Pray the Mountain God – Dolomites Landscape & some Goodies!

dolomitesThis post’s text somehow got deleted. Here is the download link to the colour swatches, as provided in the original post:


Peloponnese Coast – first landscape

Something bothers me about this landscape and I can’t put my finger on it.

I started off based on a photo, so the coast line is pretty accurate, except that there was a tree in the foreground which I thought was taking focus off the real star here: the sea and the multiple coast plans that keep perpetuaiting in the horizon until it melts in the mist of the sea.

I’m also happy with the way the mountains disappear in the clouds with a kind of a pinkish halo, I think that came out quite realistic. The clouds are quite realistic in my opinion, and absolutely love the little ray that goes down on the middle coast.

peloponnese-coastNow enough with the things I like about it, there are many things I don’t like. First, the foreground if too big – the big part in black below. I didn’t really know what to do with it, and I kind of just left it there. I’m not very happy with the middle chain of mountains eiter – I guess they look much better than what I had initially drawn, but there’s something I could have done better – especially in the part where the land meets the sea.

Finally, I should have studied more the sea, but I don’t feel too sure of myself with some of the photoshop tools, so I guess I will just have to keep practicing. One thing I will try next time is to use textures and the lasso – which apparently really help with the lighting and controling what is modified and what is not.

I used several brushes, mostly however I used this set of dry-oil brushes: You can kind of see the edge of the brush on top of the middle mountain range.

I’ve also used quite a lot the dodge and burn tools, colour / hue / saturation adjustments. No liquify tool this time though 🙂 The final touch was a layer of pink (something like this) which I applied in overlay only on the upper half of the painting. This made the sky look grey and grim, while the sea was left vibrant, since in my head this was a local storm (in the background you can notice that the light really brightens up and slides under the clouds carried by the moisture. So the storm just passed, the clouds are going away and we see the first ray of light coming through the clouds.

All that is missing here is a trireme making its way to a little port somewhere on the coastline 🙂 and perhaps a hoplite or two mounting guard in the foreground. Okay, I might work this landscape more !

Thanks a lot Istebrak for your amazing landscape tutorial: 

Wacom, what does this button do?

No drawing today, but a more technical note on my brand new Wacom intuos tablet I purchased – of course – on Amazon at little over 60 € (I guess 70 dollars).

I was a bit skeptical at first, because it is not a tablet per se, meaning  there is no screen and you do not draw like you would on a blank piece of paper. Instead, it looks like a giant laptop mousepad with grey dots – which I imagine are part of the sensor system that helps locate your pen on the screen.

It takes a bit of practice to get used to, but most of all it has to have a practical setup according to what you use most while drawing. To learn how to setup your tablet in a few quick steps, it’s best to have a look at these tutorials and pretty much follow what Aaron Rutten is doing (that’s what I did).

You basically have 6 buttons which you can set up to do a particular action (4 on the tablet and two on the pen). The tools I use most are the brush (duh), the eye-drop tool, infinite undo (Ctrl+Alt+Z) and changing thmywacomsetupe size of the brush. So naturally, I set up my tablet to respond to my four basic needs, but I also placed these functions according to what I felt was more practical. So, here is my setup at the moment:

I haven’t decided what to do with the right buttons yet, but I would be curious to know what you guys would recommend.

There are probably more expensive tablets out there, with loads of other functions, but for my needs (meaning painting for fun not as a job), I think this is a very reasonable option.

Portrait – 1st attempt & self critique

Last week I started – somehow incredulously – my first ‘serious’ portrait project. To my surprise it came out much, much better than I could possibly expect. This was based on a photo and I am particularly proud of the left eye that really captures the personality of the person depicted (the photo was very good in fact).

I have to confess that the ‘head wire‘ I had studied years ago really helped in the initial phases of the painting – deciding where the eyes, nose and mouth go, what is the ratio between them so as to reflect the true appearance of the person’s face etc.

I would really like to push it further however, because I have the feeling I don’t fully master the different planes of the head, which I feel were quite important in this particular portrait. The photo I used as a reference was black and white with very discreete contrast, particularly in what the cheeks, temples and nose were concerned. More pronounced were the cheek lines (that define the smile) and the eyes. I had to guess most of the time where the light and the shades would go so that it would fit the head frame of the person.

day4_greyAnother challenge was the hair. Of course, I followed the precious advice of Istebrak in her hair tutorial, but had some problems finding a good brush for it. I think I could have done a better job if I had a better brush – when I find one that I consider perfect for the job I will post it here for free 🙂 Overall, I’m quite happy with the result, but am a bit disappointed with the ‘silky’ look.

Finally, I definately have a problem with hands, and plan to dig into some studies for that as soon as I can. Should probably also build my patience, because I tend to spend a lot of time on things I already know how to draw (like eyes) and then rush through the neck, shoulders and hair.

I have to also confess that I had to use quite a lot the “liquify tool” to solve some rather big issues of face simetry. One very, very good trick for this has been to flip the canvas. It really changes the whole perspective of the drawing and helps find the spots where you’re way off the charts with the ratios. It does have a depressing effect though – because you think you’re doing beautifully and then flip and realised you’ve created a sort of king Quasimodo of all the portraits ever drawn.

Anyway, this was pretty much the process I went through while painting this.


Oh Praxiteles!

I’ve always liked to draw and when I was 18 I had actually developped quite a bit my skills, which I of course forgot in the meantime. I have been very much into Illustrator and into tips and tricks to render leaflets, logos etc. attractive but I left drawing pretty much aside.

Then I got to know ancient Greek art and I felt so humbled by the sheer beauty and the precision of strokes of some of the painted vases. Of course, I won’t mention here sculptures, because I completely became obsessed with Praxiteles and everything he was ever suspected to have done. In particular Apollo of Olympia stroke me as a face that represented all that was just, strong, beautiful, divine. I don’t know how Praxiteles did it but it’s simply amazing.

So I was thinking of taking on drawing again, because it’s always the best way to observe details. Then I stumbled accross Istebrak’s video tutorials on painting in photoshop. At first I thought – naaah, I couldn’t possibly achieve that level. And then I gave it a go – first only with my mouse and by painting over a photo of Javier Bardem – whose face I find so intriguing: savage, asymetrical and somehow attractive. And the result came out pretty good for a first digital painting with a mouse 🙂 Here it is!

javier-bardem-portrait2x In the meantime I’ve learnt how to deal with hair, but this is an excellent way to keep a track of evolution. I’ve also equipped with a very basic wacom tablet and pen, and I’m pretty much good to go.

I will post in this blog mainly for my own pleasure, for keeping track of my evolution and why not for tips and tricks for beginners. I am by no means an artist, but I am open to critique and recommendations. Trolls will be trolled though!