Make reference work for you!

Here’s a little tutorial on how to make reference photos work in your art, by making them subject to the idea and an overall composition, not the other way round.

Mental thumbnailing

All my paintings begin with an idea of a scene I want to paint. Reference always comes in a second or even third step. I’d decided to paint the scene in the Silmarillion where Fingon’s mounted archers take on a young Glaurung. I had wanted to do this scene for a while. 

Working from a photo from the get go never works for me, and certainly not in a complex, multi-character scene. Photos tend to be much less dynamic than the compositions I want to achieve (since I’m an artist, not a photographer), so working from photo without a lot of change often results in boring paintings.

Once I have a picture idea, my mind starts thumbnailing. I try out different compositions in my head, and find where the snags are. 

Whenever I do a battle scene, I want to portray both combatants in some way, so it’s very obvious from the start that my camera angle needs some thought. If I want to show Fingon’s face, I can’t have Glaurung (left). If I want to show Glaurung, I’ll have a few Elves from behind, and Fingon somewhere off in the distance (centre). So I decided to show Fingon charging past and shooting behind him (right) – quite obviously, that meant some extremely good reference. 

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Refining an idea and finding (or shooting) specific reference

At this stage, the scene is still only in my head. I know Glaurung will be in the middle ground, so if Fingon is galloping towards us, he’s closer to us, and needs to shoot behind him. Riders further back will need to shoot straight to the side. This is the reference I need. 

Very often, for complicated poses, I shoot reference myself. I know exactly what I want, and I avoid copyright issues. For riders, I often take photos of my daughter at her riding lessons. In this case, I came up blank. None of the hundreds of reenactment photos I’ve shot at events had any mounted archers, and I needed photos of people who knew what they were doing – because I don’t know a lot about archery. So that ruled out family members posing with a bow while sitting astride a sofa.

A Patreon supporter of mine then pointed me to several great mounted archers with Instagram accounts – and there were such an incredible lot of great photos! I immediately reached out to Erin Jardine and Freja Trulsdotter, who gave me permission to use their photos. 

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I started filing away those photos that were the angle and poses I needed. At this point, the photos and my idea start bouncing off each other in my head, as my idea is defined. 

Making your reference work in perspective

A lot can go wrong when you combine several reference photos in one image. Ask yourself: Were the photos all shot from roughly the same height? Look at the horizon line for clues – it’s where the camera was, and your viewer’s eye will be. If the photographer was standing, chances are that the photos will work together. If you have one extreme bird’s or worm’s eye view in there, it won’t work with the others.

Here’s a trick to keep several people standing at different distances to the viewer in perspective: Assume the viewer is standing in the same room. If he is the same height as the characters, align all the eyes at the same level. Unless they’re a king on a dais. Or Maedhros. You can indicate different heights that way, too.

(I haven’t seen this lineart in years, and I apparently changed Celegorm’s expression before finalising this – he cracks me up!)

If you want to put characters into a bird’s eye view, you need to find another converging point by adding invisible heads to them. Or by handing each one a seven-foot lance and having their tips converge. The horizon line has to move up there, too.

If you align the eyes of people on horseback, it will look as if the viewer is also sitting on a horse. (Plus, eye-alignment can sometimes look a bit like differently sized people all dangling from a washing line.) Here, I wanted to put the viewer in the middle of the action, but not on a horse, to add a sense of “Gosh, I’ll be trampled!” to the scene. So what you do is align not the characters’ eyes, but a point that is level with the (standing) viewer’s eye. When you stand next to a charger, your eyes are barely above its rump. So this is where I aligned my riders. I chose their saddlebows, allowing for some unevenness for the movement and uneven terrain.

Plus, the fact that the characters’ heads are all at different levels adds a lot of movement again, forcing the viewer’s eye into an up and down movement, like a gallop.

Swarming effect

Instead of choosing three poses that were roughly the same, I decided to use three slightly different ones for the main riders, two slightly from the right, one slightly from the left side. Fingon would be passing us on the right; the one to his left would thunder past us on our left side, while the one to his right is already swerving to cut right across us and vanish off to the right. That way, pressing a mental “play” button on the scene, we see ourselves standing right there as the cavalry passes us left and right. This is a very effective way to thrust the viewer into the middle of the action. It works with any movement.

Compositional rules – distance, crumping, overlap, line of action

I did my best here to adhere to the rules of composition. Putting figures at several distances is a great way to add a sense of space. Having elements or character overlapping each other adds to the sense of space. “Crumping” means clumping several elements together in uneven numbers – here. the three main riders. The line of action is very much defined by the horses’ movement, and I added several elements to the piece that lead the viewers eye – the dragon’s tail, the eyes of the riders and the dragon, all converging in the middle of the piece; the tree trunks that lead the viewer’s eye back into the image in places where other elements threaten to lead it out.

Then Fingon rode against him

“Again after a hundred years Glaurung, the first of the Urulóki, the fire-drakes of the North, issued from Angband’s gates by night. He was yet young and scarce half-grown, for long and slow is the life of the dragons, but the Elves fled before him to Ered Wethrin and Dorthonion in dismay; and he defiled the fields of Ard-galen. Then Fingon prince of Hithlum rode against him with archers on horseback, and hemmed him round with a ring of swift riders; and Glaurung could not endure their darts, being not yet come to his full armoury, and he fled back to Angband, and came not forth again for many years. Fingon won great praise, and the Noldor rejoiced; for few foresaw the full meaning and threat of this new thing.”

Watercolour and gouache on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 29×39 cm. See my shop for prints! Original is sold. :)

Huge thanks to Erin Jardine (@eyesoferin) and Freja Trulsdotter (@artofliberty) for permission to use their mounted archery photos as reference for Fingon’s archers!

For Maglor slew Uldor the Accursed

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Watercolour on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 36×26 cm.

I recently asked my Patrons for suggestions for Maglor scenes, and his slaying Uldor came up several times. It’s such an unusual moment for the gentlest son of Fëanor, to be showing that he, like this brothers, was also a warrior.

Prints available!

Here’s a video about the background texture.

Wardens of the North

Wardens of the North. Watercolour and coloured pencil on Canson Vidalon cold-pressed paper, 16×26 cm.

Prints of this are available here! Or you can try to win one in a giveaway on my Patreon. The original piece will be available in my shop soon! Contact me if you’re interested.

I’m currently on a two-week sick leave after my eye-related headaches got less and less manageable. I’m trying to rest loads, avoid any driving if I can, and training my left eye to take over without protesting too much. It’ll take a lot longer than two weeks to get there (my ophthalmologist is thinking in years), but I hope to give myself a bit of a head start under less stressful conditions. Switching between near and far is the worst. Surprisingly, working on tiny paintings for hours works really well. Which gives me the added recreational experience of doing something that really recharges my mental battery.

“Catch me if you can!”

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Éowyn and Faramir. Watercolour on Legion Stonehenge cold pressed paper, 21×31 cm.

By coincidence, I found that I owned an American cent, and realised that it was way larger than the Euro cents I’m used to – here they are side by side.

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Doing any sort of small detail is still incredibly hard for me, and I pay for it with headaches and having to paint in little half-hour instalments over several days and weeks.

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Prints available! 

Now that my art time has become even more limited than before, I’m doubly (and triply) grateful for the support of my wonderful patrons! If you’ve been thinking about supporting me, glean first glimpses at new art and take part in giveaways, now’s a great time!

https://www.patreon.com/jennydolfen

The Hunt

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The Hunt. Watercolour on Canson Vidalon paper, 19×39 cm.
Finrod Felagund joins Fëanoreans Maedhros and Maglor on a hunt in Eastern Beleriand. (Click to enlarge!)

After slowly easing back into art again with Inktober and the smallish and whimsical Newt Scamander piece this month, I felt ready to tackle a larger piece again. At first, I actually started it with gathering tons of reference, pasting and lightboxing horses and riders I’d photographed at reenactment events – and then I scrapped all of that and started the first stages loose, without reference, without correct anatomy, just to make sure it flowed the way I wanted it. (Much as I admire reenactors, they don’t flow. At least I can’t photograph them that way.) And suddenly everything just clicked into place again, the way it already had with the Newt piece. I then checked reference and reworked the figures and horses, but I’d once again found what truly makes me happy with my art.

Canson Vidalon paper proved a great choice for this. Its cottony texture allows very soft washes and keeps everything rather light; you really have to work hard for your darks and be very deliberate where you want them. The magnifying glass made another appearance, too. The detail shot below tells you just how small those faces are.

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Matted prints of these will soon be available in my Etsy shop – watch social media for more info.

A lot has been happening on Patreon recently! Ten new people have joined us, there’s been a giveaway for calendars and Inktober art, a livestream of painting this one with a Q&A, and the timelapse video for this one is available for my Patrons as well. Ever thought of joining, too? Take a peek!

Ser Loras Tyrell (More experiments: acrylic gouache)

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The Knight of Flowers.
Turner acrylic gouache on Etival cold-pressed paper, 20×30 cm. 

This piece was done for a scholarly work titled “The Heroic and Chivalric Codes of Westeros”, by Dr. Carol Jamison.

It’s also another media experiment. This time, I gave acrylic gouache a go. It’s something that a lot of people have never heard about (and that a lot of stores don’t stock), but it’s actually really, really cool as it combines several features that I like about both watercolours, and acrylics, and gouache.

  • When applied thinly and with much water, it looks like watercolour.
  • It dries to be water-resistant, so it allows glazing (unlike gouache). That also means it dries on your palette, so you need to work with porcelain palettes rather than plastic. Fortunately, a little drop of paint goes a long way, so it’s not much of a waste.
  • In thicker layers, it becomes opaque, but you have a lot of control over how opaque you want it.
  • Even in thicker layers, you don’t get the flaky stuff you tend to get with gouache, unless you want to get very, very thick.
  • When dry, the pant looks matte, like gouache, but unlike acrylics (which is why I don’t like thin acrylics – just don’t like it shiny).

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Left: I did a lot of detail and shadows first (unlike with watercolour, where you’d do those last) and then glazed over the detailing with thinly diluted colour washes; the detailing remains intact.

 

The end of a realm, of a world, of a dream

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“Jenny bowed her head again. For a moment, the rough clang of blade on blade filled her ears. She remembered that noise, and the cry of the dying, atop a high hill beneath a scorching sun. Black armor and a bloody blade. And the battle. Such a battle, one worthy of the world’s ending. And hadn’t it been? The end of a realm, of a world, of a dream…”

Watercolour and gel pen on Fabriano paper, 28×38 cm.

The battle of Camlann – the calm before the storm. From an upcoming novel by Paul Leone, merging a Victorian vampire tale with Arthurian legend.

Prints here!

It’s been a crazy summer, with a lot of unforeseen stuff that ate up my summer holidays completely. This is the only full painting I got done during that time, which is slightly frustrating, but it’s also another bit of proof for my conviction that breaks in your art transform you. Months ago, I resolved to try a softer approach to colouring than the one I had developed over the last four years (not fully intentionally either). I tried it, but it didn’t work – I just slipped back into old habits. Now, after three months with virtually no painting, it was incredibly easy to incorporate new habits. So – the break was a good thing in the end.

Well-rested, well-fed, well-oiled

Late December 218 BC. Hannibal’s army has recovered from the ordeal of crossing the Alps, and unwritten laws of ancient warfare say that this is the time to move to winter quarters. Hannibal, however, can’t – he’s in enemy territory; neither is the Roman consul Servilius willing to wait for warmer weather. He wants a military success before his term ends, and he is not overly worried about the Carthaginian army, thinking the weather is worse for the Africans than it is for the Romans. Hannibal, with his inferior numbers, plans to make good every tactical advantage he can, and to force the Romans to fight tired, hungry, and frozen to the bone. Romans and Carthaginians are encamped at opposite banks of the river Trebia.

Just before sunrise, Hannibal went on a walk around the camp with Maharbal. Several units still looked bleary, cursing the cold, but most were already at breakfast, and wherever Hannibal appeared, the men did their best not to cut a bad figure before their commander.

The Numidians were in the process of rubbing themselves with oil that Hasdrubal had distributed among them the previous night. They would cross the Trebia to draw out Sempronius, and bait him across the river. They were sitting around fires, huddled under blankets, and did their best to drown out their chattering teeth with the loudest and self-assured banter possible.

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Warning: terrible proportions.

“The only g-g-good thing,” one of the men shouted to Hannibal and Maharbal, “is that the river c-c-can’t be any colder than the Alps!”

Hannibal grinned as he joined them at the fire. “I hate to tell you this, Gaia,” he said in Numidian. “But I’m afraid this’ll be colder. At least you’ll have something to do to get warmed up again this time.”

“Hurry up with your breakfast over there!” another man shouted to the Punic camp as he was pulling his chiton back over his head. “We’ll get you some Sempronius for afters!”

“No unnecessary heroics, Gulussa,” Hannibal warned. “Draw them out and get them to follow you into the river, but don’t let them get you.”

“No worries,” Gulussa replied. “They can’t get us, we’re too slippery.”

They all laughed, and Maharbal added, “Be careful not to slip off your horse, Gulussa.”

Maharbal turned away with a suppressed grin, and Gaia roared with laughter. “Too much information.”“I can’t!” the man chuckled. “I didn’t oil my thighs on purpose. That’s where my horse’ll keep me warm.”

Hannibal gave Gulussa a clap on the shoulder. “Think a few warm thoughts, but keep them to yourself. I’d like to keep my breakfast to myself, too.” He wiped his hand on his cloak. “Bah. Yes, I think the Romans won’t get you. Good luck.”

More Hannibal

I’m gradually warming to the idea of doing more with this – a Hannibal graphic novel; now that would have been a childhood dream of mine…

I’ve just come back from five days with my parents, which were largely spent drawing. First up, a dump of some sketches – Hannibal in the Alps, an age-up trial of Hannibal at 28 and at 64, an elephant, and a Numidian.

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Hannibal says good-bye to his wife Imilce and child before he leaves for Rome. History never talks of her again and it’s likely that she and the child died before the war ended.

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In the command tent after midnight, Hannibal fine-tunes tactics. (If you’re familiar with ancient warfare, the battle line might look familiar – it is to become the Battle of Cannae. (“I think I’ll move the center forward – that will lure the Romans in…”)

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Hannibal on horseback, on the march to Italy. I’m having an almost indecent amount of fun mixing and matching Greek armour, Iberian saddle and tack, Hellenistic head piece, and Iberian and Punic design elements on clothing.

The scar on his thigh was from the siege of Saguntum.

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Hannibal, 15, sees his first Romans. They come to his father in Spain, demanding to know what the Carthaginians are doing in the country. Hannibal clearly feels this question is none of their business.

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Tolkien-Tag am Niederrhein

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I spent the weekend at Tolkien-Tag am Niederrhein (Tag being the German word for day; just in case you thought it was a weird game of tag, you’re it.)

Had a bunch of very nice conversations and a drawing workshop, and sold a couple of prints – and got some art done! It’s always a good idea to sketch while I sit at my stand. I don’t know why, but people will never believe that I drew these things I’m selling. And even if I tell them, they’ll assume I’ll just “print them out” or, hilariously, “Do you draw those freehand? Or do you use… stencils?”

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Yup. Never go anywhere without my “Finwë dying in Fëanor’s arms” stencil.

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I also did two more sketchbooks. The left was a commission, the right one is for sale. Any takers? I’ll make it 35 € instead of the usual 40 for sketchbooks because it wasn’t a free prompt. And because Éomer’s hand is a bit wonky.

The Oath has been awakened…

Finished piece (here’s the process). The post was becoming so long that I decided not to hide the finished image at the bottom!

Click to enlarge!

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‘A Silmaril of Fëanor burns again in the woods of Doriath’; and the oath of the sons of Fëanor was waked again from sleep. For while Lúthien wore the Necklace of the Dwarves no Elf would dare to assail her; but now hearing of the renewal of Doriath and of Dior’s pride, the seven gathered again from wandering…

Detail shots (click to enlarge):

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The Oath has been awakened – painting

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In painting this one, I was facing the challenge to have a lot of reds, even in the sky, and horses – which sometimes leads to dangerously girly-calendary motifs.

So far, I seem to have succeeded in not falling over on that side of the fence. I know that because my daughter, a great fan of horses and pink, keeps looking at the picture on my desk and walking away without saying a word. That’s her way of saying, “Really, mum, such lovely horseys, and such ugly colours. I’d tell you so but I’m afraid of hurting your feelings.”

Yay!

Note: The colours on the photographs deviate really far from the actual ones at times. When I used the flash, they’re too yellow; when I didn’t, my daylight lamp resulted in too bluish tones. The entire pic is too large to be properly photographed with the means I have.

The lineart is, again, pencil, scanned, tinted and photocopied onto watercolour paper. See here if you have any questions.

My daughter would have loved the first stage. I overlaid the whole pic with a warm light red wash composed of Madder red and Ochre, dabbing some paint off the horses and figures, particularly the upper parts, allowing all those twenty-eight horse legs to blend into the rest.

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Then, I added streaks of more red into the sky, and blotches of Chromoxide Green, Madder red mixed with Ultramarine, and Burnt Sienna into the ground, for the colours of heather.

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Next, some Ochre, Sepia, but my violet mix from above for the stones. Later, they’ll be lighter than the rest.

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Next, I proceed to paint more heather. I mix more Madder Red with Ultramarine, and paint the upper edges of patches of heather…

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While the paint is still wet, I rinse my brush in the orange-y dirty water in my water container, and drag the paint down with it. The jagged top edge remains unaffected, the rest…

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… is blurred and diluted.

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Patches of heather:

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I proceed to muddy the sky (and frustrate my daughter), and add a dirty wash of Burnt Sienna and Ochre to the top margin of the painting, drawing it down with more dirty water.

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The ground now gets a second wash of my violet mix with Burnt Sienna, darkening it and softening the edges of heather.

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I allow it to bleed into the horses’ legs, to merge them with the ground. A while ago, I used to cleanly separate every element of the image, and sometimes, that would result in cut-and-paste looking picture elements.

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This is a sort of middle stage, from which I can start to add layers. It’s also the sort of stage that’s already starting to look good, and which I can safely leave on my desk without cringing whenever I walk past it…

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After a good night’s sleep, I decide that the ground is too light, and add another darker layer, effectively killing my detailed heather. Which isn’t so bad. It’s still there in a blurry way, and will look very organic when I’m done.

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Now, for the sky. I rewet the upper portion of the picture, mix some dramatic dark violet (with Madder Red, Ultramarine, Indigo, Sepia, and Burnt Sienna) and paint streaks into the wet areas, allowing them to run.

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The ground is dry at this point, and I start to paint the orange shrubbery around the stones. For this, I use gouache – watercolour wouldn’t have been visible. I also redo my heather in the same way I did above.

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I then add some highlights, again with gouache, to the shrubs and stones, and paint a few stray patches of wild wheat.

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Then I go as daring as I get and use green to paint the sallow thorn and the far hills, adding a few berries into the branches.

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Now, finally, the figures. I start with some reds and ochres to see how it looks. Yup – looks good!

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I paint the figures and horses with a fair deal of island hopping, working on whatever spot begs my attention (and is dry), mostly sticking to one colour at a time, more or less.

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More detailing.

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Just to show you how small some of the bits and pieces here are… The entire piece is 65 x 32 cm. … That’s one cent, btw.

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Some final touches with white gouache to spearpoints, hair, fur.

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Finished piece and detail shots: https://goldseven.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/the-oath-has-been-awakened/

Fëanorean sketchdump

Loads of leisure at school to scribble stuff in between lessons!

Maedhros trudging back to his own people after his rescue and recovery;

Maedhros being welcomed by his brothers with what borders on exuberance (for guilt-ridden Fëanoreans),

Fëanor in full armour. And a horse. No, I don’t know what it’s doing there. Except maybe demonstrating that a horse without a head is indeed a perfect square.

Sketches from the edge

A few absolutely incredibly taxing days. Class trip with one hundred twenty-six twelve-year-olds. Three days of sitting a bag of fleas, as we say in German. Some very touching experiences, some rather disheartening ones, and having to be “on” for seventy-six hours on end.

Drawing was a lifeline to sanity.

Ossiriand – painting

I finally found the time to paint “Ossiriand”.

The result surprised me, quite frankly. I chose Dr Martin’s Liquid Watercolours and Canson paper to work on, as I wanted this pic bright – turns out that the result was almost too bright. Hence, I turned down the saturation a little in the final painting (as well as adding a slight yellow overall tint); that’s why the in-progress shots don’t fit colour-wise. (It’s also because my camera was completely overtaxed with so many colours; especially towards the end, I haven’t been able to fix them in the wip shots completely. The original is not as far away from the above version as most of the photos below.)

I can’t believe I’ve been struggling with brighter colours for years. The combination of the good ol’ Dockers with Canson is certainly an assault on the rod cells!

The first stage was to put a yellow wash over the entire pic, to achieve a golden sunlight glow in the end. I made it less pronounced where the sky would later go, so as not to end up with a green sky.

After this layer had dried, I put down the blue for sky and rivers…

… and mixed some rather pale green for the greenery in the back.

You see my putting down quite a lot of wet-into-wet paint there, for vegetation look that’s not too detailed.

Background greens added:

Now for the leaves in the foreground, I used a somewhat more detailed approach. I’ve often tried, over the years, to achieve mind-blowingly detailed greenery by wishy-washy-wet-over-wet stuff. Needless to say, I never found the magic formula. The only way to do detailed greenery is with small brushes and painted details. I already laid some of that down in the lineart.

Now I start painting the foreground leaves – detailing a few select leaves by highlighting the veins (painting around them), using a rather yellow green tone so they’d really catch the sunlight later.

Then I painted the rest of the leaves in the same green tone.

Then I go in with a second, more bluish green tone, painting over some of the blocked in light green leaves, again leaving out the veins. Some others I completely paint dark, others I leave light green.

So with these two tones, I paint four kinds of leaves: the light ones with “white” veins you saw above, dark green with light green veins, light green without veins, dark green without veins. This makes for a lot of very lively variation with pretty little effort.

For some more realistic lighting, I paint in some darks with a touch of red – now the leaves really pop.

I then begin to fear that the reddish foreground will completely upset the colour unity, and lay down a stronger yellow foundation.

The first layer of horse coat (and Maedhros’ hair). I should add that what Doc Martin calls Burnt Sienna isn’t Burnt Sienna at all. I had to do quite a lot of mixing before I got the tone right.

For the second layer of horse coat, I added some more reddish-brown hues, but rather close to the first.

At which point my camera just quits and picks up all sorts of hues.Note how, in the pic above, the horse looks rather out of place. This will be remedied in the shadows.

For the shadows, I mix in lots of blue, to reflect the colour of the grass in the shadowy areas. This ties the horse to the surroundings.

Then I go and paint Maedhros’ clothes and all the little details – not much to say here that I haven’t said several times before when outlining how I shade. :)

Except this one – his boots. I relay liked the details here.

As always, hope it was helpful – enjoy the final result! ^___^

Lineart cleanup

I figured I might just as well detail my process of cleaning lineart, since people keep asking how I do it.

As you know, I often sketch digitally, especially for more complicated scenes, and then print out my sketch in a very light, very saturated colour onto Bristol board. Then I use those messy coloured lines as guidelines and draw my clean lineart in pencil (H mechanical pencil, 0.5 size) on top of them, sometimes deviating more, sometimes less. Here, I changed the entire pose to something less stiff.

The lineart is then scanned (in three parts, as I was working in A3), reassembled, and looks like this. The rest of the cleanup job will be conducted by my trusty old friend, Photoshop 6.0. What were you saying? Outdated how? Speak up, sonny!

To get rid of the orange lines, I then open the colour adjustment window using Ctrl+U. I select “red” and then “yellow” in the top rolldown menu, and slide the bar that adjusts the brightness all the way to the right for both.

See – all the orange is gone.

I’ve tried using other colours for the underlaying sketch – cyan for a time, or yellow, but usually, you have two tones you need to filter out. But that’s just a mouseclick. I like orange because it’s great to filter out (better than magenta/pink which usually leaves a greyish rest), and great to work with while I’m drawing on it. Yellow is also great to filter out, but hard to see while doing the lineart!

Then I adjust the contrast using Ctrl+L, and use the burn tool to get rid of smudgy areas I want white in the final lineart.

Sometimes, I also tweak the lines to correct mistakes or just try around in areas that don’t fully satisfy me. Here, I changed Maedhros’ face a bit.

Lastly, I tint the lineart (again using the Ctrl-u function), usually to something in the red to blue range. When I print it out later to be watercoloured, I leave the tint in place, as a slightly coloured lineart results in a more dynamic colouring.

Printing my lineart on watercolour paper is something I’ve done for a long time now. It can be a failsafe against botched watercolour attempts or dirty-water accidents (though that probably doesn’t happen more than once a year). Mainly, I do it as it allows me to develop a very detailed lineart on smooth drawing paper, something that watercolour paper just doesn’t allow to this degree.

Ossiriand – sketch

Maedhros sat me down today and had a little chat with me.

M: So, Jenny, you’ve what? drawn me killing myself, begging forgiveness on my knees, writhing in pain, and committing the act of greatest folly of my life?

J: I… suppose that about sums it up.

M: So, whatever next?

J: Actually… I was going to do one of you hanging from Th…

M:  No.

J: No?

M: No.

J: Uh… I then also… had this idea of you hunting in Ossiriand.

M *looks suspicious*

J: Sort of… happily.

M: There’s a catch.

J: No, seriously! I’ll even use green. It’ll set off your hair nicely.

M: Long hair?

Yup. ;)

Probably still about to change a bit, but hey, everything to keep my muse in good spirits. :D

Update March 21:

I need to program my brain to yell at me “ZOOM OUT!” whenever I start a picture.

I zoomed out, and… yay.

Many, many thanks to lintie for those ref pictures of leading a horse in an affectionate way without reins. ^^

Fingolfin – Walkthrough (and how to paint a dapple grey horse)

So, I finally got to painting Fingolfin! I’m extremely happy with the outcome – Very often, the colour schemes I go for result in very clear images with very clearly divided colour areas. In this one, I went for much less colour and hue variation so as not to lose all that detail.

For the sketching and lineart process, see this entry

I started with a generous background wash of a dull brown, mainly Sepia. I dabbed off some paint from the horse and Fingolfin’s face so they’d stand out more brightly later.

No, that was a lie. I started with two hours of trying to print out the lineart, but my printer kept staining the bottom. *kicks it*
(I have an A3 Epson printer with waterproof ink that can handle up to 350 gsm of paper weight. More or less well depending on its mood of the day.)

The paper I work with is Hahnemühle Veneto, which comes in huge rolls that nobody but me will buy, hence they’re practically giving them away at our local art store. It’s wonderfully cottony in texture and hardly twists, so I don’t have to stretch it.

With images like these, I often start with the knotwork. I went for primary colours, but soon saw they looked slightly too baby’s bedroom, so I toned down the blues and reds after the first wash.

I always start with the knots themselves, as for some reason, knotwork looks best when the background is darker than the knots. Here I’m already painting the background. (And wondering how to get rid of that baby’s bedroom charm.)

Now all the borders are painted. I also darkened the border around the whole image.

That blotted-out space up there was me photographing pictures with my gradebook open. >_< 9b would not appreciate the world to know how they did in their last English test. (Well, not all of them.)

Painting a dapple-grey horse

I just love dapple-greys. And I love to paint them. There are several ways how to achieve that dappled look. Initially, I was going to use vodka (yes, you read that right), but the vodka I’m using only works when applied at exactly the right state of drying, which makes working with it quite a hassle. Probably the wrong brand.

So, in lieu of alcoholic beverages, I started with painting the dapples, like this.You paint little circles and ovals, making sure they vary in size and spacing, or the final result will look too uniform.

In order not to have the dapples stand out so much (we want dapples, not polka dots), I overlaid them with a more unifying wash once they’d dried.

Once that wash had dried as well, I added another dotted wash, exactly like the first.

Closeup of the finished dappled rump in the final image.

After painting the horse very bluish, I found that the subtle hue variation I’d had in the background was too subtle after all, and put a more reddish wash over it. Now Fingolfin stood out nicely without looking as if I’d painted the background in greyscale.

Painting armour

To achieve a metallic look, you need to paint a mix of smooth gradients (for the smooth texture of metal) interrupted by sharp light-dark-contrasts (for the reflections).

I started with the first layer. I had three different types of metal: chainmal bits on his arms and lower body, etched plate (on his stomach and other places) and smooth plate. I decided to set them apart by using different blues for them, painting the etched and chainmail bits darker.

The two white bits along his torso are leather straps, which I also painted bluish later.

Here’s the second wash of paint. On his gorget (that the collar piece) and the shoulder plate, you can see some metal reflections already.

Closeup of the armour in the finished piece.

(In case you wonder about the colour changes, the scan here is more true to the colours I used – the camera, again, picked up different hues, as I was working with artificial light again.)

Total time spent: Probably around 13-15 hours.

Fingolfin’s Challenge

The finished image (as always, click to enlarge)
Recommended listening: Two Steps From Hell, Heart of Courage

(space needed before the onset of silliness)

(Incidentally, I recently dug out this – from a calendar I drew back in 1996. XD Thought I’d share.)