Making Of 'Nyx'
Before I start a painting it is important for me to get into the correct mood, so I tend to play some dark and ambient music. Whilst painting this image I listened to Radiohead as it is fairly light and mellow.
I always start by filling the canvas with a simple flat color and sketching with some random brushes (which you can download for free from my website www.pandemoniumart.net/brushes) until I find a shape I like and that allows me to explore more ideas and see where the image takes me (Fig.01). I usually don't have anything clearly defined in my mind, and in this case I just knew that I wanted to paint a static, moody piece with some sort of mysterious goddess or exotic sorceress in it. I think the inspiration came from old photos of movie actresses. I like to paint at this stage with a loose textured brush so that happy accidents can occur, sometimes for the best. I try to keep everything fairly flat and simple (Fig.02).
Defining the main composition is a hard task, but after this first step I tried to find some gesture and expression for the character (Fig.03). I then focused on her face, adding more details. I painted her eyes closed as if she is meditating, dreaming, fading away. This is, in general, how I approach an illustration; I try to communicate an idea, emotion or mood.
The goddess I chose to represent is a character from Greek mythology called Nyx. She was the primordial goddess of the night and a shadowy figure. She stood at or near the beginning of creation, and was the mother of personified gods of Sleep and Death. In my vision, although she looks pale and demonic, she inspires power and beauty.
It's a bit tricky working directly in color, but it's a good exercise. I try not to use the Undo function too much; I prefer to correct any mistakes with the same brush. Attaching yourself to a piece of detail is not a good thing. A good artist will always be able to destroy and build upon his own creation again.
The costume design was not very important at this point, I was just establishing the general shape and feel (Fig.04). I was not very happy with her headdress, so I tried many different designs until I decided to simply make her hair appear as if it is blowing in the wind. This also helped the composition and overall shape look more organic (Fig.05).
Also at this stage I decided to go for a portrait and crop out the rest of the body. Notice that the light source was not clearly defined until the final step, where the focus was on the face because I wanted the viewer's eyes to go directly to the focal point.
The last step is where I blocked the entire figure into a dark, shadowy environment. I deliberately have all the highlighted areas together in the center of the image so that the face will stand out. To enforce the focus I blurred the background a bit and added some dust particles to create more space and a sense of depth. Her pale face creates quite a dramatic contrast and defines the form clearly. The two red ribbons added a bit more story to the piece and a touch of mystery that creates questions.
I hope you liked the process and thanks for reading! (Fig.06).