Latest Commission: To Boldly Go Where No Teddy Bear Has Gone Before!

Winnie the Kirk
Winnie the Kirk

Paul Kimball is now officially my best patron of 2020. For his latest petition he asked me to portray his lovely wife Linda as a Star Trek OG character, holding hands with none other than Winnie the Pooh (hey, I don’t psychoanalyze my clients, I just paint what they want).

Paul and Linda
Marianna Hill
Marianna Hill as Dr Helen Noel in the episode “Dagger of the Mind”

As always, I proceeded to do some “pre-production” research: Using Google Images to look for suitable reference pictures that would help me complete the portrait. Including a proper “alien background.”

Scene from the episode “By Any Other Name.”

The above image was the one I chose for my landscape, since one of the requisites asked by Paul would be having Linda and Captain Pooh walking on a field. For the sake of simplicity I chose not to render most of the rock outcropping. You’ll also notice I painted three Moons instead of one, since that was also another requirement stipulated by Paul. [Artists’ tip: The “Lighten” blending mode on Autodesk Sketchbook is a great way to get objects like moons or planets to blend into your landscape, the same way they would be seen from a heavy atmosphere like Earth’s. I used the same technique for my previous commission, also for Paul].

I went about this illustration using the same “style” as with Altaira: Drew the main figures using a thin and sharp brush, then after “blocking” the figures with color on a layer underneath, I proceeded to erase the outlines and just leave the necessary inner lines. The lines were first drawn in black (old habit) but then I changed the color to a neutral cool gray and the layer was then reduced in opacity to 50%, with a Multiply blend mode [only exception were the face and hands, which were colored with the same tone as the skin, but since the layer is on Multiply the color is slighter darker and more saturated]. The end result are subtle lines which can then be blended even more once you start applying volume shading to your figures.

I also used the same “color theory” as in the last commission: I assumed the lilac/magenta color of the sky would affect the reflected colors of the objects in the scene, the same way the blue sky on our planet affect the “ambient” tone of rendered objects. But in order to keep the skin of Linda aesthetically pleasing, what I did was create my skin tones by blending the main shade tone (a slightly darker hue of the lilac in the sky) with my intial skin tone using a “digital paint” brush. The result is a slightly darker and desaturated variation of your main skin tone, which was then applied on a separate layer using the “Linear Subexposition” blend mode, which gives you a richer tone than Multiply. That layer is kept on a 30-50% opacity, and then on top of that I put another layer with the same parameters, using the resulting tone of the first one blended with the shade tone.

Using 2 or three of these layers help you control the shade skin tones (from subtle “occlusion” to full shadows) while keeping them “warm” enough to be pleasing –especially if your portrait is that of a woman (unless your aim is for a dark of dramatic effect).

Pooh was also done with the same logic, although instead of a “hard” textured brush I used my new best friend, the “dusty airbrush” to make the volumes very soft.

As always, painting the grass was a real challenge! I tried different approaches using digital paint brushes, and varied the green hues to keep it interesting, until I was satisfied with the result (same thing with the trees in the distance). I remember how I used to suffer with 3DsMax when creating architectural renderings that required grass or lawn, because attaining a natural-looking texture is not easy with CGI –even more so 10, 12 years ago!

Another new thing I tried was trying to keep the end points of the hair more natural, by applying a “final details” layer in which I applied very small and delicate brush strokes with a low opacity, that way the hairs don’t end in such a “hard” point.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the end result. So was Paul, who only requested a few minor and easy changes. He’s already asked for a new commission (YAAAAAY!) and I’m already looking forward to working on it, since now I’ll have the chance to test-drive some new drawing equipment I recently acquired.

As always, commissions welcome: (absurdbydesign[at]gmail[dot]com)

MAKE IT SO!

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