Making Of 'Dream'
The initial goal for this art piece was simply to conceptualise a method of personal transportation. However, I wanted to approach the topic in a way that did not instantly state the obvious. Naturally, the desire was to create something cool, but what I really wanted was a universal concept, something that would appeal to people of immense variety. It eventually came to me: a method of personal transportation that knows no bounds and offers individual possibilities. The imagination: the ability to dream. This initially simple concept then turned into something a lot more personal, becoming an entirely different intention.
I wanted to create "Dream" mainly because of the feelings it triggered within me; an amazing sense of freedom, joy and calm - a very energetic essence overall. I knew I had to transfer all of these emotions to the digital canvas immediately. I've found over the years that, somehow, beyond conscious recognition, my emotions come out in my artwork. I may not realise it immediately, or even after a very long time, but the state of mind that I am in at the given moment when I am working on an art piece, greatly affects it. So with all that energy and emotion flowing through me, from the idea of Dream, it was a no brainer - I had to create!Â I knew it was going to be loads of fun, and that alone was reason enough to deem its creation.
Inspirations and Motivations:
I often tend to be self inspired, and it doesn't take much for me to get excited about creating something new. In the case of Dream, I had no idea what the image would look like. The picture I had in my mind was very obscure, and yet not knowing what, where, or how the piece would develop was my motivational fuel, and that gave me an excuse to make a mess and laugh at my nonsense along the way. From experience, I knew it would eventually turn into what I wanted.Â That first "play" with the medium always eases me into the process. A lot of the time, before I start a piece, I will go searching for artists that I like and gather all that positive energy. I find that viewing the works of other artists, can be very inspirational and motivating, as there is always something to discover, learn and enjoy. So I take that trip into the mind of others before I go and get lost in my own.
My intention for the piece was simple: to take what I saw in my mind and translate it visually so that others could also experience it. The question I asked myself was, "How do I paint a dream?" What I saw in my imagination was not exactly representational; recreating that very abstract and obscure image, which in truth was just a blurred idea, was the task I set out to accomplish. I vowed to stay true to the purity of the idea: every colour, every curve, and most importantly, the expression. The overall intent for Dream was to capture that sense of free spirit - a feeling of contentment. In a single word, I hoped to achieve "bliss" and to have the viewer experience the same, or at the very least be at ease and calmed by the image.
Texture & Gesture
Dream was completely created using Corel Painter X. Starting with a blank, white canvas, with an obscure idea of the image forming in my mind, I began to dig the texture from my custom papers with a Sharp Chalk (Fig.01). Using papers is just one of Painter's many strengths, and for this piece I purposefully created and developed various assorted papers which would be in touch with the inspiration behind the image itself (Fig.02 - Fig.07).
Using images of architecture from various countries, natures and technologies, I "melted" them all into a collage. From that large collage I cropped and made several papers. Though not obvious, the paper textures did a fantastic job in building the foundation of the image, adding richness and life to the final result, which is what any good foundation should accomplish. Using the papers made it possible to create some very interesting abstract patterns and shapes (Fig.08 - Fig.17), but most importantly, they allowed the image to be comprised of things relevant to its meaning.
I wanted the image to flow with energy, so each stroke made was very quick and fluent, without much thought, and entirely left up to chance. I acted purely on just how I felt at that moment and how the image I saw in my mind made me feel. So with those elements at hand, I did my best to translate them to the canvas.
Color & Composition
The emphasis on energy came in the form of, not only the swooping "S"-type curve of the figure and the highly dense patterns and texture within the image, but in the colour. The main idea behind the colour was to have a flowing compliment - initially yellow to red-orange, versus blue to green. The balance I aimed for was invigorating and hopeful in the warms, with calm and gentleness in the cools. Fused together, I hoped to have peace in the image and a sense of enjoyment in life itself - the abstract and unknown.
Making full use of my palette, I blended colours already on the canvas to enrich the image. I fused the greens with the warms to create earthy tones which sat very well on the natural side of things. It was important not to overdo it because the feel of the tones was all that was needed; a merging of colour rather than an addition to the strict palette.
The hot zone of the image starts at the bottom, and the build up of energy takes you upwards as it gets cooler, more soothing and less busy, allowing you to stop at the face which is very integrated with the background - moulded with all the things that build the dream.
The creation of this piece was not systematic; I am not very step-by-step oriented when creating my work, it all just comes together sporadically.Â I go back and forth, working on a different area every few minutes. I love letting my natural flow take over, going where my mind wants to go. I know it will come together in the end.Â If needs be, I can always consciously take a technical approach, which is actually the last phase of my work. After all that uncertainty, exploration, surprise and shock along the way, the final stage consists of a cleanup and a more technical approach. I do strongly believe that a balance is always needed in whatever is done.
What makes Dream stand out are the various small things that build up the larger picture. The vibrancy of the colour makes it hard not to catch the eye, and the image itself talks to the viewer. I have to be honest; there are areas in the image that I, myself, am still discovering. I believe if your own work can keep surprising you, the creator, then it will certainly stand out amongst others.
The emotion and energy that went into the image shows itself in the image.
To sum up, I had no definite image in my mind, so everything was an exploration of trying to visualise what I felt. Leaving myself vulnerable to the media allowed me full comfort and maximum flexibility with a realm of unlimited solutions to what I was trying to create. Fun while creating is a must, or why bother? It will show in your work! Enjoy what you do and do what you love. Sometimes things just feel right and it all comes together. Those are the moments to grasp and to take full advantage of.
I started off filling the canvas with texture, shapes and patterns. For each aspect I used three different utilities: for texture, I used Painter's Paper utility; for the shapes I used the Paint Bucket tool with Painter's Gradient utility and for patterns I used Painter's Pattern utility (Fig.18).
For this first stage, I stuck to my colour palette, but kept it rather neutral in saturation, leaving room for greater enhancements later - after all, this was just the beginning (Fig.19 and Fig.20).
I added texture, shapes and patterns until I felt satisfied, and then I began tinting areas to my liking in order to make it more cohesive.Â Going a bit further, and reaching a point where it was time to get bold and add some weight, I implemented some darks into the image, until the weight started to read a lot better for me (Fig.21 - Fig.23).
To get a different view of things, I rotated my canvas and started playing with more shapes.Â Whether I used the Marquee tool or the Gradient utility, the aim was simply to make shapes and add interest. I continued to add shapes and texture until I was satisfied with the feel of my canvas. And then... I destroyed it (Fig.24and Fig.25)!
After all that fun with texture, shape and pattern, I made it one cohesive image by tinting the entire canvas with a dark green. Even though it was tinted, the initial colours still showed through and blended nicely together, giving me a very rich and deep background to build upon (Fig.26).
So I moved on to the mid-ground to experiment some more, trying to find my flow.
At this stage, I was less inclined to use paper as a texturing method as heavily as I did in the beginning. Instead, I focused more on the patterns, because I was able to have full control of the flow and could be a lot more purposeful at this point in what I wanted to see (Fig.27 and Fig.28).
Staying focused on the intended weight flow of the image, I built up patterns which flowed from the bottom of the image upwards, all following a swooping upwards stroke which gave a feeling of motion and an uplifting energy (Fig.29).
The transitioning of colour temperature, from hot to cold, as the forms progress upwards was a key aspect in the piece. This transition of colour helps to communicate the flow of energy throughout the image. The method in which I added colour to the forms was quite simple. When I applied my patterns using the Pattern Chalk tool (Fig.30), I created a new layer and made my desired pattern. At first, the pattern was only one colour, so in order to get my gradations, I set the layer to preserve its transparency and then airbrushed my colour into the shapes, in whatever manner I desired. I find the Digital Airbrush in Painter (Fig.31) to be realistic in the way that it provides the tiny spatters, which aren't digitally soft and blurry, but much more like a real airbrush, allowing the colour to blend beautifully. It is very optically attractive because of the so-very-subtle build up of colour (See Fig.29).
At this point, I sat back for a while and observed the image, and in doing so I spotted areas that I wanted to build upon. The first thing I saw in the image came from the background, and it was the image of an ear. So I actually started the figure from the ear and worked my way around (Fig.32).
I expanded my canvas upwards, since it was starting to get cramped and the figure needed more room. Looking at the flow of patterns, I got the feel of a body and so began experimenting with form and colour. I added texture to the expanded canvas, also indicating a gesture of hair for the character (Fig.33 and Fig.34).
For a moment I re-thought the character, but it didn't work to my liking as the flow was all wrong and the emotion that I was aiming for had been destroyed. So I knew that I needed to step back and be much more purposeful at this stage (Fig.35).
My next step was sketching in the figure to suit the emotive intent of the image, and to fit it within the boundaries that the textures and patterns had built for me. After I quickly sketched in the figure, I basically found the feeling that I had desired for the first shot.
However, I knew there were still a lot of changes to be made. But at this point, the image was where I needed it to be and all doubts were cast away; I had found my design - now I only needed to refine and polish it (Fig.36).
Having found my design, I blocked in the silhouette of the figure to see if the composition was to my liking. I did find the composition to my liking and so started to develop the figure, making the necessary enhancements (Fig.37 and Fig.38).
At this point I felt the need to further experiment, bringing the elements more into the foreground. I experimented again with texture, shape and patterns, but with the mindset of using them to sculpt form. I liked what I saw and received the creative signal to go full force into the image (Fig.39 and Fig.40).
This stage was the glory stage, where it all started to get cleaned up and things went by really fast. Actually, things went by slowly, but at this stage I was so into the piece that a lot got done before I eased up from the image. At this point in the stages of progression, I took huge visual jumps, but it was just a matter of continuing the process of experimenting and working things until they felt right. I started to solidify the figure by adding more visual interest, introducing depth to pull the figure out from the background and also adding volume to the figure itself. At this point, I focused on the balance of colour, introducing more blue into the upper portion of the image, starting the transition from the warms to the cools
I then arrived at the tedious part of the process, where I started to clean up - but it was oh so much fun! For the edges, I used a Cover Pencil (Fig.42). This is my tool of choice for cleaning up edges which I don't actually want to be razor sharp, but yet very tight. Using the Scratchboard tool (Fig.43) - one of my favourite tools - I continued adding detail to the image, whilst simultaneously cleaning up using its razor sharp lines and large line variance ability. The Scratchboard tool has the ability to add that very clean vector line quality to the image, with the advantage of it being a freehand tool. I continued to add subtle details all over the image, enhancing the curves of the body using the Pattern Chalk, and continuing to refine the edges with the Scratchboard tool. I spent time making sure the face was correct, and after mirroring the image a few times I found the line I needed and finalise the face (Fig.44 - Fig.46).
Here came the pain of the image; I had been back and forth, back and forth with the face, trying to figure out how to clean it up without losing the feel I had captured in the sketch. I found the blend of the sketchy lines into the background to be very lovely in their interaction, but it was too messy for a final image. With all of that detail in the background it was obviously not going to be easy! The problem with blending is that things become softened, and soft was not what I wanted. I spent many hours trying to blend, and to find a short way around it. To be honest, I spent an entire day failing at this process! So I took a break from the piece and then went back later on, ready to hand-draw every single shape, value and hue shift, until the face was clean and retained all the colour variance and hard edges that were provided from the sketch interacting with the background.
I started to very slightly blend the sketch lines into the image, just enough so that it wasn't so harsh and had a better consistency. Along with blending the sketch lines, I refined the lines for the facial features using the Cover Pencil, so it was sharp but not razor sharp (Fig.47).
At this point I really went into the process of cleaning up the face, by sharpening every shape of variable colour using the Cover Pencil. This was a very, very tedious process, but I achieved the exact look that I wanted. I continued to add minor details using the Pattern Chalk around the ear and along the eyebrow, to compliment the other details in the image (Fig.48 - Fig.51).
The image was now at its end, with just one more touch left: adding some subtle depth in areas. For this I used the Digital Watercolour tool (Fig.52). I always use the Digital Watercolour tool for glazing and adding depth to my images. I go around subtly adding darker areas where I think it needs it, so that the image can "pop" a bit more. The image, at this point, was now complete (Fig.53 - Fig.60).