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Making of "Hill bomb"

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Date Added: 26th July 2017
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Visual development artist Michal Sawtyruk demonstrates how he produces his beautiful and distinctive style of art...


Some time ago I really wanted to create a painting related to my other passion but I quickly forgot about it. The idea came back to me when I was watching a skate video. The clip showed skaters riding down the avenues of San Francisco with a wide view of the city from top of the hill, and a long street going down to the coast. San Francisco is kind of hill bombing centre of the world and this is what I wanted to paint. I gathered some references and started working on a painting.

Skills to follow:

Basic knowledge of color and light, composition and perspective

Step 1: Initial sketch

First step was sketching out the idea. I didn't want to focus on colors, perspective and other things, just a loose value sketch to see if it works at all. Always sketch the idea as loose as possible, go free with your hand, and after that work on right perspective and other components that will support the basic idea.

Image showing the first sketch I made as base. No details, but I already have some idea how it will look at the end

Step 2: Perspective and composition

After making sure that value composition and all content fit I slowly start working on perspective. I try to save my precious time and work out most of the problems before going into details. Fixing composition in the middle of your work is not the best way. It takes more time and might not work at the end. It is good to know some basics about perspective before going into bigger painting.

I keep the perspective lines on top layer for later to check every now and then if things are properly settled

Step 3: Basic shape design

At the moment everything is in place but I need to work on the shape design I start with cars and buildings in the foreground, trying to make them look stylized and simple. I always do flat silhouettes of objects and people to see if they read well. I learned that if the flat shape is not readable it means that the position or pose of the character should be changed, especially when this is the main thing of the painting. After defining the shapes I start adding some initial colors and slowly building palette.

Slowly filling the foreground with shapes and trying to make them simple and readable. I wanted to make the skater look like he is riding down fast

Step 4: Buildings in the background

I leave my foreground to rest and start working on background buildings and coast on the horizon. I am not sure what will be there but I know that this part is essential. The viewer's eye follows the street lines straight to this area and it needs to be interesting. I started searching for more references of urban landscapes to make my view more believable.

I slowly start working on the background and trying to define some building shapes

Step 5: Background and sunlight

I already made some basic shapes in the far background and also strengthened the sunlight. It created an interesting contrast between plans and made the skater stand out. Now the painting overall reads much better. I always like to play with light and shadow; contrast is a pretty easy way to create interesting and strong composition. I also like to look at my progress work from a distance, try not to zoom too much at this stage.

Image is starting to look more interesting and more readable form the distance

Step 6: First details

From this moment everything is in place and now it is just a matter of details and little things. At the same time I try not to detail too much and make things look loose and simple. Showing little details in unimportant places in the corner is not the thing I want, it brings unnecessary attention and confuses the viewer.

Slowly building details. It is good to look at references if you are not sure how things look

Step 7: Buildings details

Now is the time to zoom in and do some close-up work on the buildings. At the same time I look at urban landscape references to not get lost. I also add details to the cars, add simple reflections on windows and put grain on the tarmac to divide the materials and make them look different. I am not the expert on materials, light and technical things like architecture. So I study pictures to try to make things more believable on my painting.

Bringing more details in the background. I still think about the simplicity and try to make everything look consistent

Step 8: Bringing some life

I need to change the empty street and bring some life in there. I create some traffic from tiny cars which are basically a simple blocks. I try to be consistent with the shapes and make them fit the environment. The ocean also looks empty, adding little ships and reflections made it more interesting. Very simple shading and lighting from the scene and shadows.

Now it looks like the city is alive even if these are very simplified shapes

Step 9: Fresh look

I usually take at least a day break to take a fresh view and see the mistakes. I'll also show it to my close friends to see what they think about it. Other people see things different way and it is a good thing to ask them even if someone doesn't know much about technical aspect of art. After that I do small corrections here and there and bring some last small touches.

Image is basically done but it is good to give it a little break even if you think you are finished. When you wake up the next day all the mistakes come out when you see your work

Step 10: Final color check

When I decide that I am done, I always try some color correction tools to see other options. I play with color balance and saturations of different colors, and color image variations. This time I didn't use any of them and I went with the original option.

There is an image variation option I sometimes find useful. It shows many color grading versions in one window at once and you can quickly see what fits the best

Related links

See more of Michal Sawtyruk's wonderful art at his website
Check out Michal's portfolio

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