Story-driven daily sketching
Join illustrator Atey Ghailan as he takes you through his workflow for envisioning and creating a sketch that’s inspired by his surroundings
Join illustrator Atey Ghailan as he takes you through his workflow for creating a sketch that’s inspired by his surroundings.
In this workshop I’ll be sharing my thought process and approach to creating a storydriven sketch, inspired by events I encounter in my daily life. Last year I challenged myself to do one of these every day for a year. It was a rewarding experience and it’s an exercise I still try to do regularly because I believe that it helps me develop as an artist.
Because this sketch is set in an urban area, it’s important to get the perspective as accurate as possible, which is why, alongside Photoshop, I also use Carapace (a free program that’s no longer officially available) that helps me set up a perspective grid in a timely manner. Keep in mind, Carapace is just a tool to support you – actually learning and understanding perspective is going to make your life much easier.
The goal here is not only to show you how I work, but also to encourage you to take inspiration from your surroundings. Even if you only have time for a quick sketch, it’s important to get your ideas down on paper.
Thumbnail stage 1
The first thing I try to do with any image is to capture the feeling of the story that I want to convey. Sometimes I use line work, like above, and sometimes I go straight into the painting stage. This is the right time to solve any concerns you might have, because mistakes become harder to fix further down the creative process.
Separating sky and ground 2
At this stage, my main goal is to simply separate the sky from the ground in two layers. This makes it easier to paint and do adjustments, since I already know that I don’t want these two parts of the image merging together. I’m filling in the ground with a darker colour so I can see it more clearly – this isn’t the colour I’ll be using later on.
First colour pass 3
I decided in advance that I wanted this scene to take place while the sun is setting, so here I’m blocking in some very vibrant colours to get rid of the dark colour that I added at the start. I also think that it’s much easier to start with very saturated colours and tone it down later on, than to do the opposite.
Balancing colours and values 4
Here I’m trying to get an overall read for the image. I decide how saturated I want the colours to be: you can see that I’ve already toned the orange down from the previous step. I’m trying to paint with a lot of broad strokes and avoid tiny brush strokes and detail.
Adding details and introducing depth 5
Being happy with the overall look of the image, I feel like it’s time to do the details. I start with what’s furthest away in the image and slowly work my way forward. I do this because it’s easier to plan which shapes are going to overlap, and overlapping sells the sense of depth in the image.
Drawing more branches 6
When drawing something that’s far away, such as trees and branches in this case, it’s important to suggest them, rather than draw every tree and every branch individually, because they’re not the focus in this image. However, if these trees were closer to the viewer then I’d have to draw them more clearly.
Getting there now… 7
Right now, the overall read of the background is almost done and I’m slowly moving closer to my character. Since I’ve been working as an environment concept artist for a long time, I prefer to do the environment before I tackle the character.
Lasso and Selection tools 8
Here I add some more details to the background by using the Lasso (hit L for a shortcut) and the Selection tools (press M). They’re very easy to manage and add a lot of sharp and crisp edges to your details.
Selecting my character 9
Just as with the first step for the environment, where I separated the sky from the ground, here I separate the characters from everything else. I use a brush with no Pen Pressure to avoid transparent pixels and obtain crisp edges. I also change the dog’s breed and pose.