Thursday, 8 July 2010

Project Onomatopee: "Nightmare" (June 2010)

To expand upon my previous post about Project Onomatopee, I'm now gonna write about the production process for my submission to the "Nightmare" theme from June.

Looking at the drawing above, do I hear you asking what the English Media and the World Cup have to do with Nightmares?
No!? In that case I guess you must have seen how much of a laughing stock the team were at the World Cup, and therefore think you understand this drawing completely - but you are wrong!

- I came up with this idea long before the England team arrived in South Africa;
- Had drawn David James as the goalkeeper several days before Robert Green became America's favourite English comedian;
- And had began the digital colouring process way before sections of the English media began subjecting Germany to even more unwarranted racial hatred.

From those statements it is hopefully clear that I had no intention of insulting the English people (if they take my drawing that way), and that I began this project with no knowledge that England would play so poorly... The actual intention of this drawing was to take a light-hearted dig at the England-based media that for many weeks has been suffocating the entire United Kingdom with its non-targeted, overhyped output about the chances of the England team this summer.
There's nothing wrong with the media getting behind its team, but broadcasting its hysteria so regularly not only isolates the non-English population of the UK; it puts us off their products; becomes very repetitive; and ultimately frustrates us even more than when we see our own teams fail to qualify for major tournaments as a result of last-minute cheating by the opposition. (Here's looking at you France! And Italy...)

In the weeks leading up to the World Cup (the same time that the "Nightmare" theme for June was announced) it seemed as though every English newspaper and every advert on British TV was united with England in the belief that they could win the 2010 World Cup: And certainly with the team having had such a strong qualifying campaign they had every right to believe they could be potential winners again. But what I found frustrating about it was that they wouldn't stop referring to Bobby Robson; 1966; THAT goal; Geoff Hurst; this being the last chance for the golden age of English international football (which I think was at least 4 years ago!); and their group stage being full of really easy opponents!
As such, the media seemed certain that England were going to be unstoppable in storming through the tournament to collect the trophy - and this is what inspired my "Nightmare" drawing for Project Onomatopee. (My nightmare being the hysterical media rather than the prospect of England winning the tournament!)

If the media was to be believed at the start of June, then it was guaranteed that Gerrard et al. would become national heroes just like Hurst and his gang 44 years ago. I therefore thought it would be apt to portray the 2010 England World Cup squad in a picture that imitates the 1966 squad: But for a bit of artistic freedom I decided to try caricaturing the players.

I started drawing the caricatures as an initial sketch on cheap printer paper (expecting to require several attempts at getting the caricatures half decent). But after partially rendering most of the characters with pencil I realised that tracing the initial drawing onto good quality paper (in order to paint it using watercolours) would be too time consuming - so I stuck with the initial drawing and altered my plans for the colouring stage.

I had to rule out traditional painting techniques as a means of colouring my drawing because I feared the printer paper would just crumple and distort when paint/water touched it. However I was intrigued by the prospect of attempting some serious digital painting for the first time (previously I've only ever done flat digital colouring for animation), so I scanned my drawing into the computer and got cracking with Photoshop.

After testing a selection of base coats [above] to give a rough idea of the colour schemes, I decided to scour the internet for some relevant digital artist research/influences/resources. My first port of call was to Charlie Parker's excellent Lines & Colors blog where, amongst many other types of artists and art forms, I've discovered a lot of interesting digital artists, notably:
- Francois Baranger
- Tuomas Korpi
- Jason Seiler
- Michael Kutsche
- David Jon Kassan (painting from life on an ipad).

I downloaded a number of digital brush sets for Photoshop from, which was easy to use and very useful. And Finnish artist Tuomas Korpi [listed above] has made his extensive Photoshop brush set openly downloadable from his website (on the sketches page), which I've appreciated using so far.

As this was my first attempt at digital painting I was quite content to simply test out different brushes and use a rather basic 5-tone colouring technique so as to not get caught up in realism or little details.
After laying down a mid-tone red colour for the England kit that all the players are wearing, I worked my way through the painting process in little stages:
1) Starting with Steven Gerrard (the central character who holds the trophy aloft), I filled in his skin & hair using personalized mid-tone colours, before working my way outwards to all the other players. (A minor note of interest here is that each player in the drawing has his own individual colour scheme based upon my photographic research).
2) After laying down all the base coats, I went back through every player and coloured relevant areas with a dark tone of each base colour.
3) After the dark tones were down, I again went back through all the players, this time colouring relevant areas with a light tone of each base colour.
4) Once I was happy with the range of tones in my digital painting I went back through it all and added in-between tones wherever necessary.
For the whole painting process I used a relatively small selection of brushes (always at varying sizes), and I usually had the opacity set to about 20%-50% in order to build up subtle layers of colour that would help add to the overall tonal quality of the image. I was also painting entirely with my computer mouse because I don't have access to a tablet pen.

When I was happy with the colouring on all of the footballers I turned my attention to the stadium in the background.
Working on a separate Photoshop layer from the footballers I initially scribbled various patches of colour to reflect the real colours of the Soccer City stadium (host of the World Cup Final on July 11). However this looked rather garish and troublesome, so I desaturated the stadium layer (to turn it greyscale), and as a replacement added an orange filter of varying strengths over the whole image [the experimental images below].

After I had chosen my favoured image (from the four above) I considered the drawing/painting to be finished and ready to submit to Project Onomatopee... But having forgotten that images need to be in the portrait format rather than landscape format, I added the black surround and golden-coloured text [as seen at the top of the blog post] to make my artwork compatible with the submission guidelines.

...Then days later England got knocked out of the tournament, and the potential reaction to this image completely changed!

You can see all the submissions for the "Nightmare" (June) theme of Project Onomatopee by clicking here.

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