• CGSociety :: Tutorial
    10 August 2010, by Szymon Biernacki

    This was the second time for me to participate in the CGSociety Challenge. As soon as I saw the theme of the previous one I immediately knew what I was going to paint. This time it was different. I must admit that at first I didn't fully appreciate the creative potential of the B-Movie theme.

    I wasn't really sure if I would even participate in this edition. But after a while I took some time to browse through the entries that already showed up and I decided to give it a try, as these kinds of challenges are always a great opportunity to create a fine piece of artwork to include in my portfolio.

    For me the most important component of a painting is the story behind it. There are so many images out there that are technically flawless that you really need to have a good idea to make your work memorable. I love images that make me stop for a while and imagine, discover small secondary stories hidden behind the main concept.

    I didn't really have any precise idea of what I wanted to paint when I was starting. I knew that I didn't want to do a movie poster, as this seemed to be the most popular formula among the participants. I was rather looking for a kind of humorous backstage situation. I decided to stick with the concept that I thought was the best at the time- the auditions. The concept was still a bit unclear and the funny situation that I was trying to depict still lacked a punchline, but the deadline was really close so I had to start working seriously on something.

    At this point the only thing I was pretty sure of was the composition. I was aiming to create a composition that would somehow imitate a camera moving from side to side while recording some kind of a backstage documentary. That is why I used a slightly distorted perspective.

    I was planning to place my lightest lights on the left hand side of the painting to draw the first look into this area. At the same time I wanted the right side to be a lot darker to make a nice transition from left to right. I also wanted to create a nice smooth line that would lead the viewers eye while discovering the characters one by one.

    It took me a long time to learn that I need to make all the important decisions about the composition as early as possible. This helps to avoid crucial changes in the next steps which sometimes means getting rid of some highly detailed elements. So do not underestimate the importance of a good sketch. I know it seems obvious, but I remember how many times I struggled with an illustration after going into details in an early stage, with no general plan for the rest of the image.

    This painting is all about characters so I spent a lot of time sketching the costumes and poses to make sure they looked right. At this stage I was planning to build the whole story around those funny hand-made outfits. To enforce the interactions between the characters I decided the faces of the monsters would mimic the expressions of the actors inside the costumes. After doing countless quick sketches I made pretty tight line drawings of all of them and kept them on separate layers.

    I even started thinking about some basic colors, but I must admit that I wasn't convinced that the concept was strong enough to be worth finishing and I was considering quitting the challenge. Fortunately I got some great feedback from a friend of mine who suggested that I could put a real monster instead of one of the actors. This was the turning point for the painting. I rearranged the character's positions and placed the monster among them making him look totally bored and indifferent to contrast with the intense emotions of the others.

    Sketching the composition and characters took more than half of the time of the whole illustration. For me, this was the most important and difficult part of the whole process. I really wanted each character to tell their own little story, so I took my time while I was figuring out their actions.

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    At the beginning I decided to use a basic complimentary color scheme with some reds and oranges for the background and greens for the monsters to make them stand out a bit more. I played around with various textures for the wall behind the characters to test different possibilities. I wanted to paint the wall texture myself at the very end so I kept a photo of a brick wall just to have a reference while rendering the characters. At some late point I decided to change the bricks for a blue-ish plaster texture that I found on in order to simplify the background and enrich the palette.

    I consider CGSociety challenges to be a great opportunity to experiment. Since I've been very much impressed at this time by Michael Kutsche's work for Alice in Wonderland I decided to go for a more realistic style of rendering then I usually do. I was trying to achieve a look similar to a still taken from a 3D animated movie.

    In Corel Painter you can use various paper textures to suggest different materials. To generate a specific look you can create your own paper textures based on photos. When I've decided what materials the costumes should be made of, I spent some time browsing the web looking for reference and textures such as reptile skin, cloth and rubber.

    To create a custom paper texture you need to open a photo texture in Painter, select the area that you want to turn into a texture and click 'Capture Paper' in the Papers palette window. Then you name the new texture and it appears in the texture library.

    A good cloth texture is created by using two different cloth paper textures and switching between them while painting, constantly changing the size and contrast of the texture in the Papers palette window. This prevented me from getting a flat texture that would look unnatural. To get a realistic look it's also crucial not to get carried away with values. Cloth doesn't have very bright highlights or extreme contrasts, at least in some typical light conditions. This is when the photo references and observation come in handy. I used the same technique to paint the rest of the textures in this image.
    Not all brushes in Painter interact with paper. I paint with one brush called Tapered Conte for about 95% of the time. It works nicely with paper textures and if I don't want any texture to be visible I just switch to the Basic Paper and the brush leaves nice smooth strokes. I love the way it interacts with canvas when I set 'Resat' for around 10% and the 'Pick Up Underlying Color' option is switched on in the Layers widow.

    It allows me to do soft and hard edges without having to change the brush. For the rest of the time I use the F-X Glow, Soft Airbrush, Grainy Water and Erasers. This is my basic brush palette, but I occasionally use some other 'special' brushes, usually when I'm doing some speedpaintings. Painter has an incredible brush library and it's worth taking some time and going through all of them once in a while.

    When I finished rendering the characters the deadline was really close. Even though I never do this in my personal work, I decided to leave the photo texture on the wall, since I was afraid that I won't make it on time. I've done some quick over-painting on the texture to make it look just a little bit less like a pure photo. I've set the layers blending mode to Soft Light so that the shadows and value shifts painted on a layer beneath the texture layer became visible.
    It's a good method of creating realistic shadows and it saved me a huge amount of time. The background on the left of the image still needed some attention, but I took advantage of the stage light conditions to make it look as simple as possible, just enough to tell the story. I just made sure that it was light enough to contrast nicely with the head of the character in the foreground, where I wanted the viewers eyes to rest in the first place. I also added some wires in the foreground to frame the composition and the painting was ready!

    I was born in 1985 in Warsaw, Poland. I loved to draw since I was little, so my mother always knew how to keep me busy. I remember that she always carried a pen and a piece of paper for me whenever we were going somewhere together? Now I study architecture, but I can't say that I'm really interested in becoming an architect.

    This is the second time that I've taken part in the CGSociety challenge and I must admit that this is a great way to improve ones skills. This time I tried to achieve a bit more of a realistic look in the elements on the painting and I've learned a lot. I would really like to thank all the people who helped me develop my idea and make the most out of it!

    I found out about digital painting five or six years ago and I was hooked ever since I tried out a tablet for the first time. For the last two years I've been working as a freelance concept artist (mostly for the advertising industry) and illustrator. My dream is to work for the biggest animation studios, since I am a huge fan of animated movies. You can check out my sketch blog, if you would like to see more of my works:

    B-Movie CGChallenge XXV
    B-Movie CGChallenge winners article
    Szymon Biernacki
    Corel Painter

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