Making of Dance for Us

SOFTWARE: Photoshop

The idea came about while reading my folio version of GrimmFairy Tales. In the ending to Snow White the evil queen is taken away and put scalding iron shoes and made to dance till her body gave out.


Upon reading the Snow White story I immediately knew what I wanted to draw. The scene was going to be an interior scene, smoky, very dark and dangerous. I changed the characters around to a princess about to be tortured by evil henchmen. I made a very crude drawing on paper which I was able to use to direct my wife for the reference pictures. I took a series of photographs that depicted all the characters in the scene. Then I started to gather all the reference to help me build up the scene.

I knew that I wanted to place the story in a dungeon/torture room of sorts so I googled for reference Dungeons, Medieval Cathedrals, blacksmith forge. At this point the story in my head got more and more refined. I read that James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) would make maquettes of scenes to plan out the lights, instead I use 3d scenes to do the same thing.

Adobe Photoshop CS

Once I feel that I grasp the subject matter I proceed to do some quick sketches to layout everything. I keep the figures very loose since I will be refining them later on. I go over the princess’face to get the right emotion out of her. I try and do a variety of expressions from outright scared to angrily defiant. I move on to the two minions and I made the decision to make one fat the other skinny and I try to give them more character. I keep the lines on the skinny character sharp while the fat one gets more softer curvy lines. The clothes/armor design comes from previous character concept sketches that I had done in the past, burrowing from Sarmatian knights to dark fantasy elements. I play up the sharp lines on the skinny character by exaggerating them in the choice of clothing and armor, I do the same thing with the fat minion and the curved lines. I donwant the princess to look too resigned to her fate so I exaggerate the slant of her body to create more force. You can see that there are some sketchy details that didnget carried over the final piece, the reason was simply that once everything was being painted I made a decision to keep a lot of the shapes clearer.


I donuse many brushes. Most of the brushes I have made myself. I like to use a flat square brush, because I like the edges and strokes it creates. I will use round brushes when Itrying to paint some finishing details. The sponge colors I use initially to give my painting a lot of nice detail. That way if I dongo over an area with my square brush there still something of detail to look at.

I will also use the sponge brushes to tone down areas that arenimportant later on in the painting process. I made the chain brush cause I didnfeel like painting the individual links, and since these elements arenprimary details the repetition isnthat noticeable.

The color swatches I made based on the fact that most of the scene was going to be illuminated by fire. I always try and set my colors initially, this forces me to come up with color combinations based on those initial colors and I donhave to worry about the color not being harmonious. Also it forces me to use a lot of gray to come up with complement colors. I kept two of the colors pretty dull while the red color I kept saturated. You can see the skin colors I came up with just using these colors.


Herethe final sketch. You can see that I kept my rule of thirds in mind, one intersection is at the princess face, the other is at the guy with the tongs, and a third intersection happens on one of the iron shoes. I added more details in the background; in particular I added another table tilted so that it creates diagonal lines going to the princess. I will duplicate this sketch layer so that one I paint over the other is kept at the top and I can always reference it and make sure Inot straying too far away from my initial lines. Also I constantly flip the image horizontally; I will also make a point to stop doing any work on the painting for a day or two to come back at it with more critical eyes.

The next thing I create is a quick value image. This will help in making sure the eye moves around the painting, it highlights what you want to show and it allows me to play with contrasts. Sometimes I will create these valuable images using color, I didndo it this time since the colors for these were pretty basic. Reds for shadows, yellows for highlights and blues as a compliment. One thing to note, even though I make a lot of planning with my paintings nothing is really set in stone. I will change things along the way as I become more critical of the work.

I always work from midtone down first. Meaning I add the midtone values then I concentrate on the shadows.

I further refine the shadows in this stage, I go to the darkest value here.

By this point Igoing up on my value scale. Notice that I changed the values on the tall shelf on the right. I wanted the darker colors to create a border around the painting so by changing itvalue darker it helps keep the eye from wandering out the painting.

Here Icleaned up some issues I had with the perspective. I also added the secondary light to help give the characters a bit more form.

Finally since this is a small room and would be filled with the smoke from the fire I added some glows to the scene to make the light thicker. For this I used a number of levels, and color balance to add some of the reds across the whole scene. Since all my colors are already set Inot afraid of it adding additional colors since itsomething that is going over the whole piece.

The only issue was that it also adds color to the grays and it destroys the contrasts. To fix it I went over some of the shadowed areas and I added grays that where the same value as the original areas.

Check the image in right to see the difference. Fig1 is without the gray on the hood of the character, see how it renders all the colors too similar. Whereas fig 2 by introducing gray to the shadows it creates more contrast between the hood, goggles and shirt.

Since I read left to right I flipped the image to not give away the horror of the iron shoes initially.

Hope you liked the making of the image, if you have any comments or query then donhesitate in email to me.

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