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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

6 November 2012

Painting Believable Flora

"The human eye sees detail on a singular focal plane. It's impossible for the eye to focus on two separate, receding planes at the same time." - Khang Le, The Skilfull Huntman (Design Studio Press, 2005).

It is possible to spend hours rendering every single leaf, blade of grass and every minute detail of tree bark. However the final result would be overhwelming to the viewer and aesthetically disturbing. Forms will mege into eachother as our mind tries to concentrate on a particular point. Cynthia (Imagine FX, Issue 88, Nov 2012) advises to start by breaking the composition into foreground, middle ground and background, using 3 distinct values. From previous posts we might remember that the farther away things get, the lighter they become. Something very close to the camera will be very dark.

Let's try this.

Once the general composition is set up it's time to start defining the general shapes with a large brush. Personally I used a textured chalk brush, just to add interesting shapes in there. One thing Khang Le talks about is that everything in nature has its own unique rhythm and follows a pattern. It is important to have a set of rules in your mind when designing organic life. This will lend believability to your designs.

Now it's time to render this out properly. Simply work down from larger shapes to smaller details. It is important to work hollistically, and not concentrate too much one one particular area of the painting. Syd Mead mentions in his Gnomon DVD that foliage can be intimidating to start painting, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually one of the most fun things to do. Turns out he is right. I cheated a little bit with a custom brush, so I really need to get back to the basics in the future. In any case, I'm fairly happy with the result.

In the more high detailed rendering I added a little bit more colour to the composition. There is a hint of blue here, a hint of red there. Together with yellow it creates a more balanced feel to the colour. It is not by all means a high resolution, HD production painting however. I'll call it pre-production.