My most faithful and generous patron, Mark Brady, asked me for a new commission that would be used as an avatar in social media. Once again his beloved cat Yang would be featured, who I drew as a ‘dogbuster’ along his feline companion, Yang –sadly, I think Ying passed away last year.
This time, Mark wanted Yang to portrayed as a Navy Top Gun pilot, and as a cool visual gag he suggested that maybe Snoopy could be included, something I enthusiastically agreed on.
As always, I tried to experiment with a few things. For instance, one quick way to “block” the first color layer with Autodesk Sketchbook is to use the selection magic wand and select outside the line art, and then revert the selection, so you can paint with an initial color (this is what is called “blocking”) without the need to manually trying to stay inside the lines, which is needlessy time-consuming. Unfortunately I’ve discovered that doing this sometimes causes a bit of “pixelation” or other unpleasant results, especially if you end up altering the top layer with the line art, or erasing the lines –as I did with most of them in this piece– so I discovered that by duplicating the line art layer and then painting over it with a lock transparency using the same color I used for blocking on the layer below, and then fusing this layer with the blocked color layer ended up giving me a much better result. This seems to be a good tip if your line art was done with a brush with soft edges, so I’m going to try and experiment with this more often –I mention all this in case some reader is also using Autodesk Sketchbook, and if you are please feel free to share some tips of your own!
Overall I’m extremely pleased with the end result. I especifically sought to not depend on lines to represent the forms –like you would do with the typical cartoon or comics book style– and use shades and volumes instead. All the ‘perimeter’ lines were erased and the rest were eventually fused to the main color layers at a 25% opacity, once I added the highlights and shadows. Then I painted over the lines (which were drawn very thin, something I don’t usually do) until they blended with the rest of the colors. I also sought to give Yang’s fur a very soft look, something you cannot do with typical line art.
I also used the “charcoal” brush set, which proved to be particularly useful for the clouds and the smoke coming out of Snoopy’s flying house, but they are kind of hard to control, especially if you are trying to paint soft gradients.
Remember, if you are interested in requesting a commission like this, please leave a comment or email me at absurdbydesign[at]gmail[dot]com.