Paint in the style of an olD Master
andrew theophilopoulos philopoulos channels John Singer Sargent’s distinctive portrait work and paints Cersei and the dead king from Game of Thrones
for this workshop I’ll be attempting to simulate a painting by John Singer Sargent in Photoshop, using nothing more than the Round brush and a few handy tools.
I’ve studied Sargent since college and continue to be surprised by his feats as a master painter. While teachings from him are few and far between, the best way to learn from a dead artist is to see the work in person. It takes one good trip to a museum to understand the massive scale of Sargent’s career. When we look at an image through the internet we wonder, how have the painters created such tight and realistic works of art? The answer usually lies in the size of the original painting and in Sargent’s case, these portraits were massive! When viewing an original Sargent up close you’ll notice the gesture, the energy and oily gloop required to fill a life-sized portrait. As a large-scale oil painter myself, I prep my Photoshop files to be as large as a fine art canvas. This way I can print the work to be close to life-sized. It also helps to keep me in the mindset of the Old Masters.
I, like they, want my work to be grandiose. My only wish for this painting is that Lady Cersei and King Joffrey were to have sat for their portrait. The model is the life and soul of Sargent’s paintings: you can almost feel them breathe. Let’s see what we can do with a photo shoot, and some of our imagination.
Develop a colour sketch
Using a scan of my thumbnail, I edit the colour and value of the abstract background to fit my concept using blending modes. To push back the darks I use a Multiply layer mode and paint around the figures. To give the character’s shape some clothing or fleshy colour, use Overlay, Color or Hue layer modes. I then clean everything up on a new opaque layer to create this sketchy style.
Achieve the perfect reference photo
The sketch helps a model find their pose in the photo shoot. Grab a friend or neighbour, find the right time of day and bring the camera! For Cersei, I had my model sway back and forth, fidget and turn from side to side in the faint light of dawn. Joffrey’s photos were taken around 2pm. I like to take 100 or more photos to get everything I need for a perfect reference shot.
Using Adobe Photo’chop
The differences between my cartoon sketch and the photo shoot are immense, but not to worry, Lasso tool is here! Make a selection with the Lasso, then select Copy Merge and Paste in Place. This will create a flattened layer of your selection that can now be scaled and distorted to fit into place. I use an airbrush to erase the cut marks for a clean finish.
Render the image
My sketch is slowly moulding into a more accurate depiction of my subject. I work like a sculptor, pushing and pulling until the shapes and proportions become more coherent. After a break, I get my fresh eyes on the painting and continue to push the drawing, colour, value and of course, my brush quality.
Achieving a colour match
I want to create more harmony within the piece so I’ll need to dance the colours throughout my painting a bit. The red glow within Cersei and the wine glass has no influence through the entirely blue Joffrey. With a Hue layer mode, I’ll brush on some of the oranges and reds within the shadows of our King. Likewise, Queen Cersei will be needing a hint of blue, eh?
Ever draw with the Smudge tool? As long as you’ve set yourself up with some nice colour, you can create long, clean sweeps for a fluid brush effect. Set the tool to 90 per cent Strength and glide like butter!
Apply a pattern
For the royal pattern, I create half of an icon, then mirror a copy of that half to create a symmetrical design. Now that we have a single icon on its own layer, I’ll duplicate that layer so that we have two copies of the same icon. Using Free Transform, I place the copy so it’s the next icon in the pattern. Hit Ctrl+ Shft+Alt+T and Photoshop makes the next step in the pattern. Repeat!
Introduce a texture
My paintings always have a crisp digital feel to them – yuck – so it’s time to go outside and shoot some grunge photos. On a layer mode of your choice, combine the shot of my photo texture and a detailed crop from an oil painting to give this digital artwork 100 years of personality. You can even add a canvas texture if you like.
Make use of Dodge and Burn
It’s easy to cover some ground with the Dodge and Burn tools. Turn off Protect tones and set the exposure to, say, 13 per cent. Use Dodge (highlight) to develop nice warm highlights, and Burn (mid-tones) for your colourful shadows. I’m careful not to overdo this.