Here’s a new step by step approach to one of my Photoshop paintings.

Start with a toned textured background. I always start in a mid tone so that I have room to judge both my lights and darks. When starting with a white canvas I find it difficult to properly judge my lights because they are always darker than the surrounding canvas so they don’t look light enough and my darks look too dark against the white so then I don’t go dark enough. Also, the texture will come in very handy when creating the Baobob Tree.

I add a layer and roughly lay in my composition. I tend to use the thirds rule when finding my focal point. If you break up your composition into thirds both vertically and horizontally you will end up with four points on your composition where the lines intersect. These tend to be visually comfortable areas to place your focal point. The monkey in this case is basically in the upper left point of intersection. This is not a hard fast rule. I use a lot of other methods for  finding the focal point, the best being just what feels right, but it’s a good rule to remember.

This is where I make a lot of compositional changes. In this case I wasn’t happy with the monkey’s pose so I decided to change it. I’m looking for a meditative feel to the piece. The monkey is so small compared to the gigantic Baobob tree. It was very primal when I first saw it in person. I want a pose that reflects that feeling.

Still not happy with the pose, I changed it again. This time I like it and I roughly lay in some lights on the monkey to get a better sense of how it will sit in the composition.

Now I just start laying in color. The bark of the Baobob is somewhat shiny and therefore reflective of a lot of the surrounding color. I pay particular attention to changing temperature.

Here I start to refine not just color but also pushing the range of the values. I try to keep a dominant value range which in this case is a slightly dark mid tone, I then find areas to sweeten by finding just the right amount of lighter values. In this case the monkey starts to pull the eye already because it contains the broadest value range in a such a concentrated area.

I now feel like I want to push the canvas textures a bit more and make them work for me. I multiply the textured layer I started with and bring it up to the top of the layer order. Only the monkey, which is on it’s own layer, is on top. I then set the texture layer to multiply so that it will pick up everything underneath.

Now with the color working for me and the value structure basically in place I set about pushing my value range. It’s important to be disciplined at this stage. Broadening the value range too much over all will flatten the composition and confuse the viewer as to where the point of interest truly is.
Here I continue with the value structure and the tree texture. I go back to the monkey periodically but I really try to work the whole composition at the same time. Creating the texture and reflected light on the right side of the tree was particularly fun.

At this point I originally felt that the painting was finished. I woke the next day though, not happy with it. I felt I had lost my focal point a bit and the value range was a little all over the place. So…

I added a layer on top and set it to multiply. I then grabbed a cool blue grey and set about creating shadows and dappled sunlight. I put the monkey in the sun as if he were welcoming the morning. I also set my brush to color dodge and burned in the monkey a bit to give it a feel of warm sunlight. Also, I hit one of the dead leaves to give a little balance.

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About Aaron Blaise

For 21 years Aaron worked with Disney helping to create some of the greatest animated films ever made. During that time he worked as an animator or supervising animator on "The Rescuers Down Under", "Beauty and the Beast", "Aladdin", "The Lion King", "Pocahontas", "Mulan" and more. In 2003 he was co-director of "Brother Bear" for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. After "Brother Bear" he helped to develop several projects but ultimately left Disney to pursue an opportunity back home in Florida. Aaron recently served as 2D Animation Supervisor and Character Designer for the "The Bear and the Hare" an advertisement loved by millions around the world. He is currently also working on a new animated short film, once again involving bears called "Snow Bear".

1 thought on “Here’s a new step by step approach to one of my Photoshop paintings.

  1. great! keep then coming and thanks for sharing!

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