Please help me cre­ate a strik­ing land­scape con­cept

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imaginenation Artist Q&a -

Ste­vie Adams, Scot­land

Paul Cana­van replies

A suc­cess­ful en­vi­ron­ment paint­ing re­lies on a few key fac­tors: com­po­si­tion, colour, mood and, most im­por­tant of all, nar­ra­tive. If you can tell a story with your im­age and get the viewer ex­cited, in­trigued or scared, then you’ve done your job.

It’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that en­vi­ron­ments can be as character-led as the char­ac­ters and crea­tures who in­habit them. Don’t be afraid to be bold with your ideas and to have fun with the worlds you cre­ate!

I like to go into a new land­scape paint­ing with a theme, for ex­am­ple a fan­tasy paint­ing set in win­ter with an omi­nous mood. Once I have that con­cept in mind, I can start to ex­plore it in more depth. What are the key fea­tures of this world? Who lives here? Is it a pleas­ant place to be?

Once I start ex­plor­ing th­ese ideas the pic­ture in my head so­lid­i­fies a lit­tle and I can start sketch­ing and gath­er­ing ref­er­ence photographs. It’s al­ways worth do­ing a lit­tle re­search be­fore start­ing a new paint­ing, be­cause it’ll help you solve a lot of prob­lems early on. Save out a few pho­tos in a sep­a­rate win­dow and pull them up when you need to re­fer to them.

March 2015 I start by sketch­ing out an idea I had about enor­mous trees in a moody, frozen en­vi­ron­ment. I usu­ally ref­er­ence the Rule of Thirds grid to check how my com­po­si­tion is work­ing. Ide­ally you should align fea­tures of your paint­ing with the lines and in­ter­sec­tions of the grid to cre­ate ten­sion and ex­cite­ment. This sketch will sit above the paint­ing on a sep­a­rate layer. At this stage I can switch my brain off a lit­tle and fo­cus on ren­der­ing out the dif­fer­ent parts of the im­age. There’s no real or­der to this stage; I just move around the can­vas and fo­cus on any ar­eas that could do with some at­ten­tion. I ap­ply a photo tex­ture, set to Over­lay, to the fore­ground and then use the Mixer Brush to bet­ter in­te­grate it into the paint­ing. I pre­fer to block in the over­all colours of the paint­ing early, ide­ally cov­er­ing the en­tire can­vas. The sky is the most im­por­tant el­e­ment at this stage be­cause it de­fines your pal­ette and light source. This is an icy en­vi­ron­ment and so I use a lot of grey- blues and cold tones, but to pro­vide con­trast and visual in­ter­est I in­tro­duce a hint of a yel­low sun pok­ing through the clouds. Fin­ish­ing the paint­ing is a case of adding fi­nal de­tails such as the trees and tweak­ing the light­ing us­ing the Dodge tool (sub­tly, mind!). Once I’m happy with the over­all ef­fect I like to ad­just the Lev­els, Hue/ Sat­u­ra­tion and Color Bal­ance to see if I can squeeze a lit­tle more ex­cite­ment out of the scene. A lit­tle Un­sharp Mask and a cheeky sig­na­ture, and we’re done!

This huge tree im­me­di­ately draws the viewer into the im­age. Fea­tures like this are the key to a dra­matic en­vi­ron­ment.

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