• Path to the Gothic Choir
    With my piece 'Path To The Gothic Choir...', I wanted to create a picture inspired by one of my favorite 19th century painters, Caspard David Friedrich. I love his works on Eldena Abbey’s Ruins. He did a series of paintings on this subject and I love the haunting feeling conveyed.The original painting depicts a wintery scene, from a more distant point of view. I wanted to try something different and be closer to the monks and the ruins, feel more immersion and dive into this haunted setting.

    I have done a lot of 3D during the last ten years but am now more attracted by 2D, as I have more control of my light, subtle details and the composition.
    I also love to work on a ‘mood’; not only the visual aspect of a picture but on what can grow from it and what it can create as a feeling. I like how Caspard D. says, ”The Artist should not only paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him.”
    Cloister Graveyard in the Snow
    spacerCloister Graveyard in the Snow
    Firstly, it is always extremely important for me to figure out what will make up the composition! You can have great tones, great light and incredible textures, but if you don't have a good composition, your picture will stay weak. I always prefer to draw on paper before going onto CG. I put the main lines on the paper, search for some different angles and tweak the composition until I am satisfied. I also use documentation; you can still draw a tree without reference but it is better to look at pictures or walk outside and find an interesting way to stylize and make dynamic lines. Regarding architecture, there are a lot of references from the middle age, in Europe still intact. I took a lot of photographs when I was living there and I use this as inspiration and base textures to paint over.

    Inspiration is something, but you cannot get properly inspired if you don’t see many pictures or if you don’t travel. I feel that you must work and see a lot, in order to become inspired.I chose to create a corridor to frame my composition and to have a point of view between a rock and an old wall so that the ruins are interesting, They let you break the lines as you want and there is never a straight line, too clean or perfect. I also chose to have a slope in the path so it wouldn't have a flat ground! This would have been really boring so I distorted it to get rid of the horizontal lines. I then started to compose in 3D to get a nice ‘model’. I used this only for the perspective but I then sent all the 3D to the garbage after having started on my layers in Photoshop.
  • Path to the Gothic Choir continued ...
    DetailsOnce the composition was set, I then worked on the palette and the mood. I wanted to have cool tones, like a cold and frigid morning. The mist created a nice depth and helped to read the silhouettes and the different layers of the composition. It was interesting to choose two or three different main colors, instead of being too monochromatic or too fuzzy. This helped to focus the overall painting and have a more accurate mood. I then chose a dark cyan for the shadow part and a kind of de-saturated red/orange for the light of the sunrise. The main part of the picture was almost monochromatic but the saturation of the sky gave a nice variation to the palette.

    Before going too far with the details, it was important to have a nice depth and a light direction. I wanted the light to come from a two o’clock direction (in relation to the camera), to create nice silhouettes and depth. It is never good to have the light coming from behind you because it flattens everything; it is like taking a photo with a flash.

    The use of mist and clouds was also very important to help read details like the branches of the trees, as it is acting like a subtle backlight. The contrast was more accurate where I needed to enhance silhouettes.

    As I used a rough 3D geometry, I added all the subtlety of the silhouette in Photoshop. This was all done with standard brushes and I broke all the lines and created all the highlights. The thing with brush stokes is that you can make your painting look too rigid. It is helpful when you paint your highlights to keep your brush stokes a bit rough, to get a more dynamic feeling. This will also help to get more realistic results.
    The final touch was a color correction and equilibration of the highlights and shadows. Usually I try the Variation tools in Photoshop as I think they work very well. I copied and pasted a part of the picture, color corrected it and tweak it as a second layer. It helped to get more variation in my tones. I used that for an example in the shadow area but not in the entire picture. It was also interesting to go with the dodge tool and push up some highlights, to get a more realistic lighting feel (local over-exposures and high contrasts). I had an empty set and found that there was a lack of scale reference. Then I found that the image needed some other characters. I placed in the monks and it worked fine. I also added the incense so it was more integrated in the mood and mixed nicely with the sunrise mist. I certainly hope you can almost smell the incense and feel cold in this haunted ruin.

    So here is the final work. I hope you like it and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or visit my website.
    Final Image
    Raphael Lacoste
    About the artist
    Raphael Lacoste has lived in Montreal with his wife and son since 2002. He was born in 1974 in Paris, but has lived mostly around Bordeaux, in the south west of France until he left for Canada (where he now misses wine). In 1993 he studied at the Fine Arts school, Art and Media option, Photography and Video, at the same time. He was photographer and composer for a theatre company "les Pygmalions". In 1997 the company gave him the opportunity to work on "The Little Prince" of St Exupéry. While there he created his first 3D pictures that were projected onto giant screens with Pani 6KW projectors. Raphael was also the screening coordinator. He then went to CNBDI school (Angouleme, France) and got a European Master of Art in 3D animation. His movie "Nîumb" was screened at Siggraph 2000, Imagina 2000 and Anima mundi 2001. He had teachers like René Laloux, director of "Time Masters", "Gandahar" and "Fantastic Planet".
    Related Links
    View CGPortfolio
    Personal Website
    Contact: raphia@netcourrier.com

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