I wanted the clouds to look very stormy and rain-filled, so I painted in a dark blue background and highlighted the areas where sun was peeking through with a lighter and brighter blue (Fig.05).
I then went back to the rock and sharpened it up a little more before removing the hills in the background completely, following the new idea of it being high in the mountains, rather than on a seaside cliff.
At this point the hot air balloon was still just an idea in my head of something to add down the track, so I continued blocking in the rock and crystal growths with the intention of moving on to detailing them next.
As I have already mentioned, this was possibly my favourite part of painting this image, mainly because of the amount of trial and error I went through to getting it right. To say that I used a lot of brushes before I came up with something I really liked would be a gross understatement - I very well may have tried all of them!
In the end I used a lot of grainy brushes and some scattered pattern brushes which I made from photos of moss and fungus. The cracks were a process of drawing in the lines in black with a very small, hard-edged brush, and blurring the lines out a touch. Then it was just a matter of retracing it with the same small brush in charcoal grey down the middle of the line. This, I found, added a rounded look to some of the edges and prevented them from looking too sharp and fresh (Fig.06).
I didn't want the rock to simply be a grey slab, as this seemed boring and didn't catch the eye enough, so I looked at some coloured granite for inspiration. Freshly inspired, I tackled the rock with some soft pink and warm greys to add to the pattern a bit more, all the while flicking through brush settings and seeing what worked for me.
Next I moved on to blocking in and refining the light and glow of the tower itself (Fig.07). This was, at the time, the biggest focal point and so I spent as much time as I could nutting it out. This was the most frustrating part of the whole image as I just couldn't get it to look right in my own eyes. In the end I didn't want it to be simply a light house on a rock; I wanted the glow to be intense, brilliant, colourful and warming in the dark, as it was going to be the guiding light for the hot air balloon that I had finally decided I was going to add.
The Fog and Crystals
Just as I blocked in the balloon I had a change of mind about the clouds and how flat the image was looking as a whole. With the lack of depth annoying me I decided to rough in a second jagged peak in the background. This created a kind of mountain range effect, instead of it being a single summit (Fig.08).
In between the two peaks I added some fog to help the depth and to make it seem like the atmosphere was thicker. I also added mist to the foreground and faded the second peak out a little more. I then brightened up the area around the tower with a soft orange brush to make it look thick with the fog that was catching light from the tower.
With the balloon blocked in I went back to the crystal growths (Fig.09), shading them in with the thought that the balloon itself would refract a lot of light back at the tower. I frosted up the edges and created some transparency, with reference to a quartz crystal "garden" that I borrowed and had on my desk during this part of the process.