How would you approach painting a battle featuring modern-day soldiers? Cindy Soumeru, Netherlands
Depicting a modern war shootout is, like with many sci-fi or fantasy battle pieces, a mix of chaos and storytelling. As a general rule (and, to be honest, most art ‘rules’ are nothing more than that), you’ll want to establish who the fighters are, what they’re doing, and what point in the story would be the most interesting to depict on the canvas.
Because this is a more realistic battle scene set in modern times, you’ll want to research images of war. The soldiers’ gear, weapons and vehicles being used are a big help, as well as pictures of real-life battlefields. Fair warning, though: there are a lot of pretty gruesome photos to be found. War is an ugly thing, and if you’re going to paint it you might want to be familiar with at least some of the superficial horrors of it. That doesn’t mean you need to add bodies that have been torn in half, for example, but the environment can suggest a similar level of violence.
Keep a few key focal points in mind while working up your composition. This will ensure that the hectic environment doesn’t overtake the story.