This ties in to my first “Writing Tips for Perfectionist” post, though I’m applying the principle to artwork, not writing. (But I’ll post about applying the principle to writing later!) This particular post is a cross between a colored pencil walk through and an anti-perfectionism tutorial. 🙂
While reading about the triumph of the Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I got such a vivid mental picture of the scene–with such dynamic perspective and atmosphere– that I had to capture it. The first sketch…
…only the angle didn’t match my mental image (from the perspective of a viewer looking up the hill at the crowd). After a few more attempts, I realized the drawing needed to be taller than wider. Sketch #2:
Only that still didn’t match my mental image, which was as sharp as a photograph and as dramatic as any Romantic painting.
So then I considered what I ultimately wanted to capture. Definitely the contrast between the torchlight/smoke and the moonlight. Also the colors of cool night clashing with red torches; and the grotesque, undefined shapes of the crowd; and the upward perspective (to emphasize the seeming triumph); and the Witch with her crown on.
With that in mind, I refined the sketch, primarily the landscape and the key figures.
I fiddled with the composition to make sure the Witch and the stone table stood out…
The background crowd is just scribbles, because detailed depictions of each creature are not the point. The sheer mass/numbers of them are.
I also held the sketch up to a mirror to reflect the image backward and check that nothing was abnormally crooked. (The Witch was a little crooked, but it wasn’t noticeable unless you were looking for it, so I left the pose alone.)
I added the base colors and colored and rendered the stone table. The color palette will be cool and dark with most of the detail on the Witch and the stone table. (The dark green lines are there to remind me of the steepness of the hill so that I can shade it properly.)
The main light source is the moon, but I scribbled red over the crowd in places to show reflected torchlight.
Once the base colors were in place, I started darkening the sky (you can see the shadows in the upper left-hand corner). The mass of creatures remained loose scribbles. Later, I picked out highlights here and add shadows there to suggest creatures all grouped together, but only a few figures in the foreground were detailed.
An added bonus of knowing what I ultimately want for this drawing is that I’m not second-guessing my colors and composition. Or pausing to assess how “good” it is–all I focused on are the colors and values and general composition.
The sky and torches are finished; the crowd got a little more rendering–though they’re still just varied scribbles at this point, except for the giant to the far left–and the stone table and the Witch have gotten a little more detailed. I also started adding shadows under the stone table.
I somehow got green pencil shavings under my fingernails. It’s both funny and perplexing–it’s never happened before!
Here, I added more darkness and shadows to the crowd, darkened some of the reflected red light, and began to pick out very general shapes near the front of the crowd. You should be able to tell that it’s a mass of people grouped together, and that they aren’t ordinary people due to the giant on the left and the spider-shaped thing on the far right. But you can’t see any detail when you look closely, and that’s okay. I’m still going for a general atmosphere rather than photograph-sharp clarity.
I darkened and rendered the slope of the hill and added details to the Witch’s hair and robes. The crowd got a few more shadows and a few highlights–I realized that the creatures under the moon were darker than the ones on the left, further away from the moon. Oops. So I erased the right-hand crowed a bit, added the red highlights and deeper shadows to indicate contrast. Still no detail, just general light and shadow.
And this drawing actually doesn’t have the dramatic angle perspective that my mental picture does. But that’s okay, because I’m pleased with the colors and atmosphere!
After this stage, I set the drawing aside for the night and looked at it again the next morning. The crowd needed a bit more rending to further suggest a group of creatures, and the atmosphere could use a few more torches. The Witch also needed more detail–but not too much, since she’s so far away from the viewer.
I scribbled carefully in the crowd to suggest more shadows, and I added some torches and smoke in the background (they turned out very dark red/black, as I had to draw over the indigo sky). Then I tried to render the Witch a bit more–but detail was actually impossible, because she’s so far away.
I managed to erase the details I’d tried to draw, and I added a few red highlights on her hair and dress. I also added a faint red mouth–but that’s all the detail that figure needed.
I then darkened some of the red highlights on the crowd. After that, it seemed that the picture could use a little more tweaking…but since I didn’t know specifically where, and since the drawing had the atmosphere I imagined–I decided it was done!