I drew this about a month ago after browsing some impressive work on DeviantArt and feeling a lack of confidence in my own ability. DeviantArt can sometimes be terrible for that and I often have to just stop looking at it and concentrate on my own work.
I sometimes feel that my art lacks drama, and lighting seems to be a big factor in this. Adding the right light makes a painting come alive, it can guide the eye around a predetermined path and tell a story. I stumble around a lot when it comes to lighting. I have only a basic understanding and a total lack of intuition for how light bounces around and reflects off things. Landscape lighting is the absolute worst since the light source is so generalized, and I really need to conquer that one soon for all the Flypso landscapes I’ll have to paint in the near future.
A nice way to learn about things like this is to watch movies and take screenshots at interesting parts, then use them to study lighting, composition, expression, etc. I can’t remember exactly where I got this tip but I believe it was from one of the videos on Ctrl+Paint. This site was super useful when I was first learning my way around digital painting and it’s still one of my favourite resources to go back to when I need refreshers.
So I rewatched the movie Maleficent looking for some ideas. This scene caught my attention with soft blue moonlight coming in from the right and a fire burning on the left. The dragon (not Maleficent herself but her assistant, Diaval) is approaching some soldiers which I left out, and he is highlighted from both sides with the different temperatures of lighting. This could reflect Maleficent’s internal conflict in that story. I won’t say more in case anyone reading hasn’t seen the movie and is planning to, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything. It’s actually a pretty good movie and I’d recommend it!
It was super cool how the dragon came to life when I started adding subtle highlights from the fire. My favourite part of any painting is adding things like eye shine because it’s such a small detail but it makes an instant and very significant change to the painting. Overall I was happy with this painting but I do think it came out just a bit too dark. The scene is supposed to be dark, but I feel like it could have been better if it was a little brighter. I’m not sure how to address that without doing a lot of repainting, and I haven’t figured out what exactly I’m doing to cause it, but very often I am finding that my drawings come out darker than I intend. I think it could be a sign that I am still a little underconfident as an artist. Shadows are safer, since they only give you hints and leave the rest to your imagination. It could also be that I just want to hurry up and be done so I can go on to the next piece, instead of spending more time grinding through boring things like the texture of a wall.
There is so much to learn and so much I want to improve on, the hardest thing is getting a sense of direction. How can I focus when I want to know everything at once? I envy those people doing speed paintings on youtube, how they can just throw together an amazing landscape concept in a few hours, seemingly straight from their imaginations with the correct lighting and shadow and everything. I know it comes from a lot of experience and study, but sometimes I feel like I go around in circles with no idea what I’m doing or how to proceed. I guess the key to improving is to just keep going even if it doesn’t seem to be working, and eventually things just start to click.