Apr 15, 2010

The Hobbit, part three

"Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good bit of telling anyway. They stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there for ever and ever --even supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his hobbit-hole without trouble. Yet there is little to tell about their stay."

The Hobbit, chapter three: A Short Rest

Apologies for lateness, but things are done when they are done.

This chapter was both a pleasure to illustrate and a bear to deal with. The chapter centers around one event (the finding of moon letters on Thorin's map) and a whole lot of nothing. It seems like a given to illustrate Elrond holding the map before the moon and discovering those runes telling of the key to the secret passage into the Lonely Mountain. However...there are precious few rests to The Hobbit, and this is one of them, and that in itself is worth visiting.

When it comes to illustrating a passage where the central point is that nothing is happening to our protagonist, a new set of problems arises. How do you make a narrative image with no conflict without it becoming boring or trite or cliched? I guess it's all about activating the senses. I wanted to evoke that sense that Bilbo is feeling, where you wouldn't want to leave this place ever again. I don't know if I'm there, but that was the goal.

An aside: Did you know there are no women in this book? I can't think of even one being mentioned. This scene with the elves was one of the only parts where I could sneak a lady in without much hassle, and I had to take it.

When Bilbo and the dwarves arrive in Rivendell, the elves are singing to them from the trees. Not singing anything important, but just singing to them. I liked the idea of the trees just emanating sound, which is where those wind-chimes come in.

On the technical side:

I decided that I needed to vary my technique up some, since I have been feeling that my regular methods were stagnating a bit. The work was looking fine, but the process left me looking for something else and seeing very little room for improvement aside from the betterment of the drawings themselves. I asked for a bit of help and was pointed in a couple of excellent directions by my friends Chuck and Niv.

Chuck turned me on to a different method of coloring, and while I didn't use it exactly, I did take away one fundamental change: begin with more texture in the original drawing rather than layer it on afterwards. This lead to a more cohesive image overall, since my textures and lines were drawn together rather than separate. Niv suggested drawing on matte duralar, switching over from my regular translucent drafting vellum. This doesn't sound like a big change (one translucent paper to another), but the duralar has a much different tooth and has a natural haze to it which smooths out the pencil lines. It's something I'll be using in the future for sure.

Look out for a process post on this in the next couple of days. I promise it will be shorter than the last one.

In other news, you'll be seeing this guy in Spectrum 17 this fall.


  1. Hi Dude I love it :D
    I was just wondering, when you get to the point where you add colour, do you use a tablet or are you happy with a mouse? also, when your fading the lines through on a multiply layer, do you just let all the lines come through or do sometimes hide some line work for the effect?

  2. Sam, this is stunning! Really a work of beauty, my friend. It's obvious you put a lot of time and effort into this and it completely paid off! I can't wait to see your process post.

    Oh! And the butcher looks incredible! I love his nose and the white ear lines on the hogs.

  3. This turned out great! That's such a wonderful tree, and I love the little blue wind chimes.
    I also like that your elves aren't wearing the usual flowing robes. These look far less cumbersome.

    And I'm glad my comments were of some use. It's a great drawing. I look forward to your process blog post (pretty please?). I find it interesting that using a different kind of paper has such an effect, and transparent paper? I never even thought of that!

  4. Looks great dude, the angle of the tree is very inviting while the darkness of the foreground makes it pop really frickin' well against the background, kudos.
    How come with her arms you included outlines but with the legs you didn't? Is it strictly emphasis?

  5. Thanks guys!

    Urso - I wouldn't dream of doing any of this stuff with a mouse. I've been strictly Wacom tablet for a number of years and there really is going back. I don't actually do the lines on a multiply layer, I go through Photoshop's Channels dialog to isolate the blacks. I explained it a bit in the first Hobbit process post.

    Chuck - Robes are cool but so boring to look at and so impractical for when you have to do anything. It'd be like climbing a tree wearing a Snuggie. Just doesn't work! I'll also talk alllll about the different paper types I use when I do the process post.

    Craig - I've been trying to follow my own self imposed rules less and to keep or remove lines as it's needed. I felt that her arms looked too boxy when I removed that outline and that the line helped describe the overall shape in a more appealing way. Having the lines on the legs ended up making them seem a little dirty for whatever reason, so out they went. I think the lines on her arms help you stay centered there on the branch and ground her a bit better, while your eye can trail off a little more once you follow the legs downward. I probably could've safely removed the lines from her right arm, but that's all in the past now, eh?

  6. Great piece Sam, loving the softness of the colors


  7. This turned out beautifully! I'm glad I could be of help.

  8. Congrats on getting into spectrum!
    Sweet piece. Trees are so aesthetically malleable.

  9. This is an amazing picture!

  10. Good god, that foliage is mesmerising - the patterns all over the tree are so pleasing, and really help push the character centre stage in the image, great stuff!