This image started out as a way for me to try out a different technique. My usual approach to an environment is to start painting right away with large brushes and start defining the forms from there. Light, colour, perspective, values, composition - all of these aspects are decided from the beginning in a refining process.Â However, with this one, I wanted to approach the painting in a slightly different way...
As usual I applied some quick brushstrokes, trying to find something interesting to portray.Â It probably took me about 10 minutes or so. I reduced the contrast, brightened up the image and printed it on normal A4 paper. With a ballpoint pen I started detailing the image I had in mind (Fig.01). I find that using a ballpoint pen for precise lines is much easier than doing it with a tablet, where there is a gap between hand and canvas. (Even trying out a Cintiq didn't do the trick for me, so I believe the trusty old pen and paper technique still rules!)
The result wasn't a very detailed drawing, but it allowed me to approach the laying down of colour and values in a much more confident way. I brought the image into Corel Painter, copied it onto a new layer and changed its blending mode to Multiply. Working with the Loaded Palette Knife, I quickly established the initial colour harmony and the overall tone of the image (Fig.02). Keeping lines on top really quickens the painting process, as you don't have to worry about losing the underlying (in this case overlying) sketch and the initial lines are always apparent. I kept the contrast and overall brightness low, as the highlights I was about to add would spice up the image...
Adding a new layer over the line art layer, I started applying some yellowish highlights, again with the Palette Knife (Fig.03). Line art is good up to a point, but if you keep it present for too long it can limit your brushstrokes and cramp them. Once I was more or less satisfied with the underlying painting, the overlaying brushstrokes were not only used to brighten up the scene but also to hide the line art. The image was still a bit dull so I added a Brightness/Contrast adjustment.
Analyzing the image, I noticed that the perspective wasn't correct and that the plains and mountains behind the castle looked like they were on a slope.Â Taking the image into Photoshop I made a rough selection, cut the background and readjusted it (Fig.04). I also applied a warming Photo Filter to bring the colours together, and I reduced the contrast of the background mountains to add depth. The castle also got some tower upgrades to make it more vertical and interesting.
Still in Photoshop I noticed that the castle was wrongly placed in terms of composition and that I needed to make it more dynamic.Â So, once again, I made a selection around the castle and moved it to the left so it would stay on one of the rule of thirds divisions (Fig.05). The ravine also suffered some modifications to adapt to the new location of the castle. These were made back in Painter to keep the brushwork coherent. A yellow haze was added to the right half, indicating the position of the sun. I also returned the colour of the mountains back to their original blue.
Back in Photoshop, I created a new layer and set it to Color. I then applied bluish colours for everything that was in the shade and yellowish colours for everything being hit by the sun (Fig.06). The overall mood instantly changed to a late afternoon. Blue outdoor shadows really remind me of sunny, warm summer days. Some rock tips being hit by the sun also helped me to define the curve of the ravine, which in turn would help me lead the viewers' eyes to the castle.
Finally, I worked on the forest in the foreground, giving it more detail and introducing highlights from the sun (Fig.07). Detail was smoothed out here and kept to a minimum, in order not to detract from the main theme: the castle. Â