Wylie Beckert translates her digital process into traditional media to create a painting that enables the underdrawing to shine through
This June, I was lucky enough to find myself at Illustration Master Class, a week-long art workshop staffed by some of the best artists in the fantasy genre. It was the perfect opportunity to try replicating my digital colouring process with real live paint and brushes.
One IMC assignment jumped out at me: creating an illustration for Nicola Griffith’s Tor.com story Cold Wind. Although I set out to create a painting the old-fashioned way, at almost every stage I found myself tapping into my digital art background. From printed sketches to digital colour comps, I found that the digital tools I’ve been using for years were capable of melding seamlessly with the traditional techniques that I’m only now beginning to try out.
My digital work relies on a highly rendered pencil underdrawing, finished out with transparent layers of colour in Photoshop. To mimic the process in traditional media, I chose to tackle my painting with diluted acrylic ink and thin glazes of oil paint, to capture the same sense of transparency as my digital work and preserve the texture and style of the pencil drawing underneath. What I wasn’t expecting from traditional media was how forgiving it was of much of the pushing and pulling, gradual adjustments and backtracking that are the hallmarks of my digital process. I found that many of my digital techniques had traditional analogues: glazing in a wash of colour, for example, stands in surprisingly well for applying a gradient, and a brush dipped in solvent is a nice stand-in for the Eraser tool for carving out edges and fine highlights.
Creating a piece of art without the benefit of the Undo command was an occasionally nerve-wracking process, but it was eye-opening to trade my laptop for an easel for a few days, and I’m hoping to continue delving into the mysteries of traditional media!
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