Cloud Dragon - Process and afterthought


I'm going to do a little description and process of a particular image I made recently. I liked the synergy and development of it. I think it went pretty smooth and fast in comparison to the majority of my work, so I'm going to try to break it down a bit in order to understand the things that went right and then try to replicate those good things in other future images.


First came the sketching process that I actually made a while ago. I'm looking into creating a Magic The Gathering  style of work and I'm analyzing composition and framing as  a main objective. Sketch number 8 is the one I chose to paint in this case.

Cloud Dragonprocess0.jpg

I think I chose this because of the easy composition and straight forward topic. Just a dragon on top of a rock. I think it's because it gave me more freedom to comfort zone with it and have fun with the painting process rather than trying to do something more magnanimous and complex.  


I happen to stumble upon some color reference I have in one of my Pinterest boards. This is a concept art piece done by Laurent Ben Mimoun for the Disney movie "Tangled". I thought it would be a good idea to do a similar palette. I could already see the dragon sitting on the stone and a nice hue variation going through it. I like the pink color, I don't think I'm too adventurous with these kinds of palettes so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Cloud Dragon brushes.jpg

I have a huge selection of brushes but about 20 that I selected in my tool presets board. Out of those I think I mainly used these 4. 

First one is a very old one I got from Richard Anderson's brush set, I call it the "Flaptraps" for obvious reasons. It has a nice wide spread, subtle texture, and a slight colodynamics that makes it ideal to make a first pass on the canvas. 

Second one is a brush I got maybe from the Jaime Jones set. I've seen it around in other brush sets, but I tweaked it with some shape dynamics and flow. I think I mainly used this one for painting the shape of the dragon initially. It has a good inbound transparency and a streaky texture that looks very traditional to me. I try not to use full transfer on this (50-60%), since I wanna be able to make definitive brush strokes and not think about making a second pass to redo the tone or color.

Third brush is a simple round one for rendering. But this one I got it from Karla Ortiz set. I think it has a perfect setting to give that flowy blurred edge and a perfect transition for rendering smooth shapes. I used this primarily for the clouds and some other areas.

Last one is a slanted brush I came across a set I can't remember from, but it might have been Jaime Jone's (Jaime Jones set is absolutely magnificent, I do recommend checking it out). I think I tweaked it to make something very painterly and smooth, I did this a while ago but I think I love it now. It has full pen pressure and flow and a texture added to it. Somehow it still maintains a hard and definite tone to it which is great for stroke making. Look at it, that's some dark stuff.

Cloud Dragon process1.jpg

First pass is always the sketch, but the background here as observed in Laurent's image, has a hue transition that's very clear. I didn't color pick this. I just try to get the colors about right. I saw evidently a deep saturated blue that transitioned into a grayish green (most probably because of the color mix with warm lights from the dusky sky). Below we see a colder tone from the shadow of the sun not being able to reach that low point now.

Cloud Dragonprocess2.jpg

Clouds are "white", and they directly reflect the color of the light that's being emitted from the sun going down, and as observed these 3 colors jump ahead.

Cloud Dragonprocess3.jpg

The shape on top is nothing but a mix of all these colors. I thought it would be cool to keep the shape as a white or clear figure, so it makes sense with the environment. Plus a white pinkish dragon seems cool to me.

I added a burnt brown for the rock on top of the blueish background. I try to be sloppy with it and not to block it that much since I want that hue transitioning in between the streaks creating some unity with the whole painting.

Cloud Dragonprocess4.jpg

I keep on working on the shape. I add some design elements to it to make better sense to it and have fun with the shape. I try to make it interesting and particular. It would bore me to do a random normal dragon.

Cloud Dragonprocess5.jpg

I do a small adjustment to the saturation here. I think maybe added more Vibrance and played with Overlay on top. I know how many artists consider Overlay to be a  dangerous setting and how it messes up with the controlled values and colors. But at this point I'm not really controlling anything and I love how overlay gives me a saturated edge to things I wouldn't have put there by myself in the first place. So it's a nice gap closer in my opinion.

Cloud Dragonprocess6.jpg

Here the rendering starts to be defined. I try to leave the lower part a bit sloppy and try to concentrate on the whole figure. I love the wings but I think I would have overdone if I spent more time on them really. I don't like fully rendered things. I like to be able to see brush strokes that simulate shape and light transition very roughly. The square brush I have is somehow perfect for that and made my job super easy with this. It was just lovely to paint that part. So much fun.

Cloud Dragon final image

The final image is pretty much a rough version of what other images in my gallery might look like and maybe doesn't look to polished but I feel it has a better effect and result than many of them. I'm surely staying away from over rendering shapes now, and I love happy accidents that brush strokes give me, that blocky feeling of shape developing that has not too much thought on it, but most definitely a sure and solid approach to composition and information communication.

I'm really falling in love with this kind of painting, adding final details here and there in form of streaks of color variation that give the whole shape a more natural feel. Something I value greatly in Donato Giancola's work.

I think I'm finally understanding the idea of detail insinuation rather than detail rendering. I think detail is very important non the less, and there should be a balance, but is amazing how much can you do with little of it as how much noise and distraction can you add to an image that could have been so much more without it.