Making Of 'Boudicca 3060 A.D.'
Hello and welcome! This article will provide you with a walkthrough of my experiences during the creation of this project. I have narrowed down my creative journey into 6 stages. I hope that you pick up some useful tips and find it entertaining and informative. Without further ado, here is an insight into the 'Making Of' Boudicca 3060 A.D.
To begin with, I would like to give you some background information on my general mindset and what things I take into consideration before approaching a painting. I do not believe in following a particular workflow for every project because having freedom over the process allows me to get the results I want in the quickest way possible. Working this way helps to promote experimentation and keeps me on my toes, so that I do not get stuck in a rut or trapped in a routine. It helps me to retain enthusiasm and renews my desire to deeply concentrate on an idea. I feel that painting a picture is a very organic process, which involves permanently reviewing elements and improving them if they aren't quite working. I know that mistakes are going to be made, and this gives me the confidence to go right ahead and make them. If I make a mistake, I know I will learn from it in my efforts to correct the problem. It is the only way to grow and make progress as an artist.
Stage 1: The Idea
For this painting, I was originally inspired by Queen Boudicca of ancient Britain. Queen Boudicca is said to have had flaming red hair, and famously led a revolt against the Romans in approximately 60 A.D. She was a true leader and earned the respect of her people by fighting for the honour of her dead humiliated husband. I thought it would be inspiring to echo those virtues and characteristics in a new incarnation, some 3000 years later. My plan for Boudicca 3060 A.D. was to create an interpretation of a young woman that displays unbelievable qualities, such as honour, strength, leadership, intelligence, beauty, and incredible depth.
My imagination ran rampant for a while as visions of a Celtic barbarian princess with a space gun and pet alien
friend sitting on her shoulder flashed into my mind. After realising that the wild ideas were losing sight of my
original intentions, I began to think a little more carefully and decided to go for a more refined red-haired beauty in
a controversial full frontal head and shoulders composition. The idea of a fighter pilot really seemed to fit her profile and appealed as a good character for her qualities to shine through. With the theme feeling right, I knew she had to have spellbinding eyes in order to captivate the viewer and soften the intimidating nature of her straightforward pose. The design of the jacket was always going to be important and, ideally, had to lend itself to the composition.
Stage 2: The Practical Sketches and design
From the onset, I knew I did not want to use any reference material, so I quickly knocked out a single sketch, which proved to be sufficient for my needs. It was enough to provide a foundation that could be built on. Sometimes it is necessary to create several sketches to make the concept absolutely concrete before continuing. However, for this project I wanted to get into Photoshop as soon as possible, so I decided to go with what I had. Avoiding overt sexuality and anything else I felt might have compromised her personality were definitely key points in my mind as I strived to endow her with a mystical integrity. Boudicca's beauty had to be ethereal and because I wasn't really able to get that into a pencil sketch on a piece of A4 paper, I just got down some basic proportions and indicated a mane of mid-length fiery hair and proceeded to scan her. At this stage I already had visions for an electric sky in the background and a few distant planets/moons, so in the next steps I wanted to set the stage for that by laying down some nice colour combinations to provide the required atmosphere.
Here is the very rough concept sketch which I scanned into Photoshop.
Stage 3: Digital Preparation
The rough pencil sketch was scanned in at 300 dpi, and I decided against creating a new accurate line drawing of it because I chose to keep things loose during the initial stages. The next step was to quickly work out my intended final resolution and scale the sketch appropriately. A4 dimensions were used at 360 dpi (210mm x 297mm), which works out at 2976 x 4210 pixels. I made sure the sketch was scaled to half the size of the final image resolution, which ended up being 1488 x 2105. The reason I did this was so that the document could be a lot more manageable in Photoshop. It kept things nice and fast for when the "blocking in" process began.
When the document was set up correctly, I proceeded to clone/duplicate the layer and then insert that into a new group, with a "levels adjustment" layer directly above the sketch. By doing this, the levels can be adjusted dynamically, without losing any of the original data in the sketch. After I had the group set up, I gave it an appropriate name and deleted the old background layer. My next step was to create two new layers, one below the group and one above it, with the group layer mode set to "multiply." This technique is pretty useful because it allows you to begin painting colours on the layer underneath if you wish to see the original sketch, and paint on the layer above if you wish to paint over the sketch. It is simple, and it means you can block in all colours and tones very quickly. Remember that it is possible to change the opacity of the group and the level values, which gives you maximum control over the way you see the sketch/line drawing.
Using the sketch layer in this way gave me maximum control.
Stage 4: Colours, tones, and contrast
Usually, I prefer to work from dark to light when painting colours, but with Boudicca I just began painting quickly and very loosely with a range of colours that were used to impose a dramatic mood on the whole scene. Knowing that her hair was going to be red/ginger gave me the confidence to introduce some complimentary greens. I think it's worthwhile getting to know your complimentary colours as they can provide an image with a rich vibrancy when used correctly. The saturation of these colours has a big effect on just how complimentary they are within the context of the whole image. It is crucial to keep an open eye and make sure you are permanently assessing the relationships between colour and tone. Deciding where to go for contrast and where to go for softness is an important factor when drawing without any reference.
When I blocked in the colours, I chose to utilise a variety of standard Photoshop brushes. A mixture of soft-edged, hard-edged, and a few "natural media" brushes were all used at some point. In a painting of this type, I do not care about painterly quality or textures during the early stages, so I do whatever it takes to reach a point where the whole picture is working coherently. When that stage is achieved, I usually begin to apply more consideratio in to the rendering of textures and surfaces within the painting. They can be added more easily because you are working on top of an image that already has a lot of blended colours in place to sample from.
Image 1: In this image you can see how I blocked in colours and corrected some basic problems with the sketch.
Image 2: There were quite a few changes made at this point, with the most obvious being the design of her jacket, followed by the change of composition. The old jacket looked too bulky for my liking so I cleaned up the shapes and made it a little more slender and stylish. As this was still in the 'rough sketch' phase, it was important to get all of the final shapes right before moving on.
Stage 5: Blowing it up!
No, I don't mean with grenades! The time was right to double the image size to the final resolution. The next stage involved heavy refinement, which is when resolution really matters. I tidied up my layers by collapsing many of them and then renaming them appropriately in preparation for the next pass. Refinement is a very personal thing because some people prefer the sketchy look, whilst others like to see micro-fibres drawn with great accuracy! Whichever style tickles your fancy, it is important to forget about what other people think and continue until you are happy. The way I begin will often dictate the point at which I stop. If I am using textured brushes from the outset, I can often reach my goal early on and prefer to stop there in order to retain a life that is sometimes lost when refined beyond belief. However, I like playing with both styles - it just depends on my mood, or on a client. This painting was mainly a personal project, and I felt like adding a lot of high-resolution detail. It is a massive challenge to add detail at a high-resolution because the natural tendency is to start painting sharp edges when you are zoomed right in, which, in my experience, often looks unnatural and just does not work too well. So zoom out often, very often. Never lose sight of the overall look for the sake of detailing. At close range, the eye you spent four hours painting may look fantastic, but when you zoom out, there is a possibility it will unfortunately look awful and not contribute to the overall painting.
Also, at this point I decided to paint in a rough mask over Boudicca, so that I could separate her from the background. When I painted in the wispy high-resolution hair and edges, I could do so on a new layer and gave myself a detailed mask in the process. The advantage of this is that it gives you more control should anything need to be changed. Always consider that there may be unforeseen problems and prepare for them in your workflow. You will save yourself hours of work in the process. For example, if I had just painted the hair directly over the background as part of the same layer, I would have serious problems if it meant having to change either the background or the hairstyle. I was able to detail the background or colour correct it separately from the character when I wished to do so. It gave me an enormous amount of control and allowed me to make changes and experiment. When you are working professionally, it is even more important to incorporate such workflow enhancements.
Image 1: After doubling the res, I proceeded to add further details on new layers. If you look carefully you will notice that she has no eyelashes, earrings, or other details that had to be added afterwards.
Image 2: Here you can see how I kept her separate from the background layers. Working carefully like this gives you tremendous control.
Stage 6: Conclusion
After an image has been detailed, I like to flatten it, draw over it loosely to tie up edges and make sure that everything is blended and finished off properly. When I'm pleased with the result and there is no more painting to do, it's always nice to colour correct it and make sure that the mood is just right. Sometimes it may be worth considering a few final touches like subtle glows and highlights. They are very easy to add, so easy that it is also easy to get carried away with them. A subtle glow here and there can finish it off nicely though, so just create a new layer above the painting, set the layer mode to "colour dodge" and hit the image with a few accents. For me, the journey ended at this point, and I sincerely hope that you think it was worth it! Thank you for reading, and I look forward to sharing my experiences on future projects.
The final painting!