Painting “how-to” step by step:

Below is a recently completed painting I did for an adventure book cover for Goodman Games – I thought it might be interesting for people to see the steps I go through to make a painting like this — I know I always find that interesting and useful when other illustrators do the same.

The subject matter and set-up was pre-determined. The title and other text goes in the upper LH corner, so I determined that would be a shadow area. The art direction called for an image of three post-apocalyptic adventurers climbing down a rope into a darkened chamber where they confront a dinosaur, a knight, a western gunman and a large robot. The ‘characters’ are consistent from cover to cover within the series… we see a purple insect man, a red mutant with a tentacle sprouting from his head and a human mutant wearing buckskins with a pink mohawk. All three are armed with neolithic weapons.

reliquary final 72dpi RGB

We started out with the graphite on a piece of paper stapled to a wooden board. I staple the paper down to keep it from curling too much when I use wet media (paint) later in the process. I don’t normally use this much graphite on my under drawing, but I’m trying to improve my technique by experiment a bit with every painting.

pencil 1

Next I go in with thin, watery washes. I’m trying to give things a base color and shape. plus trying to push the background back — suggest to the viewer that the action takes place in a big, dark room where the far end is in shadow.

washes 2

Next I use a little blending paint with the airbrush and lay in some acrylics.

airbrush 3

I sometimes struggle to be patient enough to lay in the colors carefully at this point… when I mess up a painting, this is when I usually do so. I want the colors not only to show what color a given object or creature might be, but also show their 3 dimensional shape and how the light hits them.  So, even though the bug man is purple in color, I want the top of his body to be lighter purple than his belly since the top is facing towards the light above and the belly is facing away from it. This is the part that takes me the longest and remains the part I struggle most with.

acrylics 4

Eventually, as I get more and more refined in painting in the details and highlights and shadows, I decide the painting is finished.  For this one, I think the last step was to use some translucent white paint in the airbrush to give the hole in the ceiling more of a sense of light and atmosphere. This painting took me about 20 hours total:

reliquary final 72dpi RGB


One Comment on “Painting “how-to” step by step:”

  1. This is awesome! It’s great to see your process.

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