Many years ago I bought a limited edition copy of the Two Towers. I liked the movie but mostly I wanted the poly resin statue of Gollum that came with the box set. Even through the thick Chinese pre-paint I could see the beautiful sculpting of the WETA studio. I told myself I would repaint him someday when I had time away from studio painting, but that free time was always fleeting and spent on better things.
Eventually my fat cat grew tired of his loathsome skulking. No doubt he had some harm planned for me as he crouched high on the shelf. So, like a faithful Sam, she booted him down to his doom! Although Gollum’s body was shattered beyond all healing, his head was left intact, so I kept it on my shelf.
Recently I was seeking good pieces to paint on as examples in my Sketching class at Adepticon. Gollum seemed to me a perfect piece to demonstrate the illustrative sketching technique. This technique is akin to how a fine artist would approach a portrait: by sketching in the rough placement of both color and luminosity.
You work with thick paint applied in a wet on wet fashion. This sketch took 5-10 minutes but even in that time you can capture the spirit of the character. Indeed, some times it seems I can forget the character if I focus on smooth blending and precision from the very beginning.
I mixed all the colors using only the three primaries plus white. That’s right, every shade and skintone was made from some mixture of golden brand Pyrrole Red, Prussian Blue, Hansa Yellow, and Titanium White. The advantages of using this method are numerous but for this article I want to focus on skin tones and how to achieve an infinite range of fleshtones by mixing from the primaries. The first thing you must understand is that fleshtone is always a mixture of all three primary colors.
As you get comfortable with the process you will find you can make micro mixes of fleshtone anywhere on your wet palette. Start with a color and add it’s complement, then obtain the luminosity by adding white. Can you see how a cool fleshtone was mixed from this purple on my palette?
From the initial sketch I use powerful colors and bold brushstrokes to apply a variety of fleshtones. From the right, the tones start warm then move into white highlights marking the key light, then they become green and fade into blue.
The next stage is all about texture. I focus on defining the lines and wrinkles of the face in a bold manner. I use strong colors including pure primaries in some places. I can be bold because I know these lines will be softened by the final stage.
In the final stage I blend. Here I use glazes to soften and the boldness and texture. The blending focuses on the more general shape of the face and skull softening the wrinkles and giving proper balance. Lastly sharp details are picked out with highlights.
Well I hope you’ve enjoyed watching me finish the sketch! If you want to learn more about the illustrative technique check the page of my friend and teacher Alphonso Giraldes aka Banshee. Or, better yet, take his class and it will change the way you paint!
Did you like the article? Do you feel inspired? Consider making a donation. Every dollar helps us know that we’re doing things right and pushes me to write and educate.