*GASP* Coming back up for air!

Well, I’ve once again returned to my blogging efforts. You would think having a blog at my disposal along with an unswerving need to express myself would lead to an endless torrent of posts, but I’ve been insanely busy of late.

I chaired this year’s New Hampshire Creative Club Annual Show. A lot of work went into it. You can learn more at:  www.nhcreativeclub.org

It so happens that my piece entitled, “Icarus” won “Best Illustration”. How cool is that?!





I am wrapping my first work for Paizo Publishing. I think it is some of my best work to date and ( despite one file corruption that forced a re-paint) went very smoothly.

I am also hard at work on card art for Fantasy Flight Games along with interiors for Expeditious Retreat Press. On the side I am developing artwork for a children’s coloring wall for the Manchester Girls’ & Boys’ Club. It will be printed quite large and colored by the young attendants at the 2009 Day for Kids Event here in Manchester. 

I had to forgo sketch gatherings for a short while as I got caught up with my assignments. The gang and I have also been keeping up our steady weekly release of the Ninja Mountain Podcast. We will be recording Episode 25 this week in fact. Check out the show at http://www.ninjamountain.blogspot.com

One thing that has come out of all of my recent art assignments is greater confidence in my drawing and painting process. I seem to have stumbled upon a pretty solid series of steps. They consist of the following basic sequence:

1) small ink thumbnails jotted down in my sketchbook over coffee at my favorite local place. Not in the studio, if possible. I have to get out of the place some time after all. 😉

2) Scan the thumbnails into the computer. Blow them up and create more refined sketches in Corel Painter. I can really mess around with stuff digitally. Scale things up. Move them around the composition. Pretty much anything.

3) Send sketches to publisher for approval.

4) Once approved, I shoot photo reference with my digital camera. My computer stores more semi-nude photos of me than I care to admit to.

5) I print out and  lightbox my sketches on to illustration paper. Currently that is a 2-ply smooth bristol. I use a hard lead in order to trace faint lines onto the paper and then use a softer lead to darken the lines I wish to keep. I frequently refer to the photo  reference I am working from. 

6) I scan the finished drawing back in to the computer and bring it into Corel Painter. I then flip the drawing and see if it needs any correction. Flipping the piece jars the eye into spotting mistakes. I then proceed to correct any errors in preparation for …

7) I create a “Multiply” Layer and fill it with the darkest gray that will appear in my under-painting. I will then take an eraser set to 4-5% opacity and remove my highlights and middle tones. A subtractive rendering process . Think of it as softly modeled scratchboard. I then create yet another layer and use white “paint” to establish my more subtle rendering and details.

I find it helpful to do a fully-rendered grayscale underpainting. It allows me to focus on the tonal quality of a piece before getting caught up in color decisions. For me, a successful painting begins with a strong underpainting. If the piece works in grayscale, it will work in color as well. 

8) Once I am satisfied that the tonal range of my piece is correct, I will flatten the whole thing and move in with washes of digital color. I lay down my basic “local color” and then apply the highlights and add color to my shadows.

9) I will finally lay a wash of faint color over all the middle tones and highlights that serves to express the color of the light in the scene ( such as the warm gold of sunlight or the orange-yellow of torchlight). This helps to pull the whole thing together I find.

10) Send in the piece and receive hugs from my art director. ;^)

I will soon produce a tutorial to showcase this process in action. Pretty simple stuff, but words seldom convey that.

Thaks for reading!



2 Responses to “*GASP* Coming back up for air!”

  1. Troy Graham Says:

    I always love to hear about the process other artists use. I’ve done one painting using the greyscale underpainting process. After reading this I think I’ll do it again as I think figuring values in color is something I need some work at.

    Thanks for this post.

    • mchughstudios Says:

      I’m glad you are enjoying it, Troy. I’ve had a few requests for this type of post so I figured it was time to pony up.
      The cover contest over at Art Order seemed an easy choice.

      I am currently doing the grayscale underbelly of the painting and will soon post the results.
      Thanks for reading!

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