Our Classroom live stream series, hosted by Magma artist, Ryan “Eyekoo” Allan, is intended for digital painting beginners. Illustrators who want to get a more painterly look to their work might want to jump on to the canvas too for a few studies while revisiting the fundamentals.
The full Classroom playlist, starting with our most recent stream.
In our first sessions we start with one of the core elements of making good paintings:
Value is can be described as how light or dark something is. It’s one of the first things our eyes read and absolutely essential to understand for creating strong, believable images.
And value relationships, how dark or light a shape is relative to another shape, can tell us a lot about our scene, especially when it comes to lighting, depth, and where the artist wants us to look.
Our exercise for this stream focuses on painting out basic shapes (a sphere and a cube) using only value, or different shades of grey, to give them form and make them stand out.
Our second lesson builds on the first by doing a value study of a simple still life. The humble apple makes for an an easy subject to focus on with a more interesting shape than just a sphere.
We spend some time finding different shapes of value first that make up the image. A great practice at this early stage is to squint your eyes to see the shapes better and to not get distracted by the finer details yet.
Once you feel comfortable with working in greyscale, and find yourself thinking in terms of light and dark, it’s time to start adding color to the mix.
Lesson 3 starts to unpack the basics of color which is often quite an intimidating element of painting. There are many things that can influence color in a scene so it can seem like a daunting thing to get stuck into. We keep things simple by looking again at our humble apple still life with a simple lighting scheme.
We moved onto a more interesting still life in our fourth lesson. We looked at some simple white forms but with some strong color included in the scene.
We know that light bounces. When light hits color, that color can bounce onto objects around it. It can be a really subtle thing sometimes but it adds so much more interest and believability to your painting.
When it comes more complex objects, its important not to get caught up in the details and everything that makes it so. Our next lesson covered a crumpled paper bag with its many plane changes.
Here it’s important to stay zoomed out for a large part of the process. This way you can keep your focus on overall shapes and value structure, working from big shapes down to the details in stages.
Of course perspective is another core element of producing believable paintings, but we’ll get into that a little later.
If you want to improve your painting skills, it’s going to take the time, and do a lot of exercises. It can be a bit tedious early on if you are trying to cover everything at once. Instead, it’s worth doing a series of more focused studies that deal with a specific skill or subject.
Timed exercises are great for this and force you to make decisions faster, and also step back and assess or get feedback more frequently.
For the stream, we did a few different durations and focuses of the same set of images:
The idea here, especially with the shorter sketches, is definitely not to make perfect paintings. In fact, they will probably be embarrassingly bad. What it is meant to do though, is to warm up and speed up your thinking. It also puts into perspective the time you have to make meaningful decisions in your work. Five minutes can feel really long when you’ve just done a one-minute study.
The other benefit is getting more feedback in less time. If you have to stop at the end of 60 seconds and ask what you could have done better, that is going to help a lot when you put the time into more detailed paintings that have a tight deadline.
Here’s the exercise template if you want to give it a try:
Whether you’re into epic fantasy landscapes or character portraits, still life painting is a good way to focus on capturing light, material, and interesting shape combinations. You could even tell an intriguing story with the right collection of objects. Overall, they are a training ground to refine the skills you need for grander paintings
As a digital painting beginner, you’ll want to keep these really simple to start. Single objects, like the humble apple, with a straightforward lighting setup will do well so that you can focus on those fundamentals or experiments with different color schemes, lighting scenarios, or brush techniques.
Moving on to more complex still lives, with more objects and different materials, you can dive deep into capturing texture and the subtleties of light bouncing around in the scene.
We’ve started doing some of these longer studies in our Classroom stream with enough time to do break down the scene, do quicker sketches, and then go into the main painting. These are intended to be relaxed but focused sessions for participants to learn together, applying what we’ve learned in the past streams.
Rocks are a really interesting subject to study. There are so many possibilities with shapes, color and texture, and are often the foundation of painting awesome landscapes. A mountain is just a big rock, right?
As with our previous lessons, shape and value are particularly important, and that’s where we spent most of our time focusing during this set of Classroom streams. After blocking in the main shapes, we gradually move down to smaller shapes with some tighter brush work.
Of course, there’s texture to consider too, and there are different ways to bring that in. The brush you’re using, and how you use it, could create texture, but if you only have a solid round brush, you could incorporate photo-textures over your rock forms.
Having covered the various fundamentals, our Classroom streams will now be more of a study session. We’ll have reference set up for each stream where you’ll spend the next hour putting those core skills to use. Ryan will guide you through his process of tackling the subject, so even if you’re new and missed our passed sessions, you’ll still be able to dive right in.
Each week, there will be two 1-hour long study session with different subjects. You can stay tuned with all the details and be notified about the sessions by subscribing to our YouTube channel and hitting the notification bell.
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