Use values to build atmosphere
Karla Ortiz reveals her own process, thoughts and general approach to painting, as she creates a dramatic monochrome masterpiece
Karla Ortiz creates a dramatic, monochrome masterpiece for our cover.
Hello dear reader. In this workshop I’ll be talking about my painting methods, but there are many different ways to create a painting. The only constant factors are the foundations that all artists must grasp: anatomy, line, composition, values, colour and so on. Once you master these key areas, it’s up to you to go out and explore what methods make you happy and fulfilled as an artist.
My approach to a painting project changes often. In this article I’ll go over the method that I use to create the majority of my art. I start with the character’s background - here, she’s a skilled assassin who has just finished a job. Then a doodle, a sketch, block in the major areas and render. But on another day I might kick things off with an elaborate drawing, or I might skip the drawing phase altogether, and instead make a painting out of blocked shapes.
Regardless of the method used, one of the most important aspects of painting – aside from having a good understanding of the foundations – is to paint with intent. What does painting with intent mean? It means every single brush stroke is properly thought out. It means every shape you create attempts to be as accurate as it can be, and that every colour or every light placed is in balance with the whole painting.
Okay, now you know how I work – let’s get started on visualising this assassin.
1 Explore your ideas with quick doodles
Once I’ve got the commission to paint a highly skilled assassin, ‘ from a distant time, with a Persian feel’, I begin doodling, and explore compositions. This step is for your eyes only, so don’t stand on ceremony. Keep your doodles loose and quick, because this is one sure-fire way of discouraging you from settling on the first idea you have. Doodle away and develop your ideas.
2 Work up a doodle into a sketch
Once the doodles are done, I usually pick out one or two ideas that really speak to me. I also keep some references close to hand for this stage – including those that I took of a life model wearing an approximation of the outfit I had in mind for my figure – so that I can use them for information and inspiration. I always try to ensure that these sketches are a clear representation of what I think the final painting will look like.
I spend a lot of time on this stage, because I need to establish the main elements of my painting: light, composition, proportion and perspective. It’s important to lock down all these factors early on, because then you’ll be starting the painting with a strong technical foundation, and thus avoid the twin pitfalls of confusion and aimlessness later on.