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Glasgow, United Kingdom
An illustrator and games artist living and working in Scotland. I have various hobbies: coding, travel, art and games; and I enjoy writing about them.

22 February 2013

Painting a Russian Fairy Tale

As a mini project today I decided to paint a Russian fairy tale. Total time it took is about 10 hours over the course of 3 or 4 days. The reason it's going so slowly is because I've been away for two months and haven't painted or drawn a single thing. It will set me back a week or so to get back to my usual standard.

Anyway, let's go. Here is my process.

1. Sketch
2. Block in the Values
3. Block in the Colours
4. Detail and Paint

So here is the sketch.

For some reason I skipped the blocking in of values sketch and went straight into the colours.

It was important to remember that the sky is a light source in its own right and will leave blueish highlights on top of objects in shade. Also the shadows that drop from an orange and warm light source will be blue and cold. The aerial perspective also had to be taken into account, for the further away something gets the lighter and more monochromatic it becomes. Easily done with a large soft edged brush set to 20% opacity.

Time to start detailing!

It still lacks this little "something". The sky is also stands out like a sore thumb and these pines look nothing like real pines do. It's interesting to see how we think something looks like and what it actually looks like in real life.

I added a layer completely filled with orange and set to Colour Dodge (20% opacity) to unite the colours together without losing the local colour, I spent quite a lot of time on the pines and replaced the sky. Small details like birds and little highlights were also added.

Thus, we have the final result!

This is far from perfect. The perspective is all messed up on the castle. The cliffs looks more like standing rocks, even though I used reference and the colouds almost blend in with the mountains in their value. The clouds should be a lot lighter.

Let's look at some notes I made.

Another point a friend of mine raised are the clouds that seem to be exactly the same in value to the castle/city and therefore flattening out the image and breaking the composition. A look at the black and white version will prove it's true. And final point from me. In hindsight, that viaduct type thing on the left doesn't quite fit into a Russian fairy tale, more something we'd see in Victorian times.

To expand a little bit on the point about perspective. Here is what it should look like. Redlined by LaCan from

His redline actually makes a lot of sense and illustrates what I tried to say perfectly. Anything above the horizon line and we will see its underside. Anything below the horizon line and we will see its top side. Simples!

Now to what actually works quite well in the picture. Personally, I think the lighting adds a lot to the image. The golden hour type setting when half the image is all cools and the other one is radiant warms. The little details like the specifically shaped shield or the asymmetrical towers chaotically popping here and there, add a lot of authenticity to the image. The bogatyr in the corner is my favourite bit of the painting. The values are excellently painted and the windmill principle comes into play very nicely.

Next week I'll start doing more sketches that are to do with the story I am doing thought. It's time to start this project properly!