I went to a workshop at Light Grey Art Lab this past weekend with Mike Yamada and Victoria Ying. It was a great end to my month-long trip. There’s nothing like being in a room for 3 days surrounded by talented people who are way better than you are, to motivate you back to work.
After seeing so many amazing sights, eating good food, and hanging out with great people the past month, it’s time for me to put my nose back to the grind stone.
This painting came out of the exercise we did during the workshop. The prompt was to come up with a design for Hansel and Gretel. Victoria did a demo on character design and Mike painted it. Here are a few things I learned…
On character design:
1. The most important thing about designing a character are: Acting and Personality. So I’m trying to apply that by having two characters interacting in opposition to each other - tension!
2. Start with a symbol and then build a design on top of it. This is somewhat backwards from what I’ve been taught before, where you focus on designing characters by focusing on different shapes to create an interesting design. According to them, figure out the acting first. Once the character conveys the personality/emotion you want, then you can dress it differently by adding design/stylization on top of that.
1. Sketch in the gesture/path you want the viewer to follow. He did this by blocking out objects into simple shapes, triangles are good, since they’re directional. Use the shapes to lead viewers into and through the painting.
2. Establish the 3 planes: foreground, middle ground, background. He did this by putting down a general neutral color over the line drawing. Then he separated out the foreground and characters by blocking it in a different (lighter) color.
3. Paint the local color first. The local color is the actual color of the objects (without light or shadow). Once you block out your foreground & main characters, paint their local colors, then use that to determine the colors of the parts that are in shadow/light. To do this he used a trick I’ve never seen before, where he duplicated the layer with the local colors, and adjust the Output Levels. In photoshop that would be ⌘L, and it’s the bottom slider. To get the colors of the shadows, you darken the Output Levels, to get the colors of the lighted object, lighten the Output Levels
4. Paint details in the light or the shadow part of the painting, but not both. This makes sense, if you look at a single exposure photo, either the lighted part has a lot of details and the shadow part is in darkness or the shadow part has lots of details and the lighted part is blown out. When you paint both light and dark in detail, it doesn’t look natural, like a double exposure photo.
5. Use analogous colors with accents. This is helpful for me because I always have a hard time establishing a color palette. Analogous colors means the 3 colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. You should stick to these for most of the painting. Then use a different color minimally as accents to highlight important stuff in the painting, like your main characters.
6. Keep your layers to a minimum. Use layers for your foreground, middle ground, background, and characters. The more layers you have the less committed you are to the painting, because you too many options. His tip was to make lots of layers as you paint, then group them all together and collapse them (you can duplicate the grouped layers before collapsing, that way you have a record of them if you want to go back).
I found all these tips to be super helpful, I tried to apply them as I was working on this piece. This is like the third digital painting I’ve ever done, so there will be more to come. I’ll be keeping these ideas in mind for my future paintings, digital or otherwise.