Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Illustration Friday - Atmosphere

Back in April, I began an illustration of a little girl walking her dog on a foggy morning. I had a hard time getting the foggy atmosphere to look the way I wanted it, which got me frustrated, leading me to put the image aside, unfinished. When I saw that this week's 'Illustration Friday' word was "atmosphere," I immediately thought of this unfinished piece. This would be the perfect excuse for me to try tackling it again and to see if I could get it to look the way that I imagined it.

To the right, below the finished piece, you can see my first attempt, the way it looked when I stopped working on it back in April. One thing that I wasn't happy with in my original painting was the way the trees looked. For one thing they were too spindly and I also didn't like the foliage, it was too grainy and patchy.  If you compare this earlier image to the finished piece, you'll notice that besides bulking up the trees, I made some other changes - I added a car and some houses, I made the girl a little shorter, I simplified her sweater design and slightly altered the dog's pose.

Here is my original sketch, done back in April before I started the original painting. I started off working on a blue canvas (the whole piece was done digitally using Painter 11 software), thinking that the blue would be a good undercoat for fog. Instead, it just ended up making the image look rather cold. In the finished painting, I changed the color to a warmer tone to indicate that the sun was about to break through. You can see that the original sketch did not contain much in the way of detail.  I was going to be using a digital watercolor brush, so I was planning to just add the detail on the fly and hopefully I'd have some happy "accidents" with the digital watercolor process (which did happen to a certain extent).

Here is the image, after I had begun to revise it - changing the trees, shortening the girl, and adding the car. This version still shows the dog in his original pose.

Here I've begun to paint the girl and the dog. You can see that the dog is now in his new pose. On a separate layer, I've also added two houses. On a layer above them, I used a FX glow brush to diffuse the light coming from their windows.

Above all of the painting layers, I added another layer where I painted a fog. I did this by painting white paint using Painter's oily blender brush.  I put the paint on very thinly and then blended it with one of Painter's soft blending tools.  Blending on a layer with little or no paint on it will give you a sort of white hazy effect. I adjusted the effect by lowering the opacity of the layer and gently erasing portions of the paint with a large erasing brush set at a low opacity. Here you can see the image with the 'fog' layer turned on. From this stage, I continued to fiddle with the tree foliage and the opacity and density of the fog. The very last thing I did in Painter was to add the yellow dashed line down the middle of the street. After completing the image, I dropped all of the layers and saved the image as a tiff file. I opened this file in Photoshop and made an irregular shaped selection around the border, feathered the selection, inverted the selection (so that it would select the edges outside the image) and then deleted the edges of the picture. This gave the image a nice soft, undulating edge.


  1. This is great and so glad you shared your process!

  2. I like the fog...nice idea, too!

  3. Really nice difference. Thanks for sharing the process. I love the end result. Funny how sometimes we just have to step back for a while.

  4. This one is very nice. You would think that fog would lead one to a creepy atmosphere. I like how you made it such a pleasant experience!

  5. very nice, love the foggy headlights

  6. Nice interpretation. I also love the foggy headlights:)