Paint­ing against a dark back­ground

Kev Cross­ley breaks out the easel, brushes, pen­cils and paints, and tack­les a clas­sic pulp fan­tasy com­po­si­tion with a twist

ImagineFX - - Creative space -

For this paint­ing I wanted to pay homage to the clas­sic fan­tasy com­po­si­tions I loved as a kid. The im­age of a lone hero bat­tling atop a mound of fallen foes is per­haps the prin­ci­pal cliché of fan­tasy art. But the dra­matic po­ten­tial is huge and be­sides, it’s great fun to draw!

I was also in­spired by the PreRaphaelites, in par­tic­u­lar John Wil­liam Water­house and the in­fa­mous Baroque pain­ter Car­avag­gio. They utilised dark back­ground colours to con­trast against the pale skin tones of their sub­jects with strik­ing ef­fect.

While still at school, I taught my­self how to paint us­ing wa­ter­colours and coloured inks. I never re­ceived any for­mal in­struc­tion, so I had to work out the rhythm and flow of the medium by trial and (much!) er­ror. The loose­ness and ver­sa­til­ity of the paint when ap­plied in wet washes was end­lessly re­ward­ing. Com­plex colour planes could be built up by lay­er­ing con­sec­u­tive translu­cent washes, and I en­joyed how the wet paint some­times dried to leave ab­stract marks and pat­terns. How­ever, be­cause of the trans­par­ent na­ture of wa­ter­colour it isn’t prac­ti­cal to paint light over dark, and this be­came a lim­it­ing fac­tor when I sought to em­u­late the oil paint­ings of the old artists who in­spired me so much. I be­gan to use the paint thick, straight from the tube with lit­tle wa­ter, but wa­ter­colours sim­ply aren’t in­tended to be used in this way: the colours be­come life­less and flat.

It was dur­ing this time that fully painted art be­gan to ap­pear in sci-fi/ fan­tasy comic 2000 AD. I dis­cov­ered acrylics were the medium most fre­quently used, so I bought my first set and be­gan the long process of teach­ing my­self to use them. I found I was able to get closer to that clas­sic fan­tasy art feel, but I haven’t put away the wa­ter­colours for good.

A com­mon prac­tice among oil painters in­volved pro­duc­ing a wa­ter­colour sketch of a paint­ing be­fore start­ing work on the fi­nal oil ver­sion. The artist would ex­per­i­ment with the colour pal­ette and tone bal­ance, sav­ing time later on.

Af­ter 15 years de­sign­ing video games, Kev turned free­lance, il­lus­trat­ing mon­sters and war­riors for gam­ing books, work­ing for 2000 AD and var­i­ous US pub­lish­ers. He also pro­vided writ­ing and art for books, and in 2012 il­lus­trated Ian Liv­ing­stone’s 30th an­niver­sary Fight­ing Fan­tasy ti­tle, Blood Of The Zom­bies. www.kevcross­ley.com

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