Saturday, June 22, 2013

River Goddess: A Peek Behind-the-Scenes Part 2: Composition & Layout

Now that I’ve got my concept and collected references, I begin to set up my composition.

I build my images in the Illustrator program, which allows me to experiment and tweak every element until I get it just right.  Illustrator works with vectors, as opposed to pixels. This means that every shape I draw can be easily edited and adjusted by grabbing hold of the lines and manipulating them. This differs from working with pixels, which must be erased and re-drawn to alter.  Vectors are ideal for creating smooth-edged, complex, multi-layered images.

I do have a tablet and stylus, which is preferred by many digital artists, but most of my work is done with a mouse. This is the input device I learned how to use Illustrator’s ingenious Pen Tool with, and it’s still my preferred method, though some may find it clumsy.
A guy I worked with on my first professional graphic design job taught me the basics of Illustrator and Photoshop.  His guidance was invaluable, because much of it is not particularly intuitive.  After some initial confusion and frustration (which I imagine most folks who have used the Pen Tool experience), I got the hang of it and learned how to master this amazing tool.

It’s now time to build the foundation of my image.  A distinguishing feature of my style is the lighter lines on a dark background.  While I’m creating the drawing, I work in black and white.  Color comes later.

I start with a simple black rectangle, then begin to roughly sketch in the elements of the composition.  At this point, I’m just setting up guidelines to indicate where everything goes and how it all fits together.  I’m striving for balance and harmony.  Most of my compositions feature bilateral symmetry – mirror images on either side of a vertical centerline.  

I start with the central figure.  In this case, a river goddess that blends the attributes of Anuket, ancient Egyptian goddess of the Nile River, and Oshun, the Yoruban goddess of fresh waters, who is depicted with a fish tail, like a mermaid.
I use the gorgeous bust of Nefertiti as a model for my goddess’ face.  She wears Anuket’s distinctive headdress topped with plumes, and the iconic Egyptian collar. I place a medallion at the center of the headdress, where the alchemical symbol for the element of water will go.

In one hand she holds a lotus flower (a common motif in Hindu sacred art that represents purity).  Her other arm cradles a water jug (a motif often used in ancient Greek and Roman art). 
Her fish tail will eventually be covered in scales, inspired by the woodcut prints of koi in Japanese art.  The fishtail will flow into a waterfall of cascading swirls.

The two curving shapes that flow down on either side from her headdress will be filled in with images of various freshwater animals.  Flanking these streams of water life are stands of river plants – reeds, papyrus and cattails.  

I place a crescent moon over the water jug to fill the space there, as the moon is connected to water by its tidal influence.  I also drop in reference images of the Christian symbol for baptism (the shell with 3 water drops) and an alternate depiction of Anuket as a simple clay figure.  These will be replaced with hand-drawn versions of these emblems.
Now it is a matter of filling in this framework with finished elements. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your art and have pinned to my pinterest account. I don't currently have any new art in my budget but hopefully some of my followers do.
    Please let me know if you would like your art taken off my pinterest.
    Brightest of Blessings


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