Peter Braeley takes us through the process behind his moody environment concept, created in Photoshop...
Oneway Street was based on a thumbnail that branched off to be a semi detailed mood sketch that I liked and just started evolving from then on. I enjoy working on pieces where the odds are high against you and pretty intense to deal with, and the challenge is to try and capture that. Most of my images are made from thumbnails it's one of the best ways to explore ideas, shapes and compositions in many multitudes. Then afterwards I deal with background, mid-ground and foreground while keeping my files organized and in order.
I love the shapes and composition involved in this piece, as it reminded me of War of the Worlds. With the road, damaged and isolated, it tells a story of the environment and where have to guess what happened here which I find really interesting. This piece involves techniques that I learned through various concept artists, magazines, Gnomon DVDs and YouTube videos out there.
The Sketch Process
I started by laying down big and loose shapes to help me quickly look for a simple composition and balance. I mostly enjoy working in thumbnails as they keep the image small and loose. I focus on defining the shapes using some texture brushes, Lasso tool, and rough texture photos which I found on free texture sites, CGTextures.com and mayang.com. Using the lighten layer from the photos helps me to lay down some gritty dirt textures while making some interesting shapes as well.
Here I created the image process broken into four parts
Exploration and change
I encourage myself to devote a little more time into exploring the unknown, allowing happy accidents to occur and allow change. Notice this is my final idea of this image, but it develop into something else along the way and I love that. I removed the character and the creatures from the scene because it felt that the environment itself had a really interesting take to it.
This is the final idea of the image but I allowed some changes to occur as I went further into the design
Photo Gathering and Research
After I have my idea down, I take the necessary time to gather photos and do some serious research before I dive into my painting. I do this to help me get involved on a deeper level of the painting, thinking about the theme and reality of it. The usual time I spend is around three to five hours looking for textures, signage, dirt, nature, props; anything and everything keeping my subject matter and my main goal in mind. Focus strongly on the size of the references photos, the bigger the resolution is, the better quality of course, but it allows you to use the same image in many different ways and also they help you to explore more shapes. Sites such as CGTextures.com and mayang.com are a great source for these images.
Some of the photos for free texture sites that I used for reference and texture in my painting
Background, midground and foreground
At this point I find that I work better starting from the background, through to the midground and foreground. This way I can think clearly and organize my layers, folders and base painting whilst thinking about my overall values. You can always go back and allow majors changes, color corrections and it helps you avoid some serious problems in the long run. You always want to take the extra time to organize your files; it saves you a great deal of time, especially if your client or your supervisor wants to makes changes.
I organize my layers from the background to the foreground
Telling a story
Once the subject matter gets to a certain point, I start bringing in elements that helps the image tell a story. To the background I add the shack and some far away smoke, which creates an uneasy feeling and a sense of mystery that someone is inside. I added the road closed sign near the focal point and the gas mask which allows the viewer to raise questions about why it is there, who was it for and purpose? The sign and flat tire was placed there to add some weigh to the foreground for balance and again to raise more questions.
Showing certain elements helps the narrative of the image
To help direct the viewer's eye back to my focal point, I used a photo that had a great way of achieving this. It also opened up the image more than the initial bushes that I had added, giving the image more room to breathe. Even the texture of the puddles in the road and scattered paper were considered and purposely place to lead the eye to the focal point. Always look for great ways to help the viewer explore your image more, make it fun and interesting.
Images used to help lead the viewer's eye back to the focal point
Working the overall image
This is the point where I double check everything, making sure my colors and values are working, and I start adding some adjustments layers into scene. I mostly used Brightness and Contrast, Curves, Levels and a recent one I started using is Match Color, which you can find under Image > Adjustments > Match Color. The last section in the Match Color menu helps you to match the color of your chosen layer; it works great when combing new images into your scene. Photo filter is another good one; it is similar but more intense and has more control of the overall image.
Here I add some adjustments layers into the scene
Approaching the end of the painting is one of the best moments where I consider pushing my image even further. I added more atmosphere, dust, bringing in some texture brushes, smoke and birds to bring in some life into the image. Also I used the Unsharpened filter just to crisp it up some more, and I softly erased out the rest focusing on the main areas. I allowed myself again extra time to explore with color, playing around the photo filter option and Hue and Saturation levels. In some of my pieces I will us the Crop tool for cropping excess bits of the overall image to give it a more cinematic feel.
Final image after adding in final touches
Top tip: Merging the layers
When I work on an image and get to a point of uncertainty and I start to doubt myself, I usually press Ctrl + Shift + Alt + T. This allows you to safely merge your image into a single layer without flattening the whole image. I can then start exploring some extreme shapes in my image on a new layer without the fear of making a permanent mistake, as I can just easily delete the layer and start again.