To start I'd like to share with you how this painting was created. I come from a traditional painting background and have found that in digital painting it is not about how many brushes you can throw at an image. You would be surprised what you can get from only one brush. In this tutorial I use only two brushes. My subject is my partner Hayley. I have painted her many times and will probably paint her many more times in the future. She has interesting features and strong eyes which I am always drawn to. Plus living and working with someone day to day gives you a strong sense of their persona which helps you to find interesting compositions.
The light setup was very simple. It's a dark studio room with one strong light source casting a large shadow. I wanted a painting with a little mystery so this lighting gave it mood. I took the painting to 70% completion from life then finished it later at my leisure. I assessed the painting on day two to see if it was successful before I finished it. Looking at it on day two with fresh eyes clears my vision and helps me take it over the edge. In the last stage I added a final color pass, running paint marks, texture and a signature.
Brush 30 round
This is my good all-rounder brush. The diagram shows how, by setting the pen pressure to use the graphics tablet pressure sensors, you can create subtle brush strokes (Fig.01a). A good variety of marks can be produced just by changing the angle and the brush shape into an ellipse. This way you can make the equivalent of a flat, round, or filbert. This one brush and a variation of pressures is all I use for the main painting (Fig.01b).
In general, experimenting with value composition early on in the painting will help to make the image strong and interesting to look at. By limiting the values to just a few I can create a powerful composition to build the painting on. I do this in black and white because I don't want the added complexity of color just yet. Just as the masters made a monochrome, what they called "dead under layer”, we do the same and overlay color later. Try squinting at your model. You are trying to produce a sort of blurry photo effect on what you are seeing from the life model. Try to just block in the basic value along with the basic shapes of that value and keep brush sizes large. This will force you to only make the necessary marks for the block in. Do a few different angles and just try doing some still life block-ins for study. It will help make you a better painter and get you ahead in a painting a lot faster. This is why, when I paint, I never make a line drawing of the contours; I prefer to feel for the abstract shapes. It not only eliminates the white of the canvas, but also gives me a really strong sense of how the finished painting will look. As Ingres said "The beginning in essence contains its end” (Fig.02)