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Painting Wild Woods

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Date Added: 12th February 2016
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Concept artist Kamil Murzyn gives us a brief look at his Photoshop workflow


My ideas are mostly driven by fantasy stories ? those epic tales with battles, dragons and magic ? but also those with a more casual feel, such as a solider break for tea or a poet thinking about his next line. I like to depict fantasy worlds from other side; to capture an atmosphere of journey, mountains, lakes and woods. In this making of I will share my artistic process.

Step 01: Sketching ideas

I came up this story about four thieves, who've grown up in the depths between two mountains; there is only a little bit of sun every day, so they can see in the dark. They are going on an adventure, discovering the beauties of world outside their home? but then... I will not spoil anymore here!

In this piece I decided that I want to show a journey through beautiful lands but also remind the viewer that there is always something lurking in a dark; because that's how fantasy worlds work, the essence of it. I knew how I would like to feel as a first time viewer, to see and discover it, what the mood I wanted to create is and how I would like to tell this simple story with only one canvas.

So I started with a simple sketch, black on white. Drawing little round shapes where the main characters stand and a larger one where the beast hides, creating two narrative points, focal points and a simple way from one to another. I used trees and branches as a frame, guiding viewer up and down, like a rail for my story.

Initial sketch

Step 02: Colors

Base colors are a very important thing for me. I turn on some good, atmospheric music (usually movie or game soundtrack), get my mind in the right place and try to fill whole canvas with few tones. Several times I lost myself at this stage! When I put down the first big strokes of color I feel like Frodo and Sam looking towards Mordor at the end of Fellowship of the Ring, but then I just have to think back to my original idea, bring that picture to mind, and keep painting. Remember, patience is a great virtue for an artist.

Adding color

Step 03: Capturing the mood

We always see perfect pictures inside their heads but when they take a brush it's a little tricky to just put those ideas down on to the canvas. Our minds don't perceive these images as a whole, but rather as an overall mood or the feeling. Trust that feeling and be patient, because it is usually enough to create a perfect (or at least great) picture! Try to capture this mood and the viewer will feel the same thrill too.

I tend to write about abstract things rather than the technical painting. You know, brushes, layers, steps etc., how I went from grayscale into color. After I did the initial sketch and put down some browns and greens, I flattened the image and paint with one brush and one layer. I like this way a lot, it works a little more like traditional painting and gives a feeling of simplicity which I adore in illustrations. I try not to use the zoom too much; I layer the colors slowly and don't overdo areas because it's always a pain when things suddenly look bad and you have to just drop a bucket of white on this spot and start over.

Capturing the mood

Step 04: Focal points

When you look at a picture as a thumbnail or from a distance you can see the strong composition which grabs your attention. When you get closer you can see more detail and everything look clearer, you get a feel for the picture as a whole. Your eyes travel through every part of the picture seeing all the details and stories; you're in another world. But each of these levels will not work without the one before; so every so often I step back and check if picture shows what I want, not some minor details.

I usually try to nail my focal points first. Have a nice, readable character and then progress to rest of my painting in a calm and relaxed way. However, this time I switched my routine; I sketched the characters very roughly and developed everything around them. This way I can get the mood first by creating lighting and colors, and then place everything else.

Painting environments is usually very time consuming. My trick is to try to make it simple but precise. I clump smaller shapes into big ones; restrict the lighting to three simple tones (directly illuminated, diffuse and shadow). I slightly change the hue and saturation while painting to add more life to it.

Focal points

Step 05: Final touches

I picked this green, brown, and gold palette for woods so the whole place feels a little like a fairytale; calm and natural but the lower your eyes get, the colder the tones, they become darker and less saturated ? it's the home of the beast.

Actually, I designed the beast on the fly; I just wanted a fat, furry monster with horns, a little devilish and disgusting. He has a strange skin tone, grayish pinks and oranges not very colorful but quite a bit of contrast ? just enough to grab the audience. On the other hand the boys have a lot of different colors on their clothes, bags, hats, and hair. The saturation, colors, and contrasts make a nice light frame around them. Their eyes are very bright, they shine in the dark.

One final tip I can give is to be consistent through the whole painting. Keep brushes at a similar size; force yourself not to make it smaller just because it's sometimes easier to paint something. Save that detailed look for you important areas. And of course be original, be creative and hardworking. Be an artist. Thanks!

Final image


Related links

To see more of Kamil's work go to his website
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