lock me into compositional elements that I found weren't working as well once I added value and color.

    The sketch was begun with (real) pencil and paper (some of the elements were scanned from various sketches, shown above, then assembled to create a rough composition), then finished in Painter using a custom brush that pretty closely mimics my pencil work.

  • Advice from a Caterpillar part 2

    To begin the underpainting I tone the "canvas" with a large brush that using the Buildup method, on a Gel layer. This gives a unique value / saturation curve, essentially making the middle values the most saturated, and moving out to white and black (no saturation) on either end of the value scale. This is very much like how watercolors or translucent oil paints operate.

    I use a layer mask to erase pigment, because painting over with white would spoil the aforementioned saturation curve. The goal here is to establish some kind of key color for the image, and begin to set up the basic value relationships. I don't overtly think in terms of just three values, though in practice that seems to be what happens.

     Final Values 

      This is as far as I take the value study - just enough to indicate all the basic relationships, and more importantly to break up the canvas into texture and shapes so I feel like I'm looking into a space vs. staring at a flat surface. It's always remarkable to me how much you can read from the image even at this crude stage.

    Notice how I'm flip-flopping the value relationship between the underside of the mushroom and the foliage behind it. In step two the underside of mushroom is darker than the foliage... in step three this is reversed, and later in step five it goes back again! As with all picture-making issues, this is not about imitating nature, nor trying to gauge what the scene might look like in real life, but about consciously setting up the relationships that are going to make your picture read the way you want.

     Completed underpainting 

      This stage shows the value study from step three with the sketch overlaid and colorized slightly. To do this I make a new layer that is completely filled with my colorization color (in this case a dark green), add a layer mask to this layer, then invert the sketch (so the lines are white and the "paper" is black), then copy it into the layer mask.

    I then tweak the main color using Hue/Saturation, and I also play with the opacity of the layer and the levels of the mask (to apparently sharpen or dull the line work).


      Now I begin to place some local colors into the framework created by my underpainting. I'm still working zoomed out at 25% or 30% (as big as I can and still fit the entire image on my monitor). Because the underpainting is so green, you'll see that my local colors are all "greenish." Even the reds are... greenish.

    This is not the result of transparency or any other inherent factor, but because I am consciously trying to fit my local colors into a green environment. As I gradually begin to represent more of the full spectrum in the picture, I will widen out the color range bit by bit and approach the final color scheme.

    Refining local colors 
    Here I've begun to pull out a lot of the green, while still keeping enough to tie the picture together. At this stage you get a pretty good idea what the final picture, including color scheme, will look like.

    For this picture I wanted to create kind of a confusing panoply of colors, shapes and patterns, and also (as usual) to include unrelated objects that have similar forms and patterns (such as the caterpillar vs. the large leaf, the hookah bowl and tray vs. the flowers, etc.).
    Modeling the forms Modeling the forms
    For this entire image I used a single custom bristle brush, with a fair amount of bleed, varying only the size. Also uncharacteristically for me, brush size was not tied to stylus pressure, so each mark is of a uniform width. At 50% zoom I work over all the forms in the picture at this stage. 
    Developing Details Developing details
    I continue to work the whole picture, advancing the level of detail pretty evenly across the board. However, as usual I do save the important details (such as Alice's face) for later in the picture, so I have things in the picture to relate it to. I'm now working at 50% zoom, which is as far in as I go for a picture like this.

    modified the carpet in step 6 to introduce still more color and pattern into the picture. Here I bring it up to the same level of detail as everything else.
    Compositional Adjustments 
    Now in the home stretch I make last minute changes to Alice's costume, and also replace some of the larger flowers with daffodils because their forms more closely resemble the hookah bowl and tray. I also took a reference photo of my daughter to help me with the figure.

    Final Details 

    Here I bring the newly introduced daffodils up to snuff, and give the focal points some special attention as well.

    Final Adjustments 

    I finish up Alice's face and hair, leaving it pretty loose and rough. One final change to the position of the caterpillar's eyes and, voila!!

    About me 
    Chris Beatrice

    Though my formal art education was in sculpture (metals), most of my professional artwork has been 2D and 3D character design, illustration and animation for computer games.

    Initially I fell in love with using 3d software for creating artwork, but now I am much more interested in the stylized and hand crafted look of 2D painting and drawing. For software I use Corel Painter IX and Photoshop. I live in Natick Massachusetts with my beautiful wife and our beloved little daughter.

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