This digital painting had a pretty easy start.
It was inspired by my sister-in-law’s pregnancy and it just popped into my head one day, pretty much fully formed and ready to go. But then things got a little
bit tricky. I wanted to use real pencil or paint so I could give my brother and his wife some physical artwork to frame, so I took some reference photos for
lighting and poses, scanned two of the photos, and printed them out on A4 paper to use as reference. I roughed out the general proportions of the picture using a blue pencil which let me to sketch out a few different things on the page and then I
could finalise the details with a graphite pencil later on. After deciding
on the overall dimensions I started getting a bit more precise using a pair
of dividers to figure out the proportions. For example if the width of
a head is two-thirds of the height of the head in the smaller picture, then the
width of the head will be two-thirds of the height in the larger picture. I also
used angles and curves to get a rough idea of how things fit together, and then
I worked down from the broad shapes step-by-step to the finer details, and
then on the way I just combined bits and pieces of the two reference images
according to whatever I wanted out of each one. Then came the graphite stage where I
just picked out the lines that I wanted to keep, and the base drawing was finished, ready for the colour. I decided to go with black paper which meant I couldn’t just trace the drawing with my lightbox because the black paper wasn’t
transparent enough so I transferred the drawing using
basically the same proportion method as before, but this time I started with dots
rather than general sketching so I could minimise the amount of graphite on the
paper. I found out later that you can use things like I think dressmaker’s carbon to
transfer drawings across which probably would have been more accurate and saved me heaps of time but at least this way you get to watch me take the slow way
instead. Right, onto colouring. I used a piece of paper under my hand so I didnt smudge the artwork, plus I wore a cotton glove to keep the wear and tear on my hands down, and to keep oils from my hands off the artwork. I also cut off a couple of the fingers of
the glove so I could grip pencils and brushes and things like that better. Now I’d worked on
black paper once or twice before with oil pastels but here I used coloured
pencils in the hope that they’d be still nice and bright but get me some decent detail. While working on the shading, I realised pretty quickly that the lighting in the reference photos was too different to what I was after, but since
it wasn’t the most complex picture I could make up the shading is I went
along, so I did that. I started with the brightest part of the picture to see if
it was going to be bright enough, but it was looking a bit dull for my liking so I brought out the gouache paint which is a lot brighter. I started off with white. I used the light from my phone to see what happens when light shone through my fingers and then
I used that as a guide for adding some red paint as well. the gouache seemed bright enough but the pencil stuff was still pretty dull and didn’t have enough experience with gouache to paint the whole thing, but I remembered something else that I could
try, which was to make something look lighter by making the dark parts darker.
So I grabbed the black gouache and started darkening the background. And I feathered out the edges of the
paint so it blended with the paper better. Now you can probably tell from my body language that I wasn’t feeling too positive about how the picture was going. The glowing hand looked like it was stuck onto the surface and the faces just didn’t look right. They
weren’t a good likeness and the lighting was like that were cackling over a cauldron which probably wasn’t the best way to show things like affection and hope
so I quit the picture. I decided to try digital, which went better at first; the progress was faster but something still didn’t feel right and I didn’t really know where I was going with it. So, back to the drawing board, this time going for something a bit more
stylised than the previous one. Doing things the slow way with the first one helped me to understand better what I was drawing, because I spent so much time I guess thinking
about it, studying it, so this time I could go ahead more confidently. Now the main idea of the picture was to make something that could be of interest to a variety
of people, and the portrait side of it was just a bonus, so I decided to focus more
on the design than on the likeness, and I didn’t use the reference images much at
all this time. I liked how it was going with a more graceful feeling to the lines and
some other changes as well, including pulling the woman’s hair back to see
more of her face. So with that drawing I decided to try a physical artwork again but
not on black paper. I tried a couple of test images on coloured paper with one
designed to start off with paint and finish with pencil, and another one with
just coloured pencil with some outlines. And this time I could use my lightbox
to trace the drawing, which saved a lot of time. Now one big decision I made was
to not video the process anymore since the pressure of the camera was
distracting me too much, so from here on you’ll just see progress photos. I did an A3 test of a painted base to add pencil to but I just wasn’t sure how to move
forward so I abandoned that one. Then I tried just coloured pencils but once again it wasn’t sitting right, and once again I wasn’t sure where to go with it, which shows just how much of a slow learner I can be, starting all this stuff not knowing how
to end up getting to the end. So I moved on to digital again and then I finally realised that
the drawing had some weaknesses that just bugged me. One was the man’s face which seemed a bit funny looking, and the other was the woman’s posture. You see I wanted the characters to be leaning against each other to show their affection for each
other and their togetherness in the journey, and she was just sitting too
upright to get that across. Now after all that stuff, which actually took place over several months, one day I just sat down and drew up a quick sketch that was
almost cartoony and just happened almost simply and easily. It didn’t look
like my models even remotely but something about it captured the feeling I was after. I came up with some digital colour sketches and got a couple of
opinions on them, and used that feedback for the final digital painting. It went well
enough but the end result just seemed a bit odd and unsatisfying around the faces. The arms also seemed a bit weird to me so I printed out the pencil drawing on A4
and made some adjustments, especially to the eyes and the arms. And once again I
tried for physical artwork first, this time with a gouache painting that I abandoned very quickly and then a coloured pencil drawing. I’d found out about a
process that uses a special solvent to blend coloured pencils almost as if they’re watercolour pencils. The result wasn’t terrible but I realised I needed more practice on that, so I quit. Now I still don’t know if all
these attempts were wasted time or actually necessary to where needed to go, but that’s the way art works sometimes. Anyway, let’s get onto the home stretch,
going digital again. I started with flat colour and then added very rough shading, blending the shading once I was happy with where it was at. In some cases I
actually roughed it up again so it didn’t look too smooth and bland, but overall I
kept it pretty simple. I made some final changes to the faces, and finally the picture was done.