Making Of 'Worm Licker'
Hello, my name is Ioan Dumitrescu (aka Jonone); I'm a 20-year old self-taught concept designer and a student of architecture. In this making of article I will try talking you through some thoughts, ideas and show you some of the workflow behind the creation of my 'Worm Licker' image.
It all started after I finished some work and needed to blow some steam. So I started doing some thumbnails on A4 Xerox paper, each one letting my thoughts roam wherever they wanted, with my hand following closely. When working like this I usually don't think of a subject or story whilst doing them - they're just for relaxation purposes. All of a sudden, on clean paper, I started working a bit bigger and there I saw an eye and a worm-like mouth appear, so I followed that track finishing off with some sort of deformed worm with arms (Fig.01). At this stage I would usually have an idea and form myself a story to continue the piece with, and this image was no exception from that rule. So I imagined a worm-like creature getting hit by light; the light being filtered by leaves and branches of trees in a dense forest; the creature hating light and being terribly disturbed by it.
It is always good to reference yourself on the subject at hand, but also to get inspired from stuff that has no apparent connection to your image as well. Here are 3 images photographed by me that I used as references and for textures (Fig.02a - c). If you are using references for atmosphere or colour then don't colour-pick! Try finding the colours for yourself; try to get a 'feeling' for the appropriate colours (of course looking back at some basic colour theory will always be helpful). Always try to picture things in your mind; try thinking about all of your moves before you make them, and you will learn a great deal - some techniques will even become like reflexes!
So with this in mind I started a new document in Photoshop. I didn't scan or photograph the sketch, as the idea I had in mind followed a slightly different pattern (plus I didn't like the sketch - it was too ugly for me, but it at least helped as a starting point). The first thing was to start blocking-in shapes; I knew things were going to be dark with some highlights, and I had the colour palette pretty much defined in my head, so I started exploring a bit. Using a large brush I defined the contour of the creature, and because of the lighting situation it was important to have a good, strong - massive in this case - silhouette. I then decided on the composition. As far as the colour scheme went, I wanted the colours to help connect the image with nature, but at the same time I wanted to create a dark, slimy feel, so I therefore choose greens and blues with yellows and browns for contrast, to start off with (Fig.03).
From those basic shapes defined, I then I added a few more colours which all derived from the initial ones, and I started to better define the shapes and add a few more details. The background was clearly too rough and didn't convey anything of what I wanted, so I started adding a bit more yellow and darkening the base, therefore helping the composition as well. With a few texture brushes I headed towards the textural, chaotic and organic feel that I was hoping for. I also had some kind of veins/roots/flesh stuck to something where the worm had nested (or was hanging from) before it had got struck by the light and violently uprooted - obviously in agony, therefore stretching the veins/roots/flesh material. At this point I felt the need for some texture on him, so I brought in some bark textures and leaves which I had photographed, and started painting over them, reinforcing the image and the idea that he was half underground and half above ground. Lots of flora was growing on him (perhaps for camouflage?), and I also gave him a twisted tongue as I thought it would be funny (Fig.04).
Here it was time to wrap up the image, but before I did that I realised that I didn't like his mouth and so started changing it with the hope of ending up with something that suggested a scream of agony. His neck area needed some other forms to separate the mouth and chin from the neck and body, so I split the chin and left the result of this as the final design. I enlarged his base as well, giving him a bit more stability and an overall cohesion of mass. Next on the 'to do' list was the stretched veins/flesh; in short, they weren't stretched and didn't help the diagonal composition, so I adjusted them. His tummy was a big 'blob', so I added some soft light hitting it, showing some vegetation plus layers of flesh and fat one upon another, suggesting more tension beneath the chin and the neck area.
Here it was time for fun part: final highlights and details! I had neglected the tongue and mouth area so here I started suggesting the teeth (two sets: one exterior and one interior - that's my favourite combination!), lightened up the tongue... and what worm monster is a real monster without some slime being spat into the surrounding environment? I added some highlights on those two knife-life arms, showing that they were made of some sort of bone with sharp tooth-like edges, and some more flesh and flora was given to his stretched thingies and belly area... et voila! It was done.
I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. Here's the final image (Fig.05).
To see more by Ioan Dumitrescu, check out Digital Art Masters: Volume 9
Digital Art Masters: Volume 8
Digital Art Masters: Volume 7
Digital Painting Techniques: Volume 4
Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop
and Prime - The Definitive Digital Art Collection