Making Of 'Victorian Voodoo'
With this piece I was going for something moody. I wanted a piece that mixed something foreboding with something a little sweet, and I came up with the idea of paring Victorian fashion with a bit of voodoo flavor. After I decided what I wanted to paint, I put a random color layer down because it's easier for me to work on color. A white canvas is a bit harsh to stare at after a while. I drew everything out with a detailed sketch in Photoshop to get my ideas down (Fig.01). Of course, I knew things could change along the way if I found something else that looked or worked better.
Laying Down Lines
Once I got my lines down, on a separate layer I put a layer of a different color underneath the sketch layer to give myself something to start with. I formed a basic plan of color range in my mind and I chose a color for the background that would go with that plan. I laid down the basic values and colors, but after a while I decided I didn't like the position she was in, so I painted her to face straight on. I like to keep parts of a sketch in low opacity and on separate layers as I like to keep track of where everything is placed. Also I can then toggle it on and off when I need it.
Once I was happy with her positioning, I laid down the basics of the hair. I used red/orange to make it pop from the rest of the image (Fig.02).
When painting hair I lay down a dark layer to establish my basic hair shape. Once I have that layer I choose a slightly lighter color, a smaller brush and lay out chunks of hair. I use a soft brush and set it at a low opacity, to help fade and blend the ends out if they come across too harsh. Once that is done I pick a shade that's a bit lighter and use a slightly smaller brush. I keep this whole process up throughout the painting until I think I have it as detailed as I want it. If I lose some of the darker areas I go back in with the dark color and add some more shades back into the image (Fig.03).
In this stage I added some more basic colors and shapes for the accessories in her hair. I played a bit with the background color and lighting as well. I also added more colors throughout the piece. A little trick I like to use when my brush strokes are looking a little too rough, is to use median to help them blend a little better. At this point I was still deciding if I wanted her to be slighting frowning or slightly smiling (Fig.04).
I was constantly changing her face and adding more depth to the piece. I was also forming more of the basic shapes in her hair and around her face. I like to make custom brushes to achieve different effects in my work, mostly on skin and in my backgrounds. Plus they are just fun to make. In this stage I added more splotches and spots of texture and colors to add more interest; I also blocked out a bit of her eye shapes as well (Fig.05).
I like to skip around the painting, so now I jumped to painting out some of the objects in her hair. At this point the peacock skull didn't have many colors in it, but I figured I would go in with a color layer and add more colors throughout the whole image later. I added some cinnamon sticks, white peacock feathers, Star Anise, and some more strange items to help pull off the voodoo vibe. I then moved on to playing around with the background and decided to keep it simple since the main focus had so much detail. I decided to add a light colored line to give off the appearance that she has a light source behind her as well (Fig.06 - 07).
I kept up with my usual process of hopping around the whole painting. I added some texture and darkness to her neck to make it seem like she has some sort of choker on, however I wanted it to blend in with her skin. I kept adding details here and there until I thought I was finally finished (Fig.08).
I came back to the image after leaving it for a while, to realize I had made her face and skin tone too harsh and dead. Although I wanted a creepy vibe I also wanted her to have a sweet look, so I added warmth to her skin, softened her face a bit, and added a few more colors here and there. I added another layer set to Color and applied the colors at low opacity so it wouldn't be so bold. Then I decided to finally call the piece finished (Fig.09).