Making Of 'It Was A Fierce Battle'
© Geoffrey Cramm
The idea behind this image was actually triggered by a Stylised Animal challenge on the 3DTotal forums (http://forums.3dtotal.com), titled "Carnivorous Plant", almost about a year ago now, I think. I started with a quick concept sketch (Fig.01) but unfortunately couldn't find the time to continue with the challenge. So, it stayed in the lost sketches archive for a while, until I happened to stumble upon it, some months later.
I liked the idea of a giant evil flytrap with a monstrous grin, versus a small, helpless prey. I decided to take a different approach and finish the sketch only in 2D. This way I could keep more control over small details and vegetation, as I'm not a particularly good 3D modeller. Painting it would definitely give a more satisfying result.
I found that the image lacked action elements and drama. The pose was boring and the composition too straightforward. I redesigned the scene in a second sketch and changed the camera angle, added some flies, small flytraps and a bit of environment around it (Fig.02). It created some potential storytelling possibilities, which can be an important aspect of an image. A good illustration should make the viewer curious to know more about the subject and its background story. By creating a battle scene with multiple creatures interacting with each other, I tried to achieve that effect.
As you can see this image is quite similar to the final illustration, composition wise. I always like to keep early sketches as a base of the final image. If it feels right at the start, I tend to change as little as I can on that part. Of course I can always move some minor elements around, but the general composition often stays the same. Having the composition nailed, I then took some minutes for a few sketches of creatures flying around him (Fig.03).
Lines, Colouring & Shading
In the line art stage I created rough outlines for all of the final shapes (Fig.04). I then moved on to the colouring process. In this case, I started working on the head and kept working on the head without starting on other parts of the image. I often get a bit too excited on a particular part without paying attention to the rest. It's probably a bad habit of mine, since it is easier to keep consistency in an image by gradually building it up step by step. Instead, I have to make everything else match with the "head" element, in terms of lighting and amount of detail. Can't help it though, it's hard to change a personal workflow!
I always start out with separate layers; one for the base shape, one for basic shading, and several for texturing and additional details. This way I work my way through all parts of the image; shading tentacles, leaves and creatures one by one, adding layer by layer (Fig.05 - 09).
The basic shading is done mostly with the hard round brush, with size based on Wacom pen pressure. To get a more textured touch, I also paint with a rough round bristle, set on dual brush with a chalk or pastel brush (Fig.10). For the background textures I used a few custom brushes created by Goro Fujita, which I downloaded quite some time ago (and still use) - they're great brushes for background foliage, bushes and dirt.
There are two light sources in this image (Fig.11). I wanted to create a high dynamic light source on the left, from the sunlight shining through and highlighting the focus points of the image. This gave me the opportunity to create some translucence interaction with the tentacles and leaves. I then added a blue light source from the right, to give some variation in colour to the overall image. I didn't want to overdo it, so the second light source is quite subtle. To get some contrast and depth in the image I made the lower right parts of the image a lot darker, with deep shadows between the tentacles. By doing this I try to direct the viewers' eyes to stay in the image, circulating between the Flytrap King and the flying creatures.
The Importance of Detail
In every illustration there is a certain degree of detail to be expected, which you have to apply as an illustrator to make it 'believable'. By detail I mean the specific detail for certain subjects in certain environments. If you paint an attic, you add dust particles and light beams shining through the cracks. If you paint a robot, you paint rust on the metal, dirt stains, scratches and worn out edges, small highlights on the shiny parts. In this case, we have to create the details you'd expect from a jungle and the creatures in it. Moist, beams of sunlight, dirt on the Flytrap King and his teeth, highlights on his gums, dripping saliva, small hairs on his tentacles, etcetera. As I said, these details are very important, but a lot of them are easily overlooked. It's all about setting the right mood and creating an atmosphere.
The original image was done completely in Photoshop CS3, and its resolution is roughly 3500 by 2400 pixels. As a final touch I like to cheat a little by adding a Smart Sharpen filter on the flattened result, to get a slightly crispier look. It really helps to make small details, like highlight spots, stand out. Enjoy!
Final Image - © Geoffrey Cramm