Stream­line your work process

Xavier Collette ex­plains how to make your paint­ing process more ef­fi­cient, as he brings a dark faerie to life in a wood­land set­ting

ImagineFX - - Studio Profile - Xavier Collette Coun­try: France

Xavier Collette ef­fi­ciently brings a dark faerie to life in a wood­land set­ting.

This work­shop is an op­por­tu­nity to take you through my paint­ing process, and give you some tips that will make your work­flow more ef­fi­cient and eas­ier to man­age. As I de­velop this il­lus­tra­tion I’ll talk about tak­ing an in­stinc­tive ap­proach to pro­duc­ing a paint­ing.

I think fol­low­ing art rules can help you de­velop your skills, but some­times they con­spire to re­strict you. Try­ing to meet a range of artis­tic cri­te­ria, such as en­gag­ing char­ac­ter de­signs, com­pelling com­po­si­tions and ef­fec­tive colour schemes, can slow you down. The best way for­ward, I think, is to learn how to do things in­stinc­tively. With prac­tice, it be­comes sec­ond na­ture to see the things that are work­ing in an im­age, and iden­tify those el­e­ments that still need tweak­ing.

The only thing I do be­fore start­ing to paint this im­age is flick through a lot of il­lus­tra­tions and pho­to­graphs, just to kick-start my sub­con­scious so that it be­gins to gen­er­ate ideas. Af­ter that I launch straight into the paint­ing.

It’s al­ways a real plea­sure to en­ter the world of fan­tasy art, be­cause it’s how I started out in dig­i­tal paint­ing about nine years ago (time’s go­ing too fast...). At around the same time I was work­ing on a per­sonal project about a dark faerie, and I wasn’t happy with the way it turned out. I’m happy to be able to re­visit the topic for this month’s Imag­ineFX!

1 Ini­tial sketches

I don’t know where I’m go­ing with this il­lus­tra­tion. I just know that I want the main char­ac­ter to be a kind of queen – some­one who gives you the feel­ing of fear when you look her in the eyes. So I start with a rough sketch, just to give me a com­po­si­tion. She’s walk­ing in the woods and sees you. Well, let’s draw some­thing that’ll give you a sense of dread!

2 Fifty shades of grey

It’s im­por­tant to con­sider the depth of an im­age and de­fine the planes: the back­ground, with two or three lev­els of depth; the main plane with your char­ac­ter; and the fore­ground. I start in mono – it’s quicker, and eas­ier to mod­ify. I put in large grey val­ues and start defin­ing the char­ac­ter, giv­ing her horns and a full-length dress. At this stage I just want to cap­ture a feel­ing.

3 Start­ing point

We all have lit­tle foibles, and one of mine is that at an early stage I can’t re­sist paint­ing the face of a char­ac­ter. It’s of­ten said that de­tail­ing el­e­ments in isolation isn’t good, be­cause you end up not see­ing the big­ger pic­ture. Use­ful ad­vice, I won’t deny it. But I can’t go on if the face doesn’t have just a bit of de­tail. So I spend a lit­tle time on her face, crown, horns and hair.

4 Colour ad­vice

Some­times it’s dif­fi­cult to de­cide on what colours to add to an il­lus­tra­tion. So here’s a lit­tle tip. Take an old paint­ing or even a pho­to­graph – no mat­ter what the sub­ject. Du­pli­cate the im­age layer, and ap­ply Gaus­sian Blur to the du­pli­cate. Then change the Layer Blend­ing mode to Color, Over­lay or Hue, and see if the re­sults in­spire you for your cur­rent paint­ing.

5 Find­ing the colour theme

Af­ter do­ing this, I ad­just the Hue/Sat­u­ra­tion, and paint with a brush set to Color mode to find what I’m look­ing for. One other tip is to ap­ply Auto Lev­els or Auto Con­trast, and then play around with the layer’s blend­ing modes. Some­times, happy ac­ci­dents will in­spire you to take things fur­ther when you’ve run into a cre­ative brick wall.

Bel­gium­born Xavier is a full-time free­lancer who works on book cov­ers, boardgames, RPGs, chil­dren’s ti­tles and comic books.

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