Help me paint muddy footprints
First we have to understand what’s happening when we step into mud. It’s basically soft, wet soil that forms after rain, melting snow, flood waters and so on. When we step into mud, we’re compressing the soil layers together and squeeze out the water from between them. It’s this water that fills up the footprints.
The most important art elements for making this believable in an illustration is to shade the edges of the footprints correctly and to show the difference in the reflectiveness or specularity. The viewer has to believe that the footprints are sunken and filled with muddy water.
I start by creating the line of footprints as simple silhouettes, before distorting them into the perspective I imagine for the scene. After that I loosely paint in the winter forest road with the surrounding trees to establish both my overall colour palette and my composition. Next, I add the shadows and water to the footprints, creating other extra pools of water on the road and painting in the child for scale.
From this point on the whole process is only about introducing more details to my key areas and to fine-tune the edges and reflections. I introduce small details around my focal areas and enhance the transition between the footprints and soil surrounding them.
As a final step I add some fallen trees to show the devastation of the creature, along with a layer of extra fog to help sell the feeling that the viewer is exploring a forest on a winter’s morning, on the trail of a leviathan.
The key for painting footprints in mud is to show the difference between the material qualities. Focus on the roughness and reflection and the edges, where the mud and the water-filled footprints meet. I blocked in the footprints as simple silhouettes on the loosely painted background. This helped me to see them in the composition and I used these as layer masks in the painting process later.
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