Step-by-step: Composition tips for suggesting action
1 I start with a compositional sketch. I block in my main elements, putting the gate in the centre. I not only want to create more contrast around my focal area, but frame the gate and the creature behind with the towers and the arch. I also establish my overall colour palette by using a yellowbrown classical underpainting to make my desaturated purplish- blue sky more vivid. 2 The slightly tilted composition enables me to place more soldiers in the foreground, sell the scale of the image and add perspective. I also push my colours further and introduce more values and tones. Starting your image close to the mid- range in values is always helpful to balance out your image, before starting to develop more realistic lighting situations. 3 Now I fix the edges. I like to keep as many soft edges as possible on an image and focus the harder edges around my focal areas, to help sell the story. In addition to the harder edges, I also add more contrast to my mid- and foreground, and start to paint damage on the gate. The soft edges left in can also suggest movement and leave more to the imagination of the viewer. 4 In the finishing stages, although I want to make the composition really tight, I feel it needs a bit more air. So I push back the mid- ground. From this point I focus all detailing to the centre of the image, to show the strength of how the monster hits the gate. Because we can’t see the actual hit, I paint in flying debris, flying shards of the gate, dust and so forth.