Making Of 'All Within Her Hands'

Hello, my name is Ioan Dumitrescu (aka Jonone); I'm a 20-year old self-taught concept designer and currently a student of architecture.  In this article I'm going to try explaining a little about the working process and thoughts behind a picture which I created for the Uplift Universe challenge over CGTalk.

First of all, the brief stated "alien interaction", and I knew pretty much right away that everyone would create creatures standing besides humans, interacting in one way or another (not that there's anything wrong with that - very cool images can and did result from this kind of concept!), but I had something different in mind... 

I had heard of David Brin's award-winning series before, but had never gotten around to reading them.  So I went off and started getting my references for it.  Whilst reading some of the texts provided by D.B. and CGTalk, an idea came to mind, and so I started with a loose sketch on paper.  I sketched what I knew I wanted to be included: a huge wreckage, a human ship trying to escape alien scouts and a crew member watching.  In short, I wanted a story.  The easiest way to create an image is if you have a story to work with (Fig01).

Fig.

Fig.

I took the drawing into Photoshop and did a quick colour sketch of what I had in mind over the sketch layer.  At this stage I was just looking for the right shapes, composition and values - still searching with nothing carved in stone, letting everything reveal itself as I went along (Fig02).

Fig.

Fig.

I kept on increasing the ship, trying to make it something really huge, but it just didn't feel right (Fig03).  I knew this would be a turning point: either I would keep trying to make it work or go somewhere different with it.  As usual, I wasn't too afraid of starting over, so I brought up a new layer and started something huge and overwhelming (at least it was in my mind, at this stage) (Fig04).  I opted for something with more weight, something that could stand on top of the camera and give a huge, crushing feeling.  I felt like I was on the right track with this and so I carried on with it (even though some comments suggested that it looked like a huge highway, not a ship, and to stay with the old one, but I didn't get discouraged by this and decided not to abandon the new image or forget what I thought was right).  I changed the colour scheme to greens, browns and yellows to feel more like everything was happening on a metal planet, "Kithrup".  I also abandoned the human ship as it was just too organic and had an alien-style feel to it.  I knew it had to be a human ship which wasn't that advanced compared to the alien scouts.

With this new layout I started bringing in some detail.  I often bring photos in as textures or I start erasing parts of the painting and painting-over, and basically just erasing back and forth till I'm happy with it.  It still looked like a sketch at this stage but I had things popping in my head and leading me towards the shapes and forms I wanted.  I wasn't happy with the character and action, though, as I felt there wasn't any emotion, no action - it was just too static!  So I changed this and made the human race towards (into) the camera, and made one of the scouts attack the human ship (Fig05). From there on I knew it was just a matter of time till I would get it done.  I started working on the human character, which ended up being a girl on a fast scooter. I kept on detailing, painting and erasing, using selections, masks - whatever was needed to get the job done!  I added an explosion on the human ship too, as I wanted it to suggest, as strongly as possible, some kind of explosion with waves coming off the plasma shields after being struck by the green laser beam (Fig06).

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.

Fig.

The image was still missing some things at this stage, such as some scale indication between the environment and the ships (the character in the foreground was throwing things into confusion a bit), so I started adding some little marks of land, and islands to help the scale and composition.

Even at this stage, I still didn't feel there was enough separation between the foreground, mid-ground and background, and I especially didn't feel the scooter was close enough.  So I added some mist and atmosphere, along with some reflections and two wings on the scooter to make it fly (Fig07).  The haze and mist helped increase the size, too.

Fig.

Fig.

A few more islands and details were added to the huge ship here, and some touches were made here and there - et voila!  It was done. 

I learned a lot during this image; I changed my way of working drastically - in a good way!  My current artwork feels happy, and hopefully I'm improving with each new piece.  To finish up, here's a detail of the final piece (Fig08).

Fig.

Fig.

I hope you have found something interesting from this!  Good luck with your own projects!

To see more by Ioan Dumitrescu, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 9
Digital Art Masters: Volume 8
Digital Art Masters: Volume 7
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 4
Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection

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