Iconic fantasy en­counter

Ni­co­las Delort shows you how to cre­ate a dy­namic and dra­matic black and white clay­bord il­lus­tra­tion by ex­plor­ing all the pos­si­bil­i­ties the medium of­fers

ImagineFX - - Contents - Ni­co­las is a free­lance il­lus­tra­tor who spe­cialises in black and white clay­board il­lus­tra­tions. He’s worked with a wide va­ri­ety of clients such as Bl­iz­zard, Mondo and Games Work­shop. You can ex­plore more of his art at his web­site: www.nico­las­de­lort.com.

Monochro­matic art­work has al­ways ap­pealed more than colour art, whether it’s char­coal sketches, etch­ings or pen and ink. While I was still a stu­dent, I saw an ex­hibit of Rem­brandt’s en­grav­ings at the Lou­vre. I was blown away by the de­tail and the dra­matic light­ing, and it in­spired me to try and mimic the look with pen and ink.

My first at­tempts were messy but I had fun do­ing them. I worked with pen and ink for a while, try­ing to repli­cate the look of wood or cop­per en­grav­ings of other artist I dis­cov­ered, like Gus­tave Doré, but I felt lim­ited in terms of de­tail and it was hard to pro­duce clean, par­al­lel lines the way I wanted them to be.

So I did some re­search on ways I could mimic the en­grav­ing “look” with­out ac­tu­ally do­ing en­grav­ing and found out about early 20th cen­tury il­lus­tra­tor Franklin Booth, who worked on scratchboard. Since then I’ve been work­ing with Am­per­sand Clay­bord and haven’t looked back! It’s a fantastic medium that gives you lot of con­trol over your lines.

It comes in two va­ri­eties – uninked and pre-inked – and the preinked va­ri­ety is called Scratch­bord. I use the un-inked kind, be­cause it en­ables me to work both in an ad­di­tive and sub­strac­tive man­ner. The im­age I’ve cre­ated for this work­shop will demon­strate how I com­bine those two meth­ods to achieve the de­sired ef­fect.

Cre­at­ing art in black and white can be de­cep­tively sim­ple, be­cause you have less means to cre­ate con­trast be­tween dif­fer­ent el­e­ments, so you have to find work­arounds. Although it looks like you can cor­rect your mis­takes by just scratch­ing them out, in re­al­ity things aren’t that sim­ple and clay­bord is less forgiving than it looks. It’s for that very rea­son that I work slowly and me­thod­i­cally, to leave as lit­tle as pos­si­ble up to chance. It’s taken a lot of prac­tice to get a steady hand that en­ables me to cre­ate smooth and even lines, but it’s been a re­ward­ing process.

In this work­shop, I’ll try to ex­plain my process, show­ing how I use lines to crea­ture move­ment, val­ues and tex­ture by ren­der­ing a clas­sic scene from The Lord of the Rings: the en­counter be­tween Gan­dalf and the Bal­rog on the bridge of Khazad-Dûm.

1 Thumb­nail­ing stage

I al­ways start out an il­lus­tra­tion by do­ing very rough thumb­nails with a pen­cil on pa­per with printed frames. I like hav­ing frames al­ready on pa­per be­cause it helps me fo­cus on com­po­si­tion. I gen­er­ally start with a pretty good idea of what I want to do, but this phase helps me find the ex­act com­po­si­tion I want.

2 Clean­ing up the sketch

Once I have a thumb­nail I like, I scan it, blow it up in Pho­to­shop, colour it light blue and then draw over it on an­other layer. I use Kyle Webster’s Ul­ti­mate Pen­cil brush, be­cause I love its tex­ture and flow. I don’t worry too much about the de­tails for now, but I make sure that I have ev­ery­thing ex­actly where I want it to be.

3 Plan­ning out the val­ues

When I’m happy with my sketch, I do a quick dig­i­tal value study. I keep val­ues sim­ple and not too de­tailed. It will serve as a ref­er­ence guide when I do the fi­nal, so I know where I’m headed. I fo­cus more on gen­eral at­mos­phere and light source, rather than smaller de­tails.

4 Trans­fer­ring the sketch to the board

I print out the sketch at the de­sired size (28x38cm) and use trans­fer pa­per to trace it down on the board. I don’t press down too hard on the car­bon pa­per, be­cause it can be hard to erase from the board.

5 Out­lin­ing the dark ar­eas

Us­ing a 0.3mm tip Faber Cas­tel Ecco pig­ment pen, I out­line ar­eas that will be ren­dered in a sub­strac­tive man­ner. That means they will be first filled with black ink and then I’ll use a knife to scratch out lines. I gen­er­ally work from back­ground to fore­ground, so I start with the Bal­rog and smoke in the back­ground.

6 Fill­ing in the dark

I use a Faber Castell Pitt “Big brush” pen to fill in large ar­eas and a 0.5mm pig­ment pen to fill in the smaller ar­eas. At this point it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter if I ac­ci­dently fill out­side the lines be­cause I can al­ways scratch out later, but I still try to be as clean as pos­si­ble.

7 Work­ing in the first val­ues

At this step, I haven’t used my scratch­ing knife yet. I con­tinue to fill in the ar­eas that will be scratched out later and at the same time, with a 0.5mm pig­ment pen, I start work­ing on the lighter ar­eas by care­fully cre­at­ing tones with par­al­lel lines. I use the di­rec­tion of the lines to en­hance the flow of the piece.

8 Com­plet­ing the ad­di­tion

I con­tinue work­ing in val­ues on the back­ground with the 0.5mm pig­ment pen, al­ways pay­ing at­ten­tion to the gen­eral flow of my lines and move­ment that they cre­ate when you look at the il­lus­tra­tion from afar. The Bal­rog is made of fire, and so I want it to look like its form is ever-chang­ing.

9 Build­ing val­ues with scratched lines

At this point, the ar­eas in the back­ground that have to be worked in an ad­di­tive man­ner are done. I take out my scratch­ing knife and start work­ing in the darker ar­eas, again by cre­at­ing tones with very thin par­al­lel lines. I can vary the line weight to cre­ate dif­fer­ent val­ues by ap­ply­ing less or more pres­sure on the knife.

10 De­pict­ing in­sub­stan­tial wings

I con­tinue scratch­ing out lines to cre­ate val­ues in the back­ground. I want the wings to look like they’re made of smoke or shadow, so I don’t give them def­i­nite shapes. The hardest thing at this point is to keep a clear idea of what I want the fi­nal val­ues to be.

11 Light­en­ing with counter-scratch­ing

I use my scratch­ing knife to “counter-scratch” some of the pen lines at a 45 de­gree an­gle to cre­ate dashes. It light­ens the val­ues and cre­ate sub­tle gra­di­ents. Now the tran­si­tion be­tween the pen lines and the white looks smoother.

12 Darken­ing and cre­at­ing tex­ture

At this point, all the ar­eas in the back­ground are scratched out but to cre­ate some darker val­ues, I take my pens and counter-hatch the scratched lines like I did with the knife. Do­ing this with a pen on the scratched lines dark­ens the val­ues and also cre­ates an in­ter­est­ing tex­ture.

13 Com­plet­ing the fore­ground

Now that the back­ground is fin­ished, I can move on to the fore­ground. The lines on the rock and bridge are straighter than in the back­ground, so we have a con­trast of tex­tures. I wanted the halo from Gan­dalf’s staff to be stylised and ge­o­met­ri­cal to con­trast with the rest of the piece, where the shapes are more or­ganic.

14 Dig­i­tal touch-ups

Now that the piece is com­plete, I scan it in and do some dig­i­tal touch­ing up. The scan makes the ink look washed out, so I re-ad­just lev­els so that the black is black and the white is white. I also add some sub­tle lev­els of grey to add some depth and to give the lighter ar­eas a bit of a glow.

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