Making of 'Spider's Web'
This matte painting was a personal project.Â In this Making Of, I've presented all of the different stages of the image (Spider's Web) to you, from the conception through to the final image.
Because I wasn't constrained by time on this project, I was free to experiment a little. So Fig.01 - Fig.16 show the steps in the development of the matte painting and Fig.17 - Fig.21 show the finished work.
This painting was inspired by the tale of Muhammed and the Spider's Web: Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr were being pursued by the Quraysh (Arab tribe) during the Muslim migration to Medina. They took refuge in a cave in Mount Thaur, south of Mecca, and when the Quraysh came looking for them, Allah sent a spider to spin a web across the cave entrance and hide them from sight. Assuming that no one could have entered the cave without breaking the spider's web, the Quraysh departed and three days later Muhammad and Abu Bakr were able to continue on to Medina.
Before each piece of work, I prepare myself mentally and try to imagine what I want to create. I sometimes make sketches either on paper or computer, as well as searching for appropriate references. I think proper references are essential in order to produce a professional piece of work. After I make the first sketches, the whole image comes together little by little.
At the start, I wanted to create a monstrous creature to represent the Quraysh, who are the Arabic tribe that are hunting Muhammad (Fig.01).
Because I was more interested in the background, I stopped developing the design of the monster and decided to devote more time to the landscape instead. My objective was to create a divine light that would blend with the landscape to give it a spiritual atmosphere.
I chose a large aspect ratio (4790 x 2689 pixels) and this worked for both the details of the image and to make the image ready for printing. I started with a quick painting to position the elements, especially the light, and also to search for colour and composition (Fig.02 & Fig.03). For that I used three different shaped brushes (Fig.04) and with each one I worked with an opacity of 50% to provide depth.
I decided to use a green colour range to create a cold atmosphere (Fig.05).
Fig.06 shows a close up of some of the details in Fig.05.
Fig.07 shows how I started the matte painting by mixing textures with the paint. I tested that everything worked together (composition, atmosphere, light, textures) and made sure that the image was balanced.
Fig.08 is the same as Fig.07, only in greyscale. I think it's easier to have greater clarity when an image is black and white. I start painting a lot of my works in greyscale because I find it makes my work easier and helps to stop me becoming lost in the middle of lots of different colours.
In Fig.09 I started to experiment with Muhammad and Abu Bakr's hiding place: the cave behind the spider's web. I wanted a wonderful light to be coming out of the cave - a light that shows the greatness of the two people hiding there.Â But I also thought it would be better to make the light more unobtrusive as I didn't want to split the viewer's gaze between the two light sources in the image. Because of this I decided to make the light on the right the focal point (Fig.10).
During the early stages, I imagined putting a robot into the image, who would reflect the lack of feeling amongst the Quraysh. After thinking about the character a little more, I decided to choose something with a morphology closer to that of human beings, but more diabolical, and to put him in a position that shows he feels the presence of the two men in the cave.
As I still wasn't happy with the monster at this stage, I decided to look for some reference photos. I found a picture of a monster from Doom 3 and it inspired me to create the creature seen in Fig.11.The modelling was done in ZBrush. Â I applied the Metal Bump map and then I exported the model to Photoshop, where I added a texture with colour dodge applied, to give the effect of wood burning.
Next I inserted the monster into the background of the matte painting (Fig.12 & Fig.13) and added the fog. I increased the saturation of the light, with gave me a warmer atmosphere.
At this point, I stopped for a moment and took a step back so that I could examine the image with fresh eyes. The result of this was that I found that the image wasn't quite legible and that it was overloaded with content. So I removed the monster and everything else that was bothering me (Fig.14).
After removing the monster, there was an empty space in the painting that I decided to fill with a large rock (Fig.15). To add further balance and break up the symmetry between the light and dark areas, I added some new textures and increased the atmosphere of the image. All of this helped me to find a better composition.
Fig.16 shows another rock that I added to enhance the light and give a feeling a depth.
Fig.17 shows how I integrated textures within the image. The rock was flat, so to make it three-dimensional, I applied soft light to one of the textures. The images that I used were a combination of high-definition images that I purchased from Shutterstock and pictures I took with my own camera.
I created the cave with black paint and then added a texture of an actual canvas (Fig.18). Frame 1 gives the impression that the canvas is artificial, whereas Frame 2 is much more natural. I worked the light into the canvas so that the fabric was not too loud or too discreet. For Frame 3 I wanted to use fireflies to give a little life to the cave. The image is a photograph of the stars that I applied using screen mode, which I find is more natural than trying to produce the specks of lights manually with a brush.
Fig.19 shows the various layers that I used for the light:
- Layer 1 - an image that I applied the following to: layer style, colour overlay, dark green colour, opacity 51%
- Layer 2 - air brush, opacity 60%
- Layer 3 - sky brush, opacity 36%
- Layer 4 - a technique that I often use for light and fog; I create a layer and apply the clouds filter, a black colour and white soft light with an opacity of 30%
- Layer 5 - red, grey, black, 31% opacity
- Layer 6 - aerograph brush, opacity 28%
- Layer 7 - aerograph brush overlay, opacity 28%
Fig.20 shows the image without global illumination.
I then applied four adjustment layers to the whole image, the settings for which can be seen in Fig.21.
The final image can be seen in Fig.22.
As you can see, there is a clear sequence of steps in my work, and that is because I always record each step in jpg format. This is for two reasons; the first is that it allows me to see how a piece has progressed from concept to the final image and the second is as a back-up.
Thanks for taking the time to read this Making Of and I hope you found it interesting and useful!