Making Of 'Beacon Tower'
Hey guys and girls!Â Today I'm going to explain to you a little bit about the process I went through when I painted my image, "Beacon Tower".Â I'm going to try not to go into every little detail as this picture was created on and off over a period of about three months time, in-between paid work.Â With that said, I'm going to aim to give as complete a picture as I can about how it was created, without boring you all!
The overall theme I was going for with this piece was to create a sense of solitude and coldness, but keeping the focal point feeling cosy and warm - secure from the wind and chill.Â Initially, the design wasn't going to be as dark and foreboding as it ended up, but it was to be more of a sunny seaside lighthouse, over-looking a bay in the background.
I wanted the tower to look distinctly stone-built, rather then a rendered surface, as I had a hankering at the time to draw older style buildings and architecture.Â I've also learnt to love the detail of rock and stone, so the mountain quickly changed into a jagged outcropping with lots of cracks and crevices which, as I was surprised to discover, was possibly my favourite part in the creation of this whole picture... that and the crystal growths!
Speaking of the crystal growths, this feature came from a slight urge to draw faceted stones breaking out of the rock and adding something different to the scene.Â But enough of that - I'll get on to the process now!
As always, I started off by just doodling in my sketchbook until I found a composition that I liked, and then scanned the ratty little thing in (Fig.01).Â Touching on a much larger note for a moment here, I used to find one of the most annoying aspects of having not sketched the idea directly on screen was that it was always hard to integrate the sketch once I finally embarked on it in Photoshop!Â I have found though that the best option for making your sketch into a transparent guide for your composition is to desaturate the image completely and turn up the contrast until everything is as close to black and white as possible, and then set the layer to "Multiply".Â I just thought I'd mention this here in case it helps out a few people who may also find this slightly frustrating!
Keeping in mind that this was going to be a brighter, more cheery image to begin with, the blocking in took a few hit and misses until I finally realised the direction that I was going in.Â
The hill initially was just that: a hill with a pile of rocks sloping up (Fig.02).Â But as I turned it into a craggy outcrop, I started blocking in more direction to the flow of the stone and tried out a few colours.Â In the end I settled on a stone grey (Fig.03 and Fig.04).
I wanted the clouds to look very stormy and rain-filled, so I painted in a dark blue background and highlighted the areas where sun was peeking through with a lighter and brighter blue (Fig.05).
I then went back to the rock and sharpened it up a little more before removing the hills in the background completely, following the new idea of it being high in the mountains, rather than on a seaside cliff.
At this point the hot air balloon was still just an idea in my head of something to add down the track, so I continued blocking in the rock and crystal growths with the intention of moving on to detailing them next.
As I have already mentioned, this was possibly my favourite part of painting this image, mainly because of the amount of trial and error I went through to getting it right.Â To say that I used a lot of brushes before I came up with something I really liked would be a gross understatement - I very well may have tried all of them!
In the end I used a lot of grainy brushes and some scattered pattern brushes which I made from photos of moss and fungus.Â The cracks were a process of drawing in the lines in black with a very small, hard-edged brush, and blurring the lines out a touch.Â Then it was just a matter of retracing it with the same small brush in charcoal grey down the middle of the line.Â This, I found, added a rounded look to some of the edges and prevented them from looking too sharp and fresh (Fig.06).
I didn't want the rock to simply be a grey slab, as this seemed boring and didn't catch the eye enough, so I looked at some coloured granite for inspiration.Â Freshly inspired, I tackled the rock with some soft pink and warm greys to add to the pattern a bit more, all the while flicking through brush settings and seeing what worked for me.
Next I moved on to blocking in and refining the light and glow of the tower itself (Fig.07).Â This was, at the time, the biggest focal point and so I spent as much time as I could nutting it out.Â This was the most frustrating part of the whole image as I just couldn't get it to look right in my own eyes.Â In the end I didn't want it to be simply a light house on a rock; I wanted the glow to be intense, brilliant, colourful and warming in the dark, as it was going to be the guiding light for the hot air balloon that I had finally decided I was going to add.
The Fog and Crystals
Just as I blocked in the balloon I had a change of mind about the clouds and how flat the image was looking as a whole.Â With the lack of depth annoying me I decided to rough in a second jagged peak in the background.Â This created a kind of mountain range effect, instead of it being a single summit (Fig.08).
In between the two peaks I added some fog to help the depth and to make it seem like the atmosphere was thicker.Â I also added mist to the foreground and faded the second peak out a little more.Â I then brightened up the area around the tower with a soft orange brush to make it look thick with the fog that was catching light from the tower.
With the balloon blocked in I went back to the crystal growths (Fig.09), shading them in with the thought that the balloon itself would refract a lot of light back at the tower.Â I frosted up the edges and created some transparency, with reference to a quartz crystal "garden" that I borrowed and had on my desk during this part of the process.
The Tower and Balloon
I started blocking in different shades of brown and grey in a brick pattern around the tower to break up the solidity of it.Â As I said, I was always meaning for the tower to look old and stone-built.Â I lit up the doorways to the tower so it seemed more "lived in", like perhaps a caretaker was busy inside cooking or sitting in front of a nice, warm fire.Â I also added a small drawbridge as a feasible way for any balloon pilot that might need to dock to enter for the night, or to make repairs to his balloon safely.Â Most of the warm glowing areas, such as the light and the doorways, were simply a soft-edged brush on a colour burn setting so that the colours beneath helped out the glowing a little more (Fig.10).
The balloon itself was very much inspired by the Steampunk genre.Â I wanted the balloon to look hand-built and roughly patched like it was someone's quirky home or project.Â So in that spirit, I made the underhanging ship look like an ordinary old boat that had been retrofitted for its new purpose.Â I also added two big props hanging out from the side, and a large copper pipe feeding hot air into the balloon as it powered along (Fig.11).
It's always a good idea to reference materials, such as metals and stone, and see how they react to light and shade.Â The fabric of the balloon was also based on the textures and looks of real world airships.Â Once again, a speckled brush helped to make something look aged and stressed, which is exactly how I wanted the balloon itself to look.
Anyway, here is the final image (Fig.12).Â I had a fun time making this image and I hope that I've been able to help a few of you in some small way.Â The one big thing I've learned through this picture, that I'd like to pass on, is just how overworked and picky your mind can get towards one image.Â Don't go thinking so much when you're painting or drawing, because in the end it's just going to make you second guess yourself and obsess over the tiny, little things!
Thanks 3DTotal, it's always a pleasure! Cheers!