Eric Deschamps

Eric Deschamps il­lus­trates an epic scene from his story Spirit Sea­son, search­ing for the essence of ad­ven­ture as he de­signs the com­po­si­tion

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Front Page - Eric Deschamps

My aim with this work­shop is to work to­wards con­vey­ing one of the driv­ing forces of the Spirit Sea­son sto­ry­line: ad­ven­ture. Specif­i­cally, I want to re­late the girl’s feel­ing of awe as she trav­els swiftly over a vast land­scape.

Be­fore you start, make sure you have a pur­pose to your piece of art. I de­cided early on be­fore any pen­cil touched pa­per that I wanted to show­case ac­tion and ad­ven­ture. The ac­tion didn’t need to be as in­tense as a full-blown fight scene, but it did need to pro­vide plenty of mo­tion to the com­po­si­tion. Aside from the ac­tion what else adds a sense of ad­ven­ture to a story? How about an ob­ject or el­e­ment that’s out of the or­di­nary, which can hint at a story or past history. I will shoot for that as I move for­ward.

It’s also smart to set one per­sonal side goal for each piece you do. For this piece of art my goal is to cap­ture a spe­cific eth­nic­ity for the main char­ac­ter, Aure­lia.

One ad­van­tage of work­ing dig­i­tally is also some­thing that can hold an artist back. This is the abil­ity to make changes at any point. A dig­i­tal artist can al­ways hit Undo and can end­lessly work on top of an im­age. The same can’t be said for tra­di­tional me­dia. The draw­back is that it can lead to too much trial and er­ror, drain­ing the life and spon­tane­ity out of the art. I fought with this a lot in the past and it still creeps in at times. Plan ahead with plenty of thumb­nails and sketches!

1 Sketch­ing the ac­tion

I want Aure­lia hitch­ing a ride on the back of a crea­ture with her pal Rohu cling­ing on tight. Once my rough sketch of the ad­ven­tur­ous trio is com­plete, I scan in the page. I then look for any ad­just­ments that can be made in Pho­to­shop to im­prove the draw­ing. For ex­am­ple, I stretch out the crea­ture’s legs to in­crease the sense of mo­tion and ac­tion.

2 Vi­su­al­is­ing the en­vi­ron­ment

I’m not sure what the back­ground en­vi­ron­ment will be, so I ex­per­i­ment a bit more in Pho­to­shop be­fore I move back to my sketch­book. I ditch the idea of the trio emerg­ing from an el­lip­ti­cal void. The edge of the can­vas will crop the crea­ture rather than a void. Even though it’ll be cropped, I draw the crea­ture in its en­tirety so that I get it right.

3 Hint­ing at a larger story

The girl and her friends pro­vide the ac­tion for the piece, but I want some mystery to hint at an un­der­ly­ing story. The land­scape will serve that pur­pose. The rolling hills are carved up as if some enor­mous en­tity has sawed through them. I bring the clos­est hill even closer to the fore­ground. It now an­gles down the com­po­si­tion, adding to the an­gu­lar mo­tion of the big crea­ture.

4 Draw­ing Through

The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween Aure­lia and the cling­ing Rohu is tough to draw. I won’t be able to pose a pri­mate for ref­er­ence, so I im­pro­vise and find plenty of in­ter­net ref­er­ence. I draw over the top of my pen­cils – blue for Rohu and red for Aure­lia – making sure I draw her arms and legs through the big crea­ture. I want Rohu to look scared, while Aure­lia hasn’t a care in the world.

5 Time for more ref­er­ence

I no­tice the per­spec­tive on Aure­lia. We should be look­ing up at her from be­low, in­stead of at eye level. Lifting her head to see more of the un­der­side of her chin and nose is an im­prove­ment. It may help with the friend’s arm across her neck, which is also both­er­ing me. We should also see the un­der­side of her dress. So I go out­side to shoot a few quick ref­er­ences.

6 Re­fin­ing the face

The big­gest chal­lenge will be Aure­lia’s face. I want her to have fa­cial fea­tures and skin tones most of­ten seen in Cen­tral Amer­ica. I don’t have th­ese fea­tures and am also not a 14-yearold girl! Up on my sec­ond mon­i­tor I have a slew of por­traits of peo­ple from Nicaragua and Hon­duras. I study nose, lip and cheek bone shapes, as well as skin tones and even hair­lines.

7 Ex­plor­ing the colour op­tions

With Aure­lia and Rohu less of a mystery for me, it’s time to try out some colour schemes. I first set­tle on a pur­ple and blue scheme. This will only work if the scene takes place at night, which won’t show off the land­scape. I also want the viewer to see the planet in the sky, the way we would see the moon in the day­time, only much big­ger.

8 Re­fin­ing the colour

I start adding in blues and carv­ing out clouds. I’m not in­ter­ested in a typ­i­cal blue sky and green hills sce­nario, though. An au­tumn fo­liage scene would give me more op­tions. I use yel­low fo­liage in­ter­spersed with ev­er­green and patches of red fo­liage. I tend to use sat­u­rated colours so I spend time try­ing to limit the num­ber of colours in the im­age for coun­ter­bal­ance.

9 As­tro­nom­i­cal re­search

The story’s set on a hab­it­able moon with its par­ent planet large in the sky. I re­search how The Earth looks from The Moon and how The Moon looks from The Earth in the day­time. The dark­est ar­eas of the planet dis­ap­pear, blend­ing with the blue sky. It’s dif­fi­cult to re­sist adding lots of de­tail and heav­ier darks to the low-con­trast planet. The sub­tle rim glow brings it to life for me.

10 Clouds should help the com­po­si­tion

The clouds aren’t work­ing with the com­po­si­tion. I don’t like how they make a nest for the planet. I use the Trans­form tool to warp them into a more an­gu­lar shape, adding to the over­all sense of mo­tion in the piece. Now the clouds cut into the planet rather than rest­ing un­derneath. The right edge of the planet fades into the sky, which helps it feel less solid.

11 Sub­tle de­tails help the con­cept

The cuts in the hill­side re­veal the bedrock. I de­scribe the tex­ture of the bedrock ver­ti­cally. It’s more in­ter­est­ing to show lay­ers of sed­i­ments in­stead. The lines of sed­i­ment don’t need to be ex­actly hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal ei­ther. An­gling the tex­ture of the bedrock not only adds vis­ual in­ter­est, it also gives the viewer a peak into the history of an ac­tive land­scape.

12 At­mo­spheric per­spec­tive

The fore­ground hill is the dark­est with the most con­trast. Each suc­ces­sive hill go­ing fur­ther into the dis­tance is lighter in value with less con­trast. At­mo­spheric per­spec­tive gives the viewer a sense of depth. Us­ing repet­i­tive shapes like the hills here is a de­vice that works well to en­force a sense of space. The widen­ing slices in the hills also help re­in­force this feel­ing.

13 An over­worked face!

Aure­lia’s face both­ers me. The per­cep­tive still doesn’t feel cor­rect. We should see less of her left cheek with more over­lap from the nose. This face has got­ten over­worked. My time is best spent start­ing over. I should have done so ear­lier on! I take a solid colour and cover her face. I re­alise that I need bet­ter ref­er­ence and so, with that new ref­er­ence in hand, I start anew.

14 Making the fi­nal pass

With the face prob­lem solved, I move on to putting the fin­ish­ing touches to the art­work. At this stage I of­ten save the im­age to Drop­box so that I can look at it on my iPad or phone. It’s help­ful for me to see the art­work on a smaller for­mat and a dif­fer­ent res­o­lu­tion screen. I also make sure I take a break, in or­der to come back to it with fresh eyes.

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