Feb 18, 2010

Goblins 3

I haven't had a ton of time to draw the past few days, but here are some variations of that last guy.

You know, I've already written quite a bit about them, but the simple fact is that Goblins are just little shits.

Feb 16, 2010

Goblins 2

Things started out pretty rocky when I was drawing last night. I think in my rush to solidify my bat/salamander/lizard/rat design, I lost track of what I liked about the Goblins and lost a lot of the charm. The Hobbit is a kids book, more or less, and so it's important that even the villains have enough charm about them to intrigue the reader even if they're a little scary. These Goblins sing, mind you. Two songs. Two different songs on two different occasions. The Goblins have four scenes in the book, and in two of those scenes they are singing. If you met a Goblin in The Hobbit, there would be a 50-50 shot it would sing you a song, is what I'm saying.

Thankfully the last drawing (which is about 1/4 the size of the others) recaptured some of what I wanted in the Goblins and I was able to end on that.

I mentioned before that I have little hats on all my Goblins. I think it's interesting that every culture has some sort of Goblin creature, each with their own quirks. I've adopted the redcap mythology and given it to my Goblins here; that is, because Goblins are constantly spilling blood (enemies, their own, whatever), they would stain their hats in it as a sign of hierarchy. The darker and redder a Goblin's hat, the higher up in the tribe they are, with the Great Goblin wearing the darkest and bloodiest hat. I guess it would be sort of brown/maroon, since Goblin blood is black.

I imagine little Goblin children as being given a white or burlap cap and being taught to hammer nails through boards and sent on their little way. As they grew they would develop more sophisticated weapons (like in the previous post), but always with bloodletting in mind. Hooks, spears, cleavers, and picks are Goblin weapons, along with sharp stones and three edged daggers. Goblin armor is haphazard, as they care little for defense and their numbers are many.

It's mentioned in Lord of the Rings that the Orcs (Goblins) are brutalized and ruined elves. While I love what this gives to the Tolkien universe, it's simply not mentioned in the Hobbit, and so I'll be ignoring it. Similarly unmentioned is the origin of Gollum as a river-Hobbit --he is simply Gollum, small and dark.

Feb 14, 2010

Goblins 1

I've been really excited to start working on the Goblin designs, although I've never had more than a vague smattering of concepts for them. I was never really thrilled with the Peter Jackson representation of the orcs (which I guess are goblins), even though it's pretty true to the source material. I thought it was sort of unimaginative, although it definitely worked in the context.

There is no real description of the Goblins in The Hobbit, though there are a few paragraphs detailing their mannerisms. They hate everybody and love digging and hurting things. No one is better at digging apart from the most skilled of the dwarves. They're described as being quite resourceful and even have some sick ingenuity when it comes to tools of torture and death.

I imagined them with some type of snuffling nose, either that of a bat, a tapir, or a mole. Something that moves constantly and leads the Goblins around their caves. I thought the natural thing to do would be to give them strong digging claws, like an anteater or aardvark or whatever, but that doesn't mesh well with them being excellent tool-users.

There are a few distinct representations of orcs in fantasy media, and the one that interested me most in creating these Goblins is the piglike version. I did a couple sketches of something like that, but it clashes with how the Goblins work in my head. Maybe if I ever do anything Tolkien past The Hobbit, I'd go down that road with the orcs.

In the end, my design combines elements of bats, salamanders, and turtles. The starred portrait on page three is the direction I'm going. You'll notice there is a rudimentary hat on what, every one of these drawings? I guess this post is getting long, so I'll talk about that and about the weapons page tomorrow.

Feb 11, 2010

The Hobbit, part one: process

Alright, so I was asked to explain a little bit of the process behind this first Hobbit piece. I ended up taking a lot of little shots of the pieces and I'll try to clarify how things come together. This is the process I use on just about all of my work with a few tweaks that made handling such an extensive piece a little easier.

So, here we go.

Everything starts with a thumbnail. These are drawn extremely quickly and without erasing anything. If something doesn't work, move on to the next one. I didn't exactly know what I wanted to show with this first piece, just that there had to be some explanation of the beginning of the journey.

This was the final thumbnail that I chose. Top left is the thumbnail blown up. Bottom left is the thumbnail worked over in Photoshop to move some figures around and establish where the weight of the focus was going to be. I find this easier in Photoshop specifically because erasing and moving is so much simpler when you do it digitally. Top right is the fleshed out drawing in non-photo blue on drafting vellum (which I use because it is mostly transparant but still tough). Bottom right is that same image scanned and reprinted. I would end up using this later on.

Here is that same fleshed out drawing printed out on six sheets of standard A4 printer paper. I lined them up and then set about lightboxing the final drawing over this. I don't always use a lightbox --sometimes I draw the finals on semi-transparant rag marker paper, but for whatever reason I wanted to work on bristol this time.
Here is the final drawing. It's done largely in ebony pencil and sumi ink on vellum bristol. The sumi ink was applied with a number 2 Chinese calligraphy brush, but the pencil was the MVP.
Here is a tonal drawing I did on rag marker paper over the final line drawing. I was going to apply this and color it in Photoshop as my texture. However, I ended up scrapping that whole drawing a couple of hours into the digital phase. Sometimes something about a drawing will really bother me or I just won't be satisfied with something. If I catch this before I do the final drawing, all the better. This time, though, I spend a couple of hours debating whether I had the time and inclination to start over. I figured I didn't want to spend the rest of my time looking at it, so I went back to square two.

I kept the original thumbnail and drew over it anew, moving a couple of things around and changing a few of the dwarves entirely. I think about a third of the dwarves are directly out of my character sketches from a couple of months ago, but the rest are all new or combinations or whatever. This drawing ended up being much better, and as soon as I decided that I was proud of every part of it, I started working on the finals.

I had a rough time scanning the first drawing at such a size, so I decided to make thing a little easier on myself and do the drawing in sections on A4 drafting vellum. I separated the figures and background in such a way that I could more easily color their linework digitally. I abandoned the ebony pencil and the ink, as they both tend to stiffen up my drawing, and switched over to a plain HB mechanical pencil. I figured the lines didn't need to be super clean and I could deal with the levels in Photoshop.
You'll notice that I applied the tone right into the final pencils here without making another drawing layer like I did in the previous attempt. I didn't know how this was going to work out when I colored things, but I had to try something new.
Here is how the final linework looked when I stitched everything together. Much much better than before.I typically don't do flats for my own work, since I do them professionally and I don't like my personal work to feel like my on-the-clock work. Here, though, I felt that flats would make the burden of all fifteen characters a little lighter on me and it definitely did. For those who don't know, "flats" are blocks of contrasting flat color laid in with the pencil tool in Photoshop that you can consistently select and refer to in the coloring process. They are all on one layer, and when I want to render or change the color of an object, I magic-wand select its corresponding flat and work freely on a higher layer. This also helps keep file sizes manageable since it cuts down on the number of layers you need to be juggling.
I didn't really know what colors I wanted on the piece, just the vague color scheme I had in mind for the dwarves, so I laid in some approximation of that in here.Things really changed and came together when I began considering the lighting in the flat colors. I was really determined to get the lighting acceptable before I started rendering things. The main issue here early one was to balance the colors enough so that the background receded, the foreground popped, and the room was readable despite being dimly lit. Attention had to be paid to Gandalf, Thorin, and Bilbo, who are the main characters in the image. I made sure early on that everything led to Bilbo, since he is absolutely the center of attention. Here I've laid in the texture and rendering for the background. This mostly involves putting down a lot of wild colors and then covering up a lot of that color with what I've determined is the "right" color for the object. This sounds sort of weird, but it ends up creating a lot of nice variation and texture, which is important for me since I don't do too much actual rendering. The same principles as the background are applied to the characters. I use a lot of custom Photoshop brushes made from ink washes, watercolor, paint, etc. Bittbox is a great resource if you're looking for stuff like that.To further the lighting, I added a simple shadow to everyone by setting a layer on multiply and painting with a light purple color. This was in the bottom right corner the whole time I worked. I have a tendency to work dark and then frantically fix things at the end, but having the pure white, 50% gray and pure black were great to keep me in check.
Here I have the lines applied and colored. After I scanned the images, I separated the lines out from the white in the standard way: image in grayscale, channels --> load channel as selection --> select inverse --> copy --> paste into new layer. I added a few adjustment layers to bring the foreground out more and emphasize the lighting. A rust colored mask over the figures set to Overlay and a medium-red inkwash texture.
I added Hue/Saturation, Vibrancy/Saturation, and Levels adjustment layers in various opacities on the top here. I added a little bit more ambient shadow around the edges of the image and over some of the outskirts of the crowd, which you can see in the final below. Thanks for all the great comments and I hope you enjoy the next eleven parts of this project.

Feb 10, 2010

The Hobbit, part one

The Dwarves of yore made mighty spells / while hammers fell like ringing bells / in places deep, where dark things sleep / in hollow halls beneath the fells.

Pencil, ink, digital. 13x20" (click to make it larger)

Okay! Totally done with the first piece, guys. Also, I have the next two pieces lined up in the old noodle, so things should go a little more smoothly from here on out.

This was extremely difficult to compose, and I really have to thank James Gurney for writing so extensively on the intricacies of good composition in his newest book. When you're setting up an image with so many figures with a specific light source, most of the difficult drawing comes from trying to balance the scene and keep your eye moving. When you essentially create a a mess of figures, it's really easy to lose the focus of the composition and have your piece end up as something of a Where's Waldo type scene. That's totally fun because there are still a ton of little things to look at, but there's no narrative focus. I think I did a pretty good job keeping this one in check.

Again, don't forget to check out Picture Book Report every day to see all of the work these great artists are putting in JUST FOR YOU. Nobody's getting any clams out of this, it's all just for you. So go appreciate it!

Feb 1, 2010

The Hobbit

I'm proud today to redirect you to the group blog I will be participating in over the next year, The Picture Book Report:

Here is the bookplate that I made for the project, announcing my project.

So, over the next year, I will be doing twelve illustrations based on The Hobbit. One per month. My first piece will be shown on the tenth of February (next Wednesday).

Working along with me will be Meg Hunt, Will Bryant, Daniel Krall, Andrea Kalfas, Kali Ciesemier, Israel Sanchez, Jeremy Sorese, John Martz, Julia Somni Heglund, Laura Park, Lizzy Stewart, Phil McAndrew, Patrick Murphy, and S.Britt. Please check out Picture Book Report for more info on the artists all this week.