Since we both were working full-time I started doodling into the sketchbook during lunch breaks. Just marker, pencil and limited values because it forces me to focus on lighting and volume. I believe composition is the most important part of a good illustration and worth to spend an extensive amount of time on.
I felt the need for a warm color pallet, medieval painters like Pieter Breughel would have used this to urge the ancient atmosphere. It turned out to be quite challenging to avoid the cold tones when painting a winter landscape.
|Dividing the canvas into dynamic shapes helps to read the image faster and transport the story.|
Checking the composition: diminish your image into thumbnail size. If it looks good as a thumb it'll be great in full size.
"If it looks good as a thumb, it'll be great in full size "
Usually I start blocking in my colors a bit darker than planned. Then I establish the color and value I use for white objects and the color I use for dark objects, which is NOT black and white. The pure white will only appear in the highlights and the pure black only in the shadow of the darkest object.size.
This trick allows me later to light those areas where I want to draw the attention of the viewer. The same works with color. I try to use neutral tones - neither cold or warm - for the large areas and the vibrant colors only for accents. Controlling the values seems much easier when working from dark to light than the other way round.
Matte painting and detail
I do like strong shapes and expressive brush strokes to keep the dynamic in a painting. Mainly I use the default photoshop brushes: round, square and charcoal. Very often I squash them by using the >'Brush tip shape'-option in the >'Brushes window'.
Too much airbrush and smudging will water down a good sketch. Working as rough as possible in the beginning can lead to textures you couldn't have thought of before. I try to use as few layers as possible and let things happen as if I was painting on a real canvas. Usually I have a fore-, middle- and background layer and keep complex elements on a separate layer too.
|Where ever I can, I try to simplify forms for the good of the whole painting. I don't want to paint each piece of a chain mail which would be not only a routine, laborious task but also destroy the strength of the silhouette and impact of composition.|
Tip: when zooming in to work out the details, open a smaller version of your image in another window ('>Window>Arrange>Open image in a New Window') and check the effects of your brushstrokes on the whole image.