I'm quite proud and pleased about certain aspects of the painting. I'm going to call it a painting even though I did it almost entirely on the computer, because, well, it was a lot like painting. If ursulav can call it painting, so can I. Even if she is tons better at it than I ever will be. :)
The figure of Sythyry, and the ribbons zie wears, were originally sketched in pencil, then scanned in. I set it as the bottom layer (strictly speaking, Photopaint calls them "objects" and not "layers". I've never worked with a program that uses "layers", but it seems to be another term for much the same thing, so I'll call 'em layers), inked over it, then erased the sketch.
Apart from that discarded pencil sketch, everything else in the picture was done digitally. I originally thought I'd do a pencil sketch & scan for the background, but it turned out that I didn't really need to.
The inks and the coloring are separate layers for Sythyry and that column zie's sitting on (the stone-looking wall from the sketch, thank goodness, I'd already decided to swap for a column before Sythyry reminded me that stone is extremely rare in World Tree. Whoops!) I don't know that I'd bother making them different layers if I did that again; in fact, I ended up combining those layers in one version, so that I could move the figure as a whole to a slightly different spot on the background, at Level Head's suggestion. I played with those for a while, then went to work on the background.
For the background, I opened a whole new file. I'm working with a large enough file size for this image that even the not-inconsiderable power of my computer was laboring in places. (I should buy another 500meg of RAM; it's not that expensive and it'd help a lot. 500 meg? Is that right? I can't believe how much memory working with graphics can hog. Yi.) So to make things easier on me and the computer, I started fresh and intended to combine the two for the final.
After some hunting on the web, I found a shot of a garden that looked like a reasonable photo reference. I opened it and my new file, tiled them side-by-side on my monitor, and, using my trusty stylus, started sketching a copy of the scene into the blank file.
It would have been easier to trace over the original image, but I wanted to do it freehand. Somehow, a tracing of a photo is not my work, but a drawing of one is. I am sure that makes sense to all the artists reading this. :) Besides, you learn more drawing than tracing.
I started with just a black-and-white sketching, lots of scribbly lines showing the broad areas: trees, flowerbeds, monolith-bowl-thingy, etc. Then I threw down a fresh layer and painted over it color. I wanted the whole image to have an animation-like quality to it, stylized and a bit cartoony, so I used flat colors and sharp edges, instead of more textured brushes. Except for that blue stuff coming out of the bowl. That used a weird variety of textured brushes.
This went very quickly. I was surprised by how little effort it took. It reminded me of Greywolf's talk about painting scenery: if you've got a tree as a reference, you can draw a tree, and people will recognize it as a tree, even if it doesn't look much like the tree you were referencing. This doesn't look all that much like the park I was referencing, but it looks like a park, and that's good enough.
Possibly the most anonoying part was those orange and black flower-like things in the foreground. Sythyry suggested that I substitute something more alien-looking for the tulips in my original photo, to give it less of an "Earth" feel. (This was the motive for that blue stuff in the bowl, too.) I designed a tiger-striped lily, which made me realize that there was nothing I could make which was recognizeably plant-like, and which nature had not already created something similar to in the real world. Somewhere. There are a lot of weird plants and flowers out there, believe me.
Anyway, I made this one flower, and that was fun. Making ten more just like it, however, was not fun. I wound up making another three similar to it, then cut, pasting, stretching, pushing, and pulling copies of them to make them look different enough that people wouldn't think, "You cut and pasted eight copies of a flower into this bed. It looks ridiculous."
However, the stupid flowers still look considerably more "focused" than the smears of paint that make up the surrounding flower beds. If I blur them, they will lose what non-Earth look they possess, however, and defeat the whole purpose of putting them in. Sigh. And there probably should be more of them -- that big dark patch they're growing out of looks wrong. So, right, I don't like the way the flowers came out.
I'd like to do a more "painted" version of this piece, one that looks less absract. Even for the "animation" look, I put less detail into Sythyry than I'd planned to: I wanted to pick out more highlights on zir feathers, give more of a scaled look to the rest of zir, and put highlights on the ribbons. But it was getting to the point where it wasn't as much fun, so I figured I'd call it "done" and come back to it later.
Sythyry, incidentally, is about three shades brighter in the posted version than zie was on my harddrive. I don't know why. It seems to have happened when I loaded it to my website, not when I exported it to .jpg, which is when I would have expected it to happen.
I'm itching to do another painting now. I haven't decided what yet, though. Any suggestions?