That wasn't easy because it is so different. The workflow is not the same at all."
Illustrating Lewis Caroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' is a real exercise of interpretation because it's so hard to not refer to the thousand artists who had already worked on the theme. So, I had to define some of my personal style. I started to read the original text in English and translated it into French, trying to absorb it into my own world. I wanted to recreate more than one scene. I wanted to depict an image of mixed scenes from the book but with a feeling of space and time distortion.
I wanted to depict this 'space distortion' but I had no idea how to go about it. I just had a picture in my mind of the curved perspective of a fish-eye camera.
I know and enjoy the work of optical illusions from the artist Maurits Cornelis Escher and of the mathematician Roger Penrose. But it was difficult to know where to start with such an idea in mind.
I opened Blender and created a grid with a wired material. I played with the camera and the node system to deform my grid, to see the distortion affected by a virtual lens.
A screenshot of Al.chemy, working full screen, the UI appears if you move your mouse pointer on the top of the application.
Example of a chaos on left; and two fast different interpretation underlined with red over the same chaos on center and right.
A screenshot of Gimp in action; with my background layer (chaos ) and two layers of grid overlaying the chaos.
Of course at the end of this experimentation the result I kept could be simply done with two filters in Gimp, but I was experimenting and wanted a computed view-port with a simulation of a perspective for this grid. I saved it in my general resources folder. I felt it would help.
To follow the Lewis Caroll psychedelic universe, I thought it would be fabulous to use my favorite technique; using the 'pull shape' of Al.Chemy with various passes and the grey value to create a Chaos of shapes.
I really like to use the 'Chaos' as a starting point. It's a real creative philosophy to create the accident and have fun first on an emotional level. I think it is impossible for the cognitive side of the brain to create a new picture from scrtatch.
This part is not creative and always refers to rules and all the existing references on a theme.
Using Chaos and imagination, (like children seeing a dragon when looking at a simple cloud in the sky) I can cheat the mental process. The Rorschach test uses the same process. This can build a better bridge between the conscious and the subconscious.
Working with Chaos is (IMHO) a good way to work on surrealism and dream representation. Al.chemy is an open-source software really well designed for helping me create a rich 'chaos' (with different value of gray, geometric and organic shapes).
Chaos can be interpreted in many ways as I described previously. That's why I will apply on it a first rule; the deformed grid. And because I want multiple distorted perspectivea in only one picture, I cut the grid generated in Blender and place it to overlay my 'Chaos'.
I wanted to place my Alice in the center of my composition. In fact, the choice was evident after I read the book. It's her dream and everything around her are projections from her mind in a spiral composition.
Adding a human element is important in my workflow. Now my Chaos gets two new rules:
- A perspective space information, with the grid.
- A relative scaling, with the human silhouette of Alice.
With those rules, the Chaos starts to inspire other elements, and the process of 'underlining' them with painting is simple, really funny and distracting.
At this step I decided to think about the palette to use.
The technique is classic, done with GIMP layers. I transform a picture in only grey values with the help of blending modes as 'Overlay', 'Color' and 'Multiply'.
For Alice I chose a blue dress, to follow many interpretations of Alice done by the past. Playing with 'clich?s' will help the viewer to instantly recognize what this picture is about.
The best way to create a colorful contrast for Alice was to use complimentary colors, and for her background I added a mix of the palette of Dark Tangerine/Orange/Golden Yellow and Unmellow Yellow all around.
I started to add a 'Candy apple red' to escape the binary complementary color system of Blue/Orange; and to calm the new presence of a red in the composition, I added a dark and faded 'Rifle Green'. I continued this enrichment by adding a dark 'Persian Indigo' balancing with a pale yellow 'Corn' color.
It resulted with a pseudo 'triple complementary harmony', which is a dominant complementary harmony. This color palette is hard to manage because it can easily enhance the feeling of chaos to the picture.
I started my illustration with the center part around Alice, following my inspiration about what evocate for me the various shapes around, with this , the central part of the picture appear. I mainly use Mypaint to paint the element and Gimp to manipulate the picture.
I wanted to define at this stage the level of details for the whole illustration, and estimate more accurately how many time I would use to complete my illustration.
To work details only on a part of the illustration is dangerous for the general composition and doing this with traditional media would be pure suicide I guess; but thanks to GIMP cause with the way to manipulate part of the picture and copy/paste/scale/rotate; I was almost sure to can correct all issue of composition later.
« Mypaint in action on my Linux Mint system, you can notice around the cursor the color changer a practical tool to access on one keyboard shorcut to various declination/shade of your actual selected color. A powerful tool.
When I started to get bored detailing the central part, I jumped into another chaos around in the picture. And so, I painted the rabbit and the cat.
I could enjoy this way working directly on the focals points of the picture, with total freedom.
While continuing to detail this, I zoomed out and with a large brush adding notes with speed painting filling parts of the details.
Above four composition tests
After had almost all my actor more or less finished; I decided I would be good to cork the composition. Gimp has a brilliant Liquid reScale plugin, that allow to rescale a picture deform some parts while protecting other part from deformations.
With this tool, a bit of copy and paste work; cloning tool and eraser; I finally get a more solid composition.
Now the illustration was more and more blocked and far from the chaotic starting process; but I kept fine tuning the element scale/rotation position during all the illustration to be happy with.
When the palette is set up, and all the composition is OK, the only job is to take a fine brush and add interest in each part of the picture. This is a great moment to add other hidden characters in my pictures.
Maybe one of the most evident is the Mad Hatter inside the trunk of the tree; the exploded clock (my only way to represent the time warp into this still picture ); the castle of the Queen of Hearts, till the less evident and subliminal March Hare. The rest of the composition was filled with the torrent of Alice tears; mushrooms; forest; cup of tea, etc.
The only real personal element was to change the Doormouse, for a blind mouse, with dark glasses. A kind of personal paradox as a visual artist to create a blinded creature in an only visual world. I'm not the first to take freedom with this character. In the adaptation of 'Alice' by Tim Burton, the Doormouse 'Mallymkun' was a very active swordswoman.
To finish up, I corrected some colors, light positions and shadow to give a consistency to the picture, and add a bit of texture with an overlay layer.
David Revoy 'Deevad' is a 29 years old Frenchman who has been working as a freelancer in the CG field since 2003 after beginning with traditional painting. Most of those years with CG were dedicated to concept art, illustration and teaching. David is a self-taught artist who uses open-source software on Linux but knows perfectly Photoshop, Painter and Manga Studio. He has worked recently on 'Sintel' as an art-director (the third open-source movie of the Blender foundation) and as a consultant for 2D open-source workflow in the computer graphics industry.
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