|Sword in The Stone / Tools of the Last Embryo, 2011|
Graphite + Digital Color
35 cm x 60 cm
Here's the process I went through:
This was the first composition I tried using. I was fond of how I had the anvil splitting below the sword, and was basically trying to 'plunk' in stuff around it to make a picture. The dead guy was fucking it up the most. Eventually I admitted to myself that the stuff that I liked just wasn't working, and I drew it all out again. The symmetry of the split-anvil-sword combo contrasted really poorly with any asymmetrical elements I tried putting in, and the whole scene seemed too far away, like I was witnessing this event in my front yard from my bedroom window. I was also having difficulty adjusting the horizon line from the ultra-trad horizontal plane without making it look 'wacky'.
I decided to draw the split-anvil-sword concept over and over until I figured out how to remove the symmetry. By drawing it out of balance, it became much easier to then stagger the weight of the composition. The sword is heightened on the left, then the anvil on the right, then the arches of the wall on the left along with the wall itself on the right. I liked how the dead guy before kind of introduced a passage into the anvil with his feet, but the notion of just seeing a dead guy's feet was too 'Clue' for me, and so I used roots instead for the same effect. I still wanted a personage in there, so I carved statues into the wall. I had seen a documentary by PBS on fractals some time before, and while fractals are ultimately too psychedelic for anyone to enjoy properly, the observations the documentary had on trees really helped me on getting the limbs of a tree to split correctly. My intention was to populate the setting with yew trees, but they're short and squat, so I went with the good old generic fantasy tree.
Here is the finished linework, drawn on a piece of laser printer paper I found, with an office supply pencil named 'IBM Electrographic'. It feels like a 3B. The laser paper was dumpy.
I then scanned in my drawing and flatted it, a fact that is boring but true. Random but easily distinguishable colors.
Then I tried finding the values I wanted, but I was never totally satisfied with the outcome. What should be made dark? What should be made light? I envisioned an overcast autumn day, before noon, with dry weather. Directional shadows are almost totally lost in overcast weather, but I also wanted to keep up with the 'arcade-style' direction I had taken so far with the image, so I started making shit up. Which is a terrible idea, if your aim is verism.
And here is the colors. I colored exclusively in yellow-violet complimentary colors, in true arcade fashion. At this point some things came to light. First was that my linework was extremely thin and diagrammatical. It would have been better, I think, to have drawn in most of the values in pencil, so that I would have better 'containers' for my fields of color, rather than trying to trick the fuck out of my photoshop brushes and textures making it look natural. Maybe i'll change my tune once I figure out how to paint grass. Second was that my values, as pleasant as they seemed to be, were messing with what I wanted in terms of focus. Framing the sword against the overcast sky really sucked the life out of it. Overcast weather is basically just a gray container brimming with light. Half the time it's too bright to look at directly. How can a little old blade compete with that? I considered included some flashy shadow on the sword, but I'm someone who usually works in subtleties and my brain couldn't handle the flashiness of it. I guess I couldn't take arcade style to the very end.
My 'finishing touches' were some light textures applied overall and a few gradients. I also added a layer of violet at a 1% opacity to the whole image to unify the colors.