The Evolution of a Painting
One of the most successful ways to develop artistic skill is to keep working on a single piece. Here, I want to show a few of the stages one of my current (and favorite) paintings - "Shadow Guardian" - has gone through to reach a finalized state.
Above is the final version (so far!) of the digital painting. It has evolved through many states, from a pencil sketch, through many cycles of development connected to my changing skills with Photoshop. Of course, time and reflection yield increasing insight into the nature of the vision.
I liked the sketch, and wanted to see what I could do with Photoshop. This would be the first drawing I would expand into a digital painting.
An early version (below) shows articulation of the figure in dark reds and some yellow sheen, along with much of the clouds painted but with very low color saturation. At this point, I was becoming familiar with the basic brush tool and how to create subtle variations.
The legs were not included in the original sketch, so they were drawn much later. As is apparent in this early version, I was not yet very sensitive to the brightness of the image, thus it appears quite dark and difficult to discern much of the figure.
This next version shows an early rendition of the legs, as well as further detail added to the background and areas such as the hands. The composition is coming together more fully, but there are still clear issues, such as the darkness of the image and many unresolved spaces.
This later version shows the legs resolved as well as the foreground in place. The sky color shows some color experimentation. The sword still needs detail and the color and brightness still require adjustment. While I liked the feeling of "evening" conveyed by the dark foreground, I later decided it was still requiring too much strain on the eye to pull out the details.
This close-up of a later version shows the sword and shadows resolving, and also more enjoyable colors in the clouds. The figure is more fully rendered, though the final version (top) shows that the resolved figure served to be an underpainting for the cloak-like regalia. Though I like this state and it stands much in its own right, I feel rewarded that I kept taking it further to include the clothing, color changes, and other adjustments that made their way into the finalized version.
The final version is much brighter, such that the many details are easily discernible, while the sense of evening light is still largely preserved. The flame patterns on the chest and cloak are added to create more areas of interest and keep the eye engaged, while more fully expressing the nature of the Shadow Guardian.