Making of 'Fountain of Hell'
One day I was taking photos around Lisbon, and I came across some beautiful stone statues in the middle of lakes set in some of the city's most beautiful parks. Later, I came across another fountain in a square, which had three of those classic angel-like figures standing below. Taking this photo as reference, setting it in the mood I had witnessed before at the park and adding a malevolent twist I decided to make the painting entitled "Fountain of Hell".
I opened up a new canvas in Adobe Photoshop with the A4 preset dimension. Using the photo (Fig.01) as reference, I quickly painted the whole canvas with a medium grey hard-edged brush, trying not to leave any white areas beneath (Fig.02). This step helps getting an overall balance of value in the painting. It's important to get a hint of all the elements into the canvas early in the painting process, so that they can then be continually refined simultaneously and in relation to each other.
I aimed for a reddish colour-scheme with small deviations to yellow in the lighter areas and purple in the shadows. To achieve this, I painted in the colours on a new layer set to "Color" mode, retaining all the value information below (Fig.03). I picked out some of the main hues and made a small colour palette directly in the canvas. This helps me in maintaining colour harmony by always colour-picking from the same source. This is important in the early stages, but later on all the colours can be picked up from any part of the painted image. I then started detailing the foremost figure so I could get an early idea of what the painting process on the other two figures was going to be. I mainly used hard-edged brushes for the initial block-in and then I continuously decreased the brush's hardness, size and opacity. This can be a slow process and should be done patiently. Most of the times I have to do several painting "passages" to get to the point where I am satisfied, especially with smooth textures.
In the following image (Fig.04) I corrected some things on the figures by copy/pasting elements onto new layers, moving these and merging them back down. I also changed the overall colour balance and the levels. Most of the time I use adjustment layers to do these corrections, mainly so I can apply more or less effect by painting on the layer mask. When I am satisfied with the result I merge the adjustment layer down, trying to keep the layer numbers to a minimum. I also use new "temporary" layers to paint and test some new elements in the composition like the dry roots below and the spikes on the fountain above.
In this image below (Fig.05) I was so immersed in the painting process that I actually went a step back by altering the colour scheme to a monotonous red and also by giving too much contrast to the forest in the background. In order for these things not to happen, I advise to make continuous pauses during the painting process, and also to compare your present stage with previous steps to confirm that you are actually improving the painting and not the other way around.
I also brought the image into Corel Painter to finish off the skin areas; it is so much easier to blend colours in Painter to get smooth colour transitions with the Blenders/Just Add Water Variant.
Nearing the end (Fig.06) I changed the greenish background to a less vibrant blue. This step is apparently similar in detail to the previous step; however there are a lot of minor corrections that I did, like the heads and hands of the figures, and the rocks and branches in the background. I do this often in the latter stages of the painting process, to correct every detail I see to improve the painting as a whole.
In the final step (Fig.07) I made a lot of colour and value corrections to the painting. The most significant being the desaturation of the figures' skin so it actually looked like stone. I also reintroduced some of the green of the previous steps to suggest some evil light penetrating a thick fog. It also helped me better define the branches which resulted in an interesting texture for the background.I also gave the shadow side of the fountain more detail by adding a layer in "Overlay" mode and painting in reflected light with a light blue brush.
The figures were standing out too much and they somehow did not look like they were integrated in the whole forest ambience, so I added a new layer in "Multiply" mode and, with a soft-edged brush, I painted in the shadow of some nearby off-frame trees. The "topping" of the fountain also got an overhaul to spice things up and hint to something that is quite alive with this fountain. Ironically they almost look like tasteful cherries on a cake.
The final step to help frame the image, was to mimic the effect you sometimes get with camera lenses of darkening borders. I simply took a new layer, stroked the outer edges with a thick brush, added a strong Gaussian Blur and reduced the layer's opacity.
To see more by Andreas Rocha, check out Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection