Winter’s Knight.
Winter’s Knight

The Tools and their offspring
The Tools and their Offspring.

This began as a throwaway character sketch. I’d done several other character sketches like it, and for some reason the design of her remained elusive. Understand when I do character sketches, I’ll place the character randomly on the page and, if I need to, I’ll use the rest of the page to work out details. So, needless to say, I wasn’t expecting to show this to anyone. Then all the details came together all at once—the hair, the face, the outfit—it all felt right. Now it felt like there was more ...

... and, unfortunately, she was awkwardly placed on the page. Oh well. Been there before.

I didn’t time myself, but I’d wager I spent between ten and fifteen hours actual drawing time (spread out across a month) working on this render. And truthfully, I can’t tell you the order in which I drew the different elements of the background. Most of the time I spent shading, shading, and more shading. I can, however, tell you that, with the exception of foreground, I shaded it more or less top to bottom (once again, tackling it in waves, then bouncing back and forth between individual elements as need be.)

I’m pleased with how the sky turned out with its criscrossing patterns of clouds, and the moon peaking around the girl like a menacing eye is one of the coolest visuals I’ve executed. I’m also very pleased with the texture differences between the grass, the road, the trees, the clouds, the moon (really like how the moon came out), the sky, the creatures, and the girl’s clothing. In the past, I would render with invisible pencil strokes, then I moved on to very visible pencil strokes, but here I’ve used both techniques. Using short semi-random strokes to give grass its numerous wavy quality. Then I changed the strokes’ direction, gave them more solidity, and a wider range of values and, voila, trees. A patch of clear sky has no visible pencil strokes, while on the moon I used very faint HB strokes to convey the lunar pattern. Long thin strokes define the road, and lofty/wavy strokes compose the clouds.

Recently, I fiddled with hard-contrast B&W shading and liked the results. While I looked at this render, wondering what value to assign the railing and car, the idea hit, “Why not make them silhouettes?” Turns out, it provided a nice contrast to the established textures, it suited the tone of the overall image, and it made sense (considering it is a night scene.) I liked the effect so much, I decided to render the telephone poles that way as well.

I also made good on my promise from last time and used a straight edge. I think that alone makes Winter’s Knight look more mature than anything else here at Dark Side of the Soul. Kinda depressing since it takes no effort to use a ruler, and yet I never bothered to bring one out (and I have one with each of my sketchpads.) Can we say “stupid?”

In the Wolfe Nightshade commentary, I spoke of my reason for selecting charcoal in that instance. As it turns out, Nightshade juxtaposed to Winter’s Knight really demonstrates the differences between charcoal and pencil. Both Wolfe and the girl wear similar overcoats, yet the shading of said coats are worlds apart. Nightshade (charcoal) is quick, rough, and spontaneous; the girl (pencil) is more subdued, smooth, and refined. One is raw gritty reality, the other dreamlike. However, that’s not to suggest that charcoal cannot appear refined (and pencil rough). But an artist has to first know the inherent properties of his medium before he can exploit them (as I’ve done) or challenge them (someday ...).

Though not perfect, I’m very proud of Winter’s Knight. It’s easily the most complex render I’ve done, one of the most detailed, and it encompasses the full spectrum of Dark Side of the Soul—fusing the early visions and ambitions of Shadows of a Pearl with the descipline learned from the Figure Studies while taking my understanding of backgrounds and textures to the next level. With any luck, there’ll be plenty more like it ...

Oh, and if you can guess where the title, Winter’s Knight comes from, I’ll give you a cookie.