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Characters are by far my favorite subject to paint, so when tasked with doing just that there's always a little buzz about it for me! The sky is the limit with character painting, but in this case I do have a buzz word to give a little guidance, which is "gaunt”.
When I first started painting creating characters was an exciting prospect and I wanted to make them as original as I could. So, naturally, I pelted my characters with ten thousand things; earrings, belts, accessories, feathers, satchels, boots, beads… you name it, they had to have it! A few years on and I've learnt a few lessons. The most obvious being that to create a character you don't need to give them an identity by saddling them with a ridiculous amount of stuff. It's my opinion that nothing is really original anymore. I don't mean that in a depressing way, it's just that I often find myself in the confusing situation of wanting to create an original character, rather than a good character. Creating an original character is one way to set yourself a goal you'll probably constantly battle with, whereas creating one that is good, well that's not so scary.
Let me also say that I don't think any character I create is the greatest thing I've ever done, not by a long shot, but there is something I like about each and everyone one of them. There's also a ton of things I don't, but I'm not focusing on that right now!
So here I am with a blank page and the word "gaunt” floating around in my head. At this point I have no idea what I want to create. So, as I so often do, I take a fairly light gray color and just start blocking in a silhouette – this is how I begin a painting 90% of the time. If you're not a hundred percent sure about what you want, it can be a really good way of "finding” the image. Having settled on a rough shape I begin to draw a more detailed sketch above it (in a slightly darker tone). I kind of like the rough sketch at this point! It's fairly messy and she's obviously missing some limbs, but the general suggestion is there for me to work on. It's fine to work the sketch up a little more if you're more comfortable with it (Fig.01).
There is an absolute plethora of different custom brushes available in every corner of the internet and whilst some of them are great, I've always thought you can't go wrong with a basic brush. For the entire sketch and painting, I'll be using the standard Photoshop brush 23 (chalk 23 pixels).
I merge the silhouette and sketch layer together and set that layer to Multiply, making it transparent. Then on a layer below I start to block in some base colors. They're very crude at this point and I am not trying to be neat. It's just about setting a mood with the colors. I'm also not entirely sure where I want to go with the color scheme at this point, so these blue/gray tones are fairly neutral and can be worked into different colors easily enough (Fig.02).
From this point onwards everything I paint is above the sketch layer. I also flatten the layers throughout the painting process, which isn't essential; it's just my preference. During this process I rarely stay on one section for too long. I hop to different features just to make sure I don't get too bored working on the same section for too long. It also helps to come back to sections later on as you'll notice the mistakes more easily (Fig.03).
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