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Birthday Commission

This is a digital painting I made for my good friend Adam.  I thought it might be helpful to show the step by step process from rough sketch to finished painting.

Adam took culinary arts in college and has worked in a few high end restaurants in the Ottawa area so I wanted to focus the piece around his love of food.  Whenever we get together he will have prepared some kind of mouthwatering dish like pork ribs with his own homemade BBQ sauce or thick juicy steaks that have been cooked to perfection.  He just got a new chocolate lab puppy named Fletcher recently so I thought it would make sense to show him doing what he does best for his new, furry pal.

This is the rough that I made using some photo reference of the two of them.  Adam’s a bit stocky in real life so I tried to exaggerate that a bit and he has a pretty unique and goofy way of smiling which I tried to capture.  Fletcher looks pretty much like any other chocolate lab so I tried to just focus on keeping his proportions looking cute and his expression excited as though this is the first steak he’s ever seen!

I like to use a really soft dark graphite pencil at first (like a 4B or sometimes higher) and I tend to be pretty heavy handed when I draw so I rely on yellow sticky notes for some of the corrections where things start to get too muddied up.  I’ve never really been comfortable with col-erase coloured pencils as I tend to draw more stiffly when I use them.

For the clean up I would usually put another sheet on top and trace over it using my light table but this time I tried a new method that my girlfriend, Katie showed me.   I scanned in the rough drawing into Photoshop, brought down all the brightness/contrast/black levels and printed it out onto 11/14 illustration board in light red ink.  That way I could draw directly on top of the original rough without the need for a light table and it was easier to keep the drawing looking solid.  Plus, it was way more comfortable than staring into a fluorescent bulb for an hour.

Afterward,  I designed the text on another sheet of paper and then pasted them up onto the illustration board.  When I scanned in the drawing I was able to remove the red underdrawing digitally and was left with just my final clean up.

I’m not the most confident painter and when I comes to technique I feel pretty clueless so I don’t really have a process figured out.  I heard that it is best to work out your values first before getting too involved with colour so that’s what I tried to do.  The biggest problem I found was trying to balance the dark values of the puppy with the bright white of Adam’s chef outfit.  By focusing on the values rather than the colours I realized that by painting Adam’s name the same value as his clothes it would help to balance the composition while also visually associating him with his name.

Finally I started to add colour on a layer above the grey tones.  My main focus here was trying to keep all of the warmer flesh tones in middle of the frame and supporting the composition so that the viewers eye would circle around from Adam’s face, across the steak to the dog and back again.  I also chose various shades of blue for the rest of the picture to contrast the more important warmer areas that I wanted the viewers eyes to be drawn towards.

Overall, I found that painting in Photoshop was a bit frustrating.  I don’t have any custom brushes set up so I found that I was always trying to ‘fake’ traditional brush technique but not really understanding how.  I think that for my next project I will be experimenting with the real thing (like watercolour or acrylic) rather than resorting to Photoshop.

I’m going to be getting this printed onto canvas and shipping it to Ottawa for him this week.  I’ve never printed anything out onto canvas before so I can’t wait to see how it will turn out!

Categories: Caricatures
Posted by Gerry D on November 22, 2010
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. 11/22/2010

    Nice work Gerry! Great palette and strong poses! Hope it was well recieved.

  2. 11/23/2010

    Nice Ger! Glad to see your being productive with your time 🙂


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