Draw and paint Mar­ley’s ghost

Ed Bink­ley works ef­fi­ciently to build up his com­po­si­tion, and shows how he’s able to con­jure up the magic of recog­nis­able Vic­to­rian-era hor­ror

ImagineFX - - Studio Profile - Ed Bink­ley Coun­try: US

Ed Bink­ley con­jures up the magic of recog­nis­able Vic­to­rian-era hor­ror.

Hor­ror is a broad genre of con­tem­po­rary il­lus­tra­tion, but Vic­to­rian hor­ror has a par­tic­u­lar ap­peal to me. I’m fas­ci­nated by the psy­cho­log­i­cal hor­ror the great Vic­to­rian writ­ers cre­ated. Charles Dick­ens, Mary Shel­ley, Bram Stoker, Henry James and their ilk cre­ated sto­ries that en­able us to bring our own ex­pe­ri­ences to their work. The re­sult is greater than the sto­ry­teller could have ac­com­plished by dic­tat­ing ev­ery nuance. Sec­ond, early pho­tog­ra­phy of the 19th century cre­ates a def­i­nite sense of time and place. The sepia tone com­bines with the in­her­ent author­ity of pho­tog­ra­phy to say, “Yes, of course this is how things were” – and it was bleak. Vic­to­rian people ob­vi­ously lived in full colour. But our nearly uni­ver­sal im­pres­sion of the cul­ture is one of shad­owy, gas-lit black-brown.

Fi­nally, Vic­to­ri­ans loved ghosts. This was the era when phan­toms be­came char­ac­ters for en­ter­tain­ment as well as ed­i­fi­ca­tion. I chose a piv­otal mo­ment for Mar­ley: when he has lost his pa­tience with Scrooge’s dis­be­lief, and his wail is hor­ri­fy­ing enough to bring the cur­mud­geon to his knees.

Scrooge’s scep­ti­cism is sym­bolic of the Vic­to­rian em­brace­ment of the New Sci­ence (hor­ri­fy­ingly cri­tiqued by Shel­ley’s Franken­stein 20 years ear­lier), in which old su­per­sti­tions weren’t tol­er­ated. Mar­ley knows bet­ter and has to break through for the sake of his own soul.

1 Start­ing in greyscale

I’ll be draw­ing the im­age in greyscale and ap­ply­ing the tone later. It’s es­sen­tially a work­shop in dig­i­tal draw­ing, and I demon­strate tech­niques that are stan­dard in Pho­to­shop along with my own pro­cesses. I also em­pha­sise ef­fi­ciency, since pro­fes­sional work must hit a dead­line with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the im­pact of the fi­nal im­age.

2 Com­po­si­tional thoughts

I al­ways be­gin with fast sketches to try and find the com­po­si­tion. This en­ables quick ex­per­i­ments and also takes ad­van­tage of happy ac­ci­dents. All I know is that I want Mar­ley cen­tred with a fram­ing de­vice around his head (prob­a­bly a door), and an up­ward per­spec­tive that places the viewer slightly be­low him, as if they’re kneel­ing.

3 Look­ing for per­son­al­ity

Once I find a com­po­si­tion that works, I scale the thumb­nail up to full res­o­lu­tion and di­men­sions, and start look­ing for Mar­ley’s per­son­al­ity by paint­ing white or lighter val­ues on to the black sil­hou­ette. This tech­nique also tends to cre­ate tex­ture as I go, so I rarely re­move some­thing com­pletely or start from scratch.

4 Edi­tor sketches

I add el­e­ments to give the edi­tor a clear no­tion of where I’m go­ing with the im­age. Some clients want mul­ti­ples to choose from, and in those cases I cre­ate vari­a­tions that have sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences rather than sub­tleties. The il­lus­tra­tion has to ad­dress the edi­tor’s needs, but I try to avoid sub­mit­ting any­thing I’m not en­thu­si­as­tic about – some­times that’s the one that gets cho­sen.

5 Ini­tial tex­tures

I paint the ini­tial wood tex­ture and add the foun­da­tion plas­ter on the wall. I do mul­ti­ple passes on each sil­hou­ette, mov­ing to­wards lighter val­ues and smaller brushes. The first pass on tex­tures such as woodgrain is done with par­al­lel lines on a straight grid. The sec­ond pass is done free­hand to cre­ate a more nat­u­ral look. A third pass tight­ens de­tails for more re­al­ism.

6 Paint­ing a fi­nal pass

Here I’m us­ing a light grey or white and a small brush. I try to bring ref­er­ence im­ages into the im­age for a cou­ple of rea­sons: I don’t have to look very far from my draw­ing to see the ref­er­ence; and I do a lot of hor­i­zon­tal flips to check anatomy when I work, and now the ref­er­ence flips with my draw­ing. You can also see the tex­ture that’s cre­ated by the mul­ti­ple-pass ap­proach.

7 De­pict­ing real­is­tic hair

I re­place the sketched hair with more real­is­tic hair. I shape the hair us­ing white, then lock the Layer Trans­parency and fill with black to cre­ate a hair sil­hou­ette. Then I switch the brush to white and paint white hair on top. This adds depth and re­al­ism by us­ing the sil­hou­ette as shadow within the white hair, and main­tains the shape as I work on depth and high­lights.

8 Re­al­is­ing the chains

The re­place­ment chains are cre­ated from only three drawn links: a full-view link, a side-view link and a three-quar­ter-view link. I then com­bine them into a ran­dom-look­ing ba­sic unit of about eight links merged to­gether, and du­pli­cate that unit to make the longer strands. Then I du­pli­cate the longer strands to cre­ate the en­tire mass, and add a quick over­all tex­ture.

9 In­tro­duc­ing more de­tail

For lighter-value cloth such as linen or cot­ton, I let the early rough sketch sug­gest folds and pleats, re­fin­ing what’s al­ready there. I’ve found this to be a more ef­fi­cient ap­proach than try­ing to du­pli­cate de­tails from a ref­er­ence im­age. I just scrib­ble, then see what I see, us­ing ref­er­ence only as a gen­eral guide while I add grad­u­ally lighter and more de­tailed passes.

10 Get­ting ready for print

To help me judge how much de­tail to push to­ward, I’ve drawn one-inch tick marks with a metal­lic pen on the outer frame of my main mon­i­tor. Then I can show the rulers in Pho­to­shop and match my Zoom level to the ac­tual-size ruler on the frame. This en­ables me to judge my level of de­tail for print re­pro­duc­tion with­out hav­ing to pro­duce mul­ti­ple print­outs.

11 Adding fab­ric to the coat sil­hou­ette

I copy a sec­tion of fab­ric, then load the Coat layer as a Se­lec­tion. The Edit>Paste Spe­cial>Paste Into func­tion cre­ates a mask in the shape of the coat. I can then Trans­form, Du­pli­cate and ad­just the fab­ric within the shape, and paint on the mask to make the fab­ric con­form to Mar­ley’s torso. I work on his torso and sleeves separately to en­sure the seam at the shoul­ders stays strong.

12 With added spook­i­ness

Af­ter cre­at­ing the can­dles and sconces, I use my “Layer and lev­els” tech­nique (see Pro Se­crets, right) to cre­ate the spooky light­ing. This is a great tech­nique for an­tique-look­ing light ef­fects, whether from can­dles, a fire or gaslight. And it’s very fast be­cause the ob­ject’s de­tails and tex­tures are al­ready drawn and I don’t risk de­stroy­ing any­thing.

13 Fin­ish­ing off

I save a flat­tened ver­sion, con­vert it to RGB and add a sepia-colour Color layer. Wher­ever the draw­ing val­ues match the value of the brown from the draw­ing, the brown’s sat­u­ra­tion will be strong­est. Then I ad­just the sepia layer’s Opac­ity to re­duce the sat­u­ra­tion. Fi­nally, I du­pli­cate the draw­ing layer, and Layer and Level it to en­hance the can­dle­light ef­fect.

Ed is an art ed­u­ca­tor and free­lance il­lus­tra­tor. His cred­its in­clude Lu­cas­film and a va­ri­ety of books and mag­a­zines, plus a Gold Award in Spec­trum: The Best in Con­tem­po­rary Fan­tas­tic Art.


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