This painting was inspired by a scene in the movie "The Omen" (original version), where Gregory Peck goes to a cemetery to uncover his son's past. I really love this scene because of the fantastic set they built and the mood they achieved. There is just something about 70s/80s horror movies, like The Fog and The Exorcist for example, that got lost in today's horror flicks. Another aspect of this painting, which came to me later on in the painting process, is that I have been probably influenced by the beautiful environments portrayed in the games "Monkey Island". It's probably because of the colours and the theatrical composition of the elements. So here goes another homage.
Opening a new 1500 pixels wide document I started sketching with broad strokes in a reduced view of the painting. I wanted to establish the overall colour and brightness of the image first without concern of any discernible forms. (Image 1) Next, in the same step, I started to establish the main ingredients of the painting: a car, a graveyard, a hill and some foreground elements like the tree.
I then resized the image to the final 6500 pixels wide size to start detailing the painting. Of course a lot of aspects of the painting would be changed along the painting process, without wandering off too much from the main sketch. I started working from background to foreground starting with the cloudy sky. With the lasso selection tool I created a copy of the sky onto a new layer. I started detailing this layer with a custom created brush for clouds. (Image 2)
Using the same technique (lasso selection, create copy from selection) I went on to detail the middle ground, which is the largest area of the painting. This layer comprised the far and near hills, the road, the church and the graveyard. Then, I created new empty layers in front of the middle ground layer for the car, trees, fence and foreground and painted in the elements, always referring back to the initial sketch as a guide. (Image 3) Keeping these elements as separate layers really helped and sped up the painting/adjustment process immensely. The only drawback is that if you want to do value/saturation/colour adjustments it can be a bit cumbersome: first, I create an Adjustment layer on top of the layer stack (painting in the mask if I need to); then, I create a copy of the adjustment layer and merge it with the layer below; I have to do this for each layer I want to apply the adjustment layer to.
Here you can see the layer stack to understand the way I organized my elements. Note that I created a layer in Screen mode just for the light coming from the headlights. Like this, it was much easier to control the effect, adjusting size, colour and brightness independently from the rest of the painting. (Image 4)
In the next step, I added the grave robber, something I wasn't even planning to do, but which turned out to be the main focus of the painting. I also adjusted the overall contrast and colour (using the cumbersome technique referred to above), darkening the area around the digger (Image 5).
But, as you can see I exaggerated with the darkening and went back a little to the previous values. It is always good to check previous steps along the painting process, to check that you are not wandering off too much (Image 6). At this stage I posted the image on online forums to get some constructive criticism. It is really amazing, how the digital art community helps each other.
The main changes I did, resulting from the online "consulting" was opening the closed gate because it did not help with the storytelling. Another aspect pointed out, was that the figure needed some further detailing. I also shifted some of the elements to the right as it seemed to me that the image was weighing too much to the left side. Some desaturating also helped to make everything more coherent and give the image that older horror movie look (Image7).
Thank-you for reading this and I hope it will be helpful to you.