Periodic screenshots as I work on my drawing "Gone fishing."
I don't often plan much before I start drawing. I knew I wanted to draw an otter, which was good enough for me.
Here you can see my sketch. Nothing is set in stone, I haven't added many details. I'm just figuring out the shape of my creature; getting the form done.
I turn my sketch layer into a multiply layer, and star loosely laying down colours on a layer below it.
Colour is my favourite thing about art. It delights me to mix one colour with another and have something entirely new. I am the biggest nerd for colours. It's a little difficult for me to explain how or why I pick this colour or that because most of what I do is instinct, but I'll try to explain what I can.
Blue and orange are complimentary colours, but I don't want my piece to be terribly vibrant, so I've muted the blue/green and brown(a hue of orange) quite a lot.
Things fade as they get further away from you, so the colours I'm laying down in the background are fairly wispy and transparent. The eyes are drawn to darker areas, and they appear closer.
I want your attention on my otter; he's my focal point. So I've made him the darkest thing in this picture. He's also the warmest thing, so he's going to stand out against my cooler background blues.
You may have noticed my image reversed in the last step. I flip my images more often than is necessary. Generally every 10/15 minutes, I end up flipping my picture. It's easier to spot flaws when you mirror your image. I usually forget what direction my picture was in the beginning by the time I'm done.
You don't have to mirror your image that often, but it is helpful to check it every now any then. (I also will flip vertically and paint upside down in the middle of a piece.)
Here I've merged my two layers into one, and am finding my shadows. I like to work on one layer as I paint. I like letting my colours blend into each other naturally, and letting mistakes happen. I try to work with my flaws, not perfect them.
Animals don't have fur that is perfectly one colour. They'll be mottled and splotchy, so I'm just sort of blobbing in these under colours.
I do not use or like the blur tool. I do not recommend the blur tool, ever. Here I'm using the watercolour brush, and I am eyedropping constantly. I want my colours to blend together, without getting muddy. The strokes of my brush follow the form of the animal. I'm not going to lay down long flat lines, instead I'm following the sphere of the leg, the curve of the tail. I'm picking up colours from the rocks and water, as well, and am subtly laying them onto the otter.
Colour is a reflection of light. Everything reflects everthing around it. If you hold your hand close to a lightbulb, do you see how yellow your hand gets. Set an egg next to a blue cup, or on a green counter, or next to a purple plush toy. You'll see the egg reflecting its environment. If you want to make something look like it is IN a scene, you'll want to make sure it is picking up colours from areas around it, and that the things around it are also picking up colour from the object.
I detail in layers. After getting the general colours and finding where the shading is going to go in steps 2-4, I start painting over it again. (still on one layer.) The colours of the underpainting are still affecting my brush strokes, even though I'm going over it with a new colour.
The fur is still following the form of the otter. I'm adding the darks down before light.
I know these colours aren't exactly true to an otter. Not the colours, or the placement of colours. The fur is a bit long, as well. I'm not referencing anything because I'm comfortable drawing this. If you aren't. though, the best thing you can do is to start drawing from life. You can break the rules later, once you've learned them, and let your own style come through.
I'm still adding little laters to detail. I'm adding more reflective lighting - it isn't obvious, but it is there and makes a difference. See how some of the fur on top of the back is a bit blue tinted?
Still on one layer.
I'm not planning on overly detailing my otter. I want to keep kind of a soft, surreal look. you can take the detailing as far as you like, or stop as early as you want. It's alright to make mistakes. If you do something and you decide you don't like it - just paint over it. It's alright. Don't be scared of your art. ;P
I decided I wanted to add more to the background, because the composition wasn't very dynamic. I want the attention on the otter, but where does he live? What kind of terrain is this?
I'm adding colours and shapes to the background to help tell that story. I want a rocky area, I think, leading straight down into the water.
If you want to make a change, but you don't know if you'll like it, I sometimes duplicate my layer, and then work off of that. That way, if it turns out terribly and I want to go back, I can use the original layer and delete the copy.
Laying down the shapes and colours with a blobby water colour brush. The process is just like what I did when drawing the otter.
Remember what I said about depth - I have darker colours towards the front of my piece. The water and rocks are also much richer in colour the closer they are.
Solidifying the background by defining the shadows and shapes. I'm pulling colours from the front of the rocks and am using them to tint the rocks in the back. the water is also being use in the shading colours. You can see some of the rocks as they lead down into the water, but they're blurry and more indistinct, and the further they are from the surface, the more washed out they become.
Finishing touches - fixing where I've accidentally painted into the otter, solidifying a few lines, small details. I could keep going with this piece and take it further, but I'm happy with where it stands.
I don't know how qualified I am to try and teach anyone anything, but I hope this was a bit helpful. Most of what I do is go off of my instincts. I don't always know why I do something, but I trust myself. I think it is important that you let yourself mess up, and do things wrong. You learn from failing, and art doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be fun. My way of drawing isn't right for everyone, it's just right for me. I wish you the best of luck finding what is right for you.