Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Process for neo nio 1

For my first post beyond the initial introductory, I wanted to do a write-up on how I approach making an illustration. The piece up for dissection was chosen because I had already documented steps taken during construction, which makes for an easier breakdown. In digital art there is procedural process, but it is often rapidly obscured, I will begin painting and drawing on top of a thumbnail, and sooner or later the layers are merged to conserve RAM and tidy the workspace.

So, the project. I was developing a five-image series for the Tabula Rasa Record Company, and generously given free reign on what to do and how to do it. After some brainstorming and some back and forth with the label director, I settled on a concept for a series of watercolor paintings, and began. This will be an overview for the first piece in the series, which would ultimately be titled "neo nio 1."

Conceptual development:

As with pieces I make, it starts in the head, letting ideas stumble and collide, with occasional injection of outside observance. It's not an easily communicated process, as I find it to be a largely passive method. But to recollect what I can, with this project I was thinking about pandemics and about rituals in the modern age.

Initial thumbnail:

I started out with a quick thumbnail, it's all really just shorthand to rapidly establish the ideas of shapes and how they'll interact with each other. The two core images that I start with are contemporary safeguards against plague (gloves, masks) and ancient ritualistic protections (the Hebrew symbol of Passover in lamb's blood, raised hands of purification).

 As you can see, at this point the thumbnail is so esoteric it really only has use to me.

There was a secondary thumbnail that was developed from this initial scribble, drawn up on a scrap of scratch paper, but it has been unfortunately been lost, so I hope you'll be forgiving over the apparent leap in the creative process.

A quick note on etymology:

Sometimes the titles are last, but just as frequently the development of a title aids in the formative steps. In this case, the "nio" is derived from the Japanese "Niō" or often Kongōrikishi, the twin guardian spirits of the Buddha, often standing guard outside of temple entrances.


With the thumbnails done, the next step is to gather reference imagery, for the purposes of this project this was accomplished through cursory google searching as well as some live modeling.

Clio the model :)
The drawing is laid out on 140lb (300g/m^2) Arches Cold Press paper, it's one of my standards for more finished work. The cotton and gelatin content make for an excellent blend of durability and versatility. I lay into the paper with graphite, working in harder leads (2H-5H) to ensure cleaner erasure later. When the linework is defined, I begin to ink.
I use Sailor Seiboku, a blue pigmented ink run through a Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen.
The final drawing, with graphite erased.



For the painting process, I generally start with a mental color palette, and procedurally generate swatches on scrap paper, mixes are created and corrected on the fly, working in thin layers to build up hue. Eventually I'll do a painting with documentation taken between brushstrokes so the process will be more transparent. After base colors are all well-established, shadow tones are filled in to boost contrast and add depth.

Post-production editing:

Once the final physical details are finished, I move to digitally processing the image. This step is not as time or effort-intensive as the manual painting, but demands fair attention. Because the final output of this project is digital, and its viewing will be almost primarily through digital medium, the scan must be refined for legibility.

There are a host of programs that you can use for image processing, I've just been raised on Bridge. Bridge rocks. It's like Finder or File Explorer on crack.

I scan at 600dpi in full color TIFF files, as reduction can always be enacted later. I edit using Camera Raw in Adobe Bridge, and after balancing light, color, contrast, and detail, the image is exported through Photoshop's Image Processor, spitting out flattened TIFF and JPEG files which are readily adapted to printing or online display.

The final image, sent off. It can be difficult to achieve a one-to-one likeness with what the physical painting looks like in-person, what's important is not reproduction, but representation. Conveyance.

And that's basically it. Much like this blog post, the development of this project overstepped its projected deadline, but c'est la vie. 

I hope that this sort of "making of" serves insightful or entertaining, either. Until next time.

- NW

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