Thursday, 5 June 2014

Cersei Lannister - a study

I'm pretty much addicted to Procreate on the iPad. It's just such a pleasure to use. Especially with Wacom's Intuos Creative Stylus.
I am a complete nerd for Game of Thrones. I'm fairly sure I've never seen a TV show that has grabbed me so much in all of my 44 years. It's a beautiful combination of, well, beauty and brutality. The energy, passion, violence and intensity of pretty much every scene is right up my street.
I love so many of the characters. The people's favourite Tyrion Lannister is right up there. As is the delicious (can't think of a better word) Daenerys Targaryen. But it's Cersei Lannister that steals the show for me. Always elegant, always devious, always gorgeous and always more than half way to being pissed she just shines. Actress Lena Heady is every bit as beautiful as her scheming character but she is at the same time quite different in appearance.
I wanted to paint Cersei and see how far I could push the image in terms of applying brush strokes and working in the detail.

Take 1. The original "completed" image

I was very pleased with this. All of my work so far has sat on a white background. I like that style of presentation and saw no reason to change it.
But there was something missing. A sense of depth that clearly belonged to the darker regions of the image. The neck, hair and eyes stood out as being prime for improvement.
Take 2. Added shade

I applied the shadowing to the areas I mentioned and really liked the effect.
The lighter regions now stood out much more. This was an image that really demanded a darker canvas.
Take 3. The darker canvas

Rather than simply applying a black background to the image in Procreate I exported it to Photoshop.
Photoshop is obviously a massively powerful tool but all I wanted from it was to apply some lighting.
I picked an omni light and applied it to a grey-ish background. Roughly 30,30,30 (RGB) since you cannot apply lighting directly to a pure black layer.
By providing a light source it instantly gave Cersei a relevance in terms of her position in the image.


Take 4. Blending

I loved the rough nature of the blending in the previous "take". But on closer inspection it was really rather out of place. So I adjusted the blending tool to be a damp brush, reduced its size to around 50% and altered its opacity to around 80%. I didn't modify the brush shape or dynamics in any way. It's great just the way it is. At least it is for the textured effect I was aiming for.
(Incidentally I always create A4 sized images in Procreate)



I did my best to honour the "direction" and shape of the character's features. There is really only one direction that you can take around the chin and nose, for example.
As with the previous image I switched to a fine gel pen to blend and blur the hair. It provides a really fine detail and by pulling the hair out over the darkness you can also hint at those whisps of hair that add a little more interest.


As with all portraits it is the eyes that capture the character. Expressions, mood etc they are all centered around the eyes. I was a little worried that I'd lost something by over-blending around the eyes. Taken in context the eyes and features in general started to look a little "botoxed".
I really hate this and it is something that I don't like to see in digital art. Too much blur can render an image "plasticy" and fake.


I was desperate to preserve the eyes. Cersei's expression is a classic show of beautiful arrogance. She sits right at the top of the food chain and boy does she know it. Nothing impresses her or seems to move her and this million yard stare captures that brilliantly. I couldn't mess with it.
Taken out of context (i.e. in the detail above) the eyes work well for me. They have depth and character.
I think it will perhaps just take a little time to adjust to the style of the blur tool using the damp brush as opposed to the more precise etched feel of the gel or ink bleed pens.

All in all I'm very happy with the results.
I think I've honoured the actresses beauty and the character's mood. It is of course a direct study from a still from the show so I can't take credit for the composition. But I'm happy that everything translated well from source to final piece.

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