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This was my process for this painting...
but things changed after creating this one!)

1. When lightning strikes and I get an idea...

I'm usually doing something totally unrelated to art when i get an idea. Doing chores, exercising, or talking with my wife as we walk in the woods...those are the moments when lightning strikes.

2. Meditating on the image...

If i am having trouble visualizing a scene or even what I want the characters to look like I meditate and walk myself through the image. It is like watching my very own short bit of animation. I can work out problems with the whole image while in meditation. I use this method a lot.

3. Composition thumbnails...

This is my brainstorming phase where I tackle quick doodles and jot down tons of notes as I go along. 

rough layout.jpg

4. Designing the environment...

So, this is where everything happens...the setting for the painting. It is the world in which the characters live. Here is where they move around and react to the things that I want them to react to or miss those things I want them to be completely unaware of.

both hills.jpg

5. Character design...

At this stage, now that I generally know what will happen in the image, I start working on the characters. I figure out solutions to the characters' poses and postures, expressions, and the style I want to ultimately use for all the characters. I really love the character design part of the process, as it's always a challenge!

MICRON 2.jpg
orig log boy.jpg
middle kid.jpg
small child and teen.jpg

Concering the Alien(s)...
I started out designing a few different aliens for this whole thing. However, a fast-approaching deadline caused me to reconsider. I needed to scale down the workload and so I decided to go with just one alien. I think only having one alien worked better overall.

I still really like these unused visitors and so perhaps one day they may start in a painting of their own!

6. Final drawing...

Having scanned all my sketches, I then brought them into Photoshop. First, I started with the environment, piecing everything together. Next, I added the main characters and all the animals each in their assigned spots. I was finally able to see this monster come together. I was getting excited to see that my plan was working.

hiking kids line.jpg

Fun fact: I didn't draw the alien in the pond until after putting the rest of this drawing together. That was an intentional decision. Drawing that alien last was like saving my desert until after I ate all my vegetables!

7. Establishing the the values...

On a layer under the final drawing, I figure out the whole range of dark and light values for this image. This is when things begin to pop and look more three-dimensional. This phase can take quite a while, but I am working from a quick value I working with a net.

hiking kids final value sm.jpg

8. I finally get to paint!

After doing two or three quick color studies, I paint this monstrosity! This is the magic phase of the process. To me this is when the painting really comes alive, and everything seems to breath for the first time. I used some layer properties to transform the grayscale layer to color. After making some adjustments with color balance, saturation and brightness/contrast. I finally get to slap my signature on it. For this piece, I went to bed at 2 or 3 am, and I didn't need to submit it until later that I had some time to sleep and get a fresh look at it several hours later.  I emailed it to myself and discovered more adjustments needed to be made...and so I made them and submitted it on time! Success!

discovering nature sm.jpg

Some of the lessons I learned...

An important part of my process is reflection. As I work through an image, often times i take notes on what is not working and what i think i might try in the future. Here's what i found to be challenging:
drawing everything traditionally and separately and piecing them together later was time consuming, but thankfully it worked!
​too many elements to wrangle, too many adjustment layers, and way too many separate normal paint layers were the main things I was fighting at the end.
I also end my notes with what went well...

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