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Vektor November 25 2013 10:14 PM

Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
No, this has nothing to do with Trek and may be of no interest whatsoever to some of you, but I get asked a lot about the process I use to create a digital art piece and this seemed like a good opportunity to demonstrate it.

A couple of years ago I did a painting for my Dad as a Christmas gift, one that he had been asking me to do for years called "The Fourth Wise Man." This year I decided to do something similar for my Mom. She loves anything and everything to do with angels: paintings, figurines, sun catchers, tree ornaments, you name it. I had an idea for a Guardian Angel done in a classical style but with more of a "mama grizzly" vibe. In other words, I wanted her to look suitably angelic and ethereal, but also like she means business and is willing to fight any force in the universe to protect her charge. There are other layers of meaning here as well, mostly related to the fact that I am painting this for my mother, but I'll explain more about that as I go along.

Here, then, are a series of WIP images leading up to the current version, which has just about reached the end of the "sketch and development" stage. As you can see, I've gone through quite a lot of trial and error on everything from physical proportions and limb positions to hair styles and armor details. After showing the early versions to a few close friends, I was quite surprised when most of them failed to realize the angel was female, so a lot of the adjustments were focused on clarifying that.

One of the earliest iterations beyond the preliminary stick figure stage:

A little further along with some rough shading added:

Proportional adjustments like a longer torso and smaller shoulder pauldrons, plus a splash of color:

Color and shading removed, totally new and much improved leg positions, and more armor details:

First stab at an alternate hairstyle, what I like to call the "Would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?" version. This also introduced some changes to the armor, mainly the deletion of the high collar and a softening of the shoulder pauldrons:

Second alternate hairstyle, my personal favorite so far, though it's still evolving to fit my original vision:

Third alternate hairstyle, what I call the "L'Oreal, because you're worth it" version:

And finally, the current version with the armor almost fully designed and detailed, the hairstyle slightly modified, and her legs lengthened just a bit:

This is a pretty refined sketch but a sketch nonetheless. My next step is to redo the shading and start figuring out the color palette, as well as what I expect will be a background of sunlit clouds against a dark sky. Once that's done, I'll start rendering the final details over top of the line art so the end result winds up very painterly in the style of the old masters, or so I hope.

Feel free to offer suggestions or criticisms, but be aware that I've already gone through a lot of refinement getting to this point and I am unlikely to make any more major changes.

And by the way, this is a surprise gift so don't tell anybody. ;)

-SS- November 25 2013 11:28 PM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
This looks really beautiful so far.

Kaiser November 26 2013 12:05 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Epic awesome :)

Albertese November 26 2013 01:31 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Very cool to see your process! So, you have a snazzy Wacom tablet, yes? How much of this is strictly digital versus traditional media? Was any of this done using pencil on paper?


Vektor November 26 2013 02:44 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
All of this is digital. I did do a couple of very simple pencil thumbnails when I was trying to decide on the basic pose but I didn't even keep them.

And yes, I use a Wacom Cintiq tablet. It's just the small one, but I find it more than adequate for my purposes.

Wingsley November 26 2013 04:19 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Where/how did you learn to use Cintiq? What software do you use with your Cintiq? I have an old Graphire3 4x5, but it gathers dust.

Vektor November 26 2013 04:51 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Using the Cintiq is basically as natural and intuitive as drawing or painting. There really wasn't any "learning" involved other than figuring out how best to use the buttons for various functions. I use Photoshop on the software end, which does have a significant learning curve. Corel Painter is another similar program with even more realistic natural media capabilities.

Vektor November 26 2013 08:59 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Choosing the direction of my light source and making sure it works with the face.

B.J. November 26 2013 02:47 PM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Nice! I'm glad you've introduced some asymmetry into the face with the shading, because honestly, the nearly symmetric face was creeping me out.

Savage Dragon November 26 2013 04:44 PM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
You know, I honestly don't know if I like your 2D or 3D work better. Both are amazing.

Klaus November 27 2013 04:17 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Good grief, that's stunning... :eek:

Vektor November 27 2013 07:53 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
Well, I seem to have come down with a severe cold but I was able to try a few techniques earlier today for capturing that "traditional art" look. I'm also doing a lot of right/left flipping to try to polish out proportional errors, which is an ongoing process. Amazing how it can look absolutely perfect one way and then look all out of whack when you mirror it. Getting there, though.

Albertese November 27 2013 03:26 PM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
OOOooo... I love the brush-stroke effect you've got going there for the halo... Any quick advice on how you achieved that? I'm no good at making a photoshop piece not look .... "airbrush-y"...


Vektor November 27 2013 03:37 PM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
I laid down the initial strokes with a chalk brush at low opacity, then used the smudge tool with the same brush and some scatter and rotation jitter applied to streak it outwards from her head. The smudge tool with a textured brush (as opposed to the default soft round or whatever) works great as a blender.

Venardhi November 28 2013 04:09 AM

Re: Non-Trek - A Present for Mom
I think you can tone down your canvas texture about 50% but otherwise it looks like a great start.

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