Friday, March 2, 2018
I use Steve Ahn's incomparable, essential Photoshop brush (Steve Ahn's Ultimate Brush, or "SAUB") just about every day, particularly for linework and sketching, so I am eager to do some fan art with it of his new, independent animation series, Blossom Detective Holmes, whose Kickstarter is in its final day! Investigate it here!
I thought I might try drawing this exclusively with Steve Ahn's Ultimate Brush, as I've don't this sort of thing before, but I can easily get carried away, so I decided to merely use it extensively. The background, however, is a great example of how I like to paint/draw directly with it though--just get a basic shape and then draw/paint right over it. I honed this technique on my GDS series's costumes.
I had a few concepts for this piece in mind, but I wanted to do something unconventional, yet grounded. So I did a composition of Skyler and Jamie jamming through the city, like in the pilot episode, but the emphasis here would be on their photos, not their faces. I wanted to accomplish this by covering their faces with Polaroids of the opposite character. My original concept for this was them holding the photos in front of their faces with their teeth for a goofier, more playful vibe, which you can see in the thumbnail section.
The poses and compositions for the photos themselves actually came from photos I saw of some people I know. But I haven't spoken to them (or anyone, really) for years, so I'm sure they'll probably not mind...um. So yeah, anyway, I went heavy on the filter effects on the photos, which was fun, cuz you usually just want to treat illustrations lightly with such effects, but since they were supposed to be photos, we could really go to town.
The city setting was inspired by the pilot Blossom Detective Holmes episode, but also by Yale and our famous Harkness Tower. It isn't a direct copy of the signature statue-clad bell tower, but it's in the spirit of it, with similar semi-circle, arch, and spike motifs. The building on the right is similarly in the spirit of my old residential college, JE, but not quite a copy.
From the thumbnail, my original composition had them facing in opposite directions. This felt cooler for its natural tension, and because it could let me capitalize on Jamie's flowing long hair to direct the motion and balance of the piece, but I ended up switching her to face right since it just wasn't working after inking the rough poses. Now there's a nice loop of action from the moon, scooping down along the tower to Skylar's jewel, up to her eye, then over to Jamie.
These are the thumbnails I was working with. They are pretty tiny, but I enlarged the one I decided to go with into my usual 9inx9in canvas. As you can see, I was trying to arrive at some composition that used photos in lieu of faces. I desperately wanted to avoid just drawing the characters floating in space, since it feels so cheap to go simply with characters rather than a full illustration with a logical corresponding background. I had considered just plugging them into one of my SAUB pieces, but that too also felt a little cheap...
Just for fun, here's the piece with no lines. The lines were also done with SAUB of course, but this shows how I paint with it. The piece is almost entirely made with this brush, but I did allow for some small tweakables like gradients and more blatantly non-SAUB smoke and stars. I am on the fence about the smoke. I wanted it to feel noiry, but maybe it just looks washed out...
I was also on the fence about completely illustrating Jamie since a large part of her would be blocked out by Skyler. I ended up coloring her more or less all the way since I kept having to disappear Skyler so I could make more convincing, flowing choices on Jamie. This "drawing through" method involves ignoring elements in front of whatever you're working on, so you can make unbiased decisions. You can see this quite well with the background elements that have strokes trailing off into nowhere. Thus I consequently ended up basically coloring Jamie accidentally, out of necessity.