Recently I was hired to do a commission of a pretty ghost lady out in her garden.
With each new piece I want to really challenge myself to make impactful pictures and connect deeply with the viewer each time. The challenge with this piece was an exterior shot featuring a lot of vegetation, both of which are elements I haven’t used as much in my work.
I was contacted for this work by my favorite client, Steve, who wanted to surprise a friend by featuring their avater in the background. I always deliver.
The initial design for this picture wasn’t superbly difficult to conceive of, but it was surprisingly challenging to assemble references that would help build the angles and mood I was looking for. I had to stop midway through and study Howl’s Moving Castle to seek out an example of the kind of vegetation I wanted to draw.
Even with the help of a reference photo, I still had to put a lot of imaginative and critical thought work in to design the kind of environment I wanted to see a pretty ghost lady inhabit.
- How do tomatoes grow?
- What do tomato plants look like, including leaf shape and vegetation color?
- How would the garden be arranged, and how does that affect the environmental lighting?
- How do I express the size of the house and its relationship to the garden?
- How do I place figures in the environment and keep focus correct?
You’ll notice that I stick to the use of cel shading in much of my work. Cel shading is an excellent method to make sure you have a strong understanding of light and forms, and it can be advanced easily into more complex and developed lighting. In animated media, it’s common to paint the environment and use cel shading on the live figures, to the fact that:
- You have to keep the people and scenery distinct.
- Things that don’t move can be detailed, but animated objects can’t (because you have to draw them a lot.)
I’ve honestly forgotten how to properly paint, so the creative boundaries involved in good drawings for animation have been incredibly useful these past few years in drawing pictures I can be proud of. But in this picture I started to reclaim lost ground in the art of painting.
I’m proud of what I accomplished in this illustration, and I hope to maintain and challenge this standard in my best work going forward.