I've been asked about my process for painting my SP illustrations, so I thought that I would post it here for anyone else that may be interested.
Step 1, like all creative efforts starts with an idea. For this one, I knew that I wanted to do a Steampunk Mechanic not unlike Kaylee from Firefly. I wanted to capture competence and innocence all in one cute character.
So from there I cranked out a bunch of thumbnails trying to nail down a composition that worked. I've omitted those thumbnails from this post because they are just quick notes to myself that are largely incomprehensible to anyone else.
From there I'll work up my reference material. In this case it started with finding a model and shooting a series of reference pictures to get a feel for the lighting, perspective, etc. From there, since I needed a complex environment with interlocking gears, a boiler and other elements, I went into Google's Sketchup program and created a 3D model of the gears and other things that I needed in the scene. Again, I'm only using this as a reference for perspective, etc.
The next step is to create a drawing based on the thumbnail and reference. Here I'm working out placement, general shape and the like.
From here there are a couple of ways to proceed. If I'm working in traditional media, I'll scan the drawing (if it's not already digital) and print it out at the final size. The print will be mounted on a board and sealed with an acrylic matte medium. I'll then begin painting the oils over that.
But in this case, I'll be working it up digitally; which I'll cover in the next post as I make more progress.
The next step is to create a digital palette to create a unified look for the work. For this painting, I tried something new that I picked up from the concept art world. I started by sourcing textures, photographs and the like that matched what I wanted to accomplish, and merged them with my sketch:
Using Photoshop I warped the textures to match the perspective of the wood flooring that I used for the walls and ceiling, laid down some initial shadows and set up some adjustment layers until I got a unified look that would become the underpainting for the next step. The photos are simply used for the color in the final piece.
From there the painting really starts. Using the color picker and some custom texture brushes in Photoshop, I'll start in the background and work my way forward until I have the basic structure of the painting. At some point I drop out the layers with the textures on them just to make sure that it's all hand painted. This step is not truly necessary, and I know several professionals who use photos that they have taken as a substantial part of their finished piece... this is just the way that I roll.
At this point I have a pretty good idea where things are heading, and I'll collapse all the layers down make another pass (again starting in the background) adding more details, refining the light and shadows and generally cleaning up things.
All the while I am painting, I have my reference photos open on a second screen. The photos of the model, images of an old copper tank, gears, wood flooring, etc., These are used to provide visual details that I can incorporate into the painting. For example, I'll be using the info in this photo to put plates and rivets on the tank while another picture has great details for staining the copper and detailing the cool green oxidation around the seams.
Time-wise, I figure that this is about half complete at this point.
So I'm back to the graphics tablet. More later.