A lot of people ask me, "Tony, how do you do what you do? What's the secret?" And I tell them, "Deferment of gratification." Unfortunately, that doesn't come anywhere near 800 words, so I'll have to elaborate a bit...
While the piece that I'll be walking you through today is an unforgivably busy and detailed one, I will basically just be using it as a vessel to illustrate the way I make allof my digital paintings (and some not-so-digital). All of my e-paintings are done in Photoshop CS2, but honestly I think my process is transferable to pretty much any non-Microsoft Paint art programme. Aside from being able to manipulate layers and move freely back in time at any point (I keep my number history states pretty high), it's mostly just a matter of round brushes and smudging - lots of smudging.
So let us now embark on an exciting journey of not using Photoshop to its full capacity!
Come up with something. Does it sound interesting? Has your idea not already been beaten into the ground by other artists featured on your favourite websites/magazines? Have you made sure you're not just objectifying women? Cool, on to step two.
Get a reference photo. Now, I know that many (if not all) of us artists have little to no friends, so you're going to have to either turn up the charm or come up with some money for a model. I prefer the former, because part of being an artist includes having the income of a ten-year-old with a mediocre allowance. Channel Tom Sawyer and make your buddies feel like posing for a painting is an honour and not just free labour. Here you see my good friend Meghan (Fig.01) posing for my concept, and the absolute thrill of it is readily apparent on her face (honestly, I told her to make that face, but still).
Now that you've got your reference photo, it's time to start drawing. As an artist, it's important to have at least some background in figure drawing. Community colleges are a cheap and awesome way to build up that skill. I personally use the geometric shapes method of blocking in the human form, but you can do it however you like (Fig.02). Draw the scene however it appears in your head, and do your best to keep everything as appealing as possible. You don't necessarily have to keep everything balanced, but make sure that you use these early steps to figure out exactly what you want to do. Probably the most important lesson I've learned as an artist is to figure out what I'm doing at the beginning of my painting, and not towards the end when every modification requires an extra four hours.
Simple, but crucial. Now is the time when I figure out where my blacks are going to be (Fig.03). I learned how to draw using a sea of how-to tutorials on comic book art, and as a result I spend a lot of time figuring out where I want to direct the eye of my audience. Creating contrast is something I usually try and work out beforehand, and it hasn't let me down yet.