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Donkey skin

“Donkey skin ” by Chris Beatrice

I usually start with a really rough and simple sketch, about 4″ x 5″, to establish the basic composition. This picture was no different. In the story the girl is fleeing into the night from a terrible situation at home. Her castle, her former home looms in the darkness behind her, as she follows a winding path lit only by the lanterns on her wagon. Her sheep, her sole companion, guides the way.

I then did a tighter drawing, and laid in some very rough colors to establish the mood and basic lighting.

For reference at this point I look at lots of pictures of old wagons and carts, and different kinds of sheep. I try to fill my head with as much imagery as possible, then I am free to create without looking at pictures. recommendation:

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After some experimentation I decided to go with just one lantern. This created more dramatic shadows, and a stronger focal point. I spent a fair amount of time redrawing the wagon a little more carefully. The way it tilts to one side and negotiates the turn, and the coming hill, were important dynamics to get right before painting.

Using an opaque brush in Painter (IX) I lay in some opaque colors, and start to suggest the grass texture. With a clear idea in my mind of how the light illuminates the scene, I quickly get the basic value relationships and shapes in place.
The sketch is still visible as a multiply layer over the painting layer.

I typically begin the real painting work on the largest areas of the picture, because that gives me a solid environment or context in which to fit the rest of the imagery. The grass was a little challenging to get right, so I used separate layers for a few steps of the process (which I rarely do). The sky and road helped establish the purplish ambient light. I experimented with a greater degree of saturation, but pulled back a bit from a really strong purple.
I also moved the castle to the opposite side of the girl because I felt it strengthened the composition.

Here I hide the sketch layer and switch over to just the painting layer. The sheep is the first area of detail I begin to work on.
I also add an effects layer for the lantern halo and some texturing over much of the background. This is just a composite of a whole bunch of old paintings, basically creating an abstract texture pattern, then added as an overlay layer.

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