For the bark, my first intention was to mix the drawing with the colours. Still in Painter, I added water to smooth the hard strokes of the pencil first, and then detailed it with the Grainy Blender, which allowed me to give movement to my brush strokes. I didn't blend everything that I could see, instead I used a very instinctive method, and no references. I chose to forget small parts of the original drawing on my painting. I have discovered over time that as many bark varieties exist as skin tones, so I decided to keep the shadows and highlights created by my mix and improvised everything else. I advise you to find as many photographic references as possible, and also check out Alan Lee's work on trees - they are mostly sketches, but he's a great master with trees, mushrooms and creepers. You will realise that it's possible to do just about everything with bark.
In Painter, I went on to create a new layer, which allowed me to add some heavy colours over my mix with a digital airbrush. I dropped it again and worked with my new colours, with a soft flat oil brush. As you can see, I tried to render the light reflection on the bark, depending upon the intensity of the light: bright colours on top and reflected lights ones under the root. I used many layers for each colour (because there are many colours on natural trees too), and I eventually dropped them and began reworking with textured brushes. You can also add interesting details with the Variable Splatter tool, to add tiny spots over the existing texture.
Flowers and Leaves
This method was similar to the previous bark one (Fig. 15-18). I used my previous layers to add some green, and then dropped it, filling in the leaves and petals with blended greens and a variety of broken whites. Because the light is an orange-gold, I reflected it upon the green too - using the Round Oil Pastel brush for this work. Even though I mainly used a green colour, I added some burnt pink and orange close to the roots. I wasn't too interested in copying existing flowers and leaves, I just wanted to fill the empty space with lots of elements.
(Fig. 19-22) For the little girl, I used the same approach as with the others elements: I firstly blended the pencil with the colours and added more colours and lighting afterwards. I decided to give up details and worked on saturated and diffused light on her dress. I used the previous method with the Glow tool and a selection around the body. I highlighted the dress and erased the excess from around her. After that, I dropped the layer again. I uses cool tones on the shadows and completed her with highlights on her hair. For the face, as I'm not an expert, I found this to be one of my weaknesses with this piece. I decided upon using a non-realistic style, which I feel works best with the style of the book. I tried to render the lighting as best as I could, which I think is not too bad.
(Fig.23-25) For the windmill, I firstly painted it in black and white, then created a new layer and I added shadows with a purple tone. Finally, I create a third layer and I added the final, and more unnatural, colours. I highlighted it with a broken white, but not to much because the general mood is quite soft.
Once the detailing stages were done, I decided to crop the original because I didn't feel the closeness that the text evokes in this scene. I replaced Nausicaa close to the centre of the scene and closed the top by the massive root. The light now comes in from the holes in the bark in the background, and I again used my Glow tool to overexpose it. And then the image was complete.
I hope that this little step-by-step will be of some help to you. I know that it's not a killer in terms of its techniques, but it's my own way of painting: very free and natural. This is why I chose Painter over Photoshop. Thank you for reading.
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