Sketch Diary: Dreaming Butterfly v2

Concept and Inspiration

A detail of Dreaming Butterfly.

I’m currently working on a painting I hope to include in my portfolio which is a redo of one of my most popular (and personal favorite) pieces entitled Dreaming Butterfly.  The character in this piece is Aurora, my old Shadowrun character who was the first character I really got attached to during my dice-rolling days.

She is like my own Pepper, for those of you who know Artgerm over at DA.  I’m always using Aury to experiment with new art styles, random fashions, and whatever comes to mind.  While she may disappear from my gallery at times, I always come crawling back to her when my muse is in search of inspiration.  Ironically, she almost always comes out looking peaceful and surrounded by symbolic butterflies when she’s actually an ill-temper, foul-mouthed, speed ganger Yakuza Elf, but I digress.

I admit to having ulterior motives for composing this piece, namely so I have something new to submit to DeviantART’s Draw it Again contest due on the 30th of this month and for The Rising Stars competition IFX and Corel are running (due next month). Yup, that’s right! I double-dip my chips!


I came up with just four thumbnails for this because I felt I had nailed my concept in the very first one, which was the closest to the original piece. I still like the 2nd one a lot, which may become another painting in the future.  I’m trying a new method of thumbnailing on kraft paper so that the brown of the paper acts as a midtone, with ink and white color pencil acting as my shadow and highlights.  That way, I am not using white paper to start off with, which sometimes confuses my sense of value and tone.

Gathering Reference

I’ve taken Dan Dos Santos and Justin Gerard‘s advice from Dragon*Con to heart when it comes to shooting my own reference photos.  The theory is that if you merely use a publicly available stock photo, you’re inviting the chance that another artist will have used the same stock photo to compose a very similar image.  It’s true that I can almost instantly recognize mjranum-stock‘s photos as soon as I see them.

So in the interest of being unique, I lit and photographed my own reference photos, totaling at around 100 I had to sift through for the perfect shot.  This involved folding 47 red origami butterflies as well as roping a family member into helping out or using the self-timer while I got up and down and up and down to line up the camera and then rush back to lay on the ground before the timer went off.  The results speak for themselves:

(I plan to post the ‘rejects’ from this photo shoot for public use up at my stock art account, so keep an eye on that gallery!)

Preparatory Painting

I ended up using the top right pose, rotating it 90 degrees then tweaking the neck so there was more of a flowing S-curve through the body and composition.  I also replicated the butterflies in the background to make it seem as if she’s laying in a bed of red butterflies (no relation to that scene from American Beauty!)

Now, I’m hopeful I can just blast through the painting phase without having to alter my composition and anatomy on the fly so much, which I’ve been prone to do in the past.  I’ve figured out these complicated aspects in the planning phase first, which is a new habit for me.  I suspect my biggest challenges from here on out will be making this look less like a photomanip and more like my own painting, as I am doing this digitally.
If I can get a screen capture app working, I may be hopping on my Livestream channel while I paint, we’ll see!  If so, I’ll be making such announcements on my DeviantART, Facebook, and Twitter streams.

Finally, keep up at this painting’s WIPnation thread to see a step-by-step comparison of each phase of this image and give redlines and crits.  I highly recommend participating at this website, as it’s a great resource for critique, as well as a good archive of your own workflow for your own educational purposes.

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