Queen Merla likes Purdy Birds

Step-By-Step of Queen Merla
Hey everybody! So today I'm posting a Step-by-step painting I finished of Queen Merla in the Voltron series. This is kind of a milestone for myself as an artist. I never have posted any process that I can remember, but I'm growing as an artist. Its time to share since I have learned from others in this way. I hope it is beneficial to those who take time to absorb what changes go on from frame to frame and read my thoughts on each. Here goes...
I had intially started Queen Merla in another pose (and in Photoshop), and I was really detailing more than I should have in just Gray values. I have learned to paint another way which is better for how my brain processes hues and values. So I started a new. No photoshop this time around, only Painter12,
1- With my refs (pictures of various vultures, skies, different face angles of a Brazilian model, etc.), I very quickly painted in a base of what I was seeing in my head, and using 'colorize' splashed some color over it so I had something to work with. It doesn't matter necessarily how accurate it is in the beginning because what is important is having something at all.
2- The head was out of perspective and shaped wrong so I fixed that.
3- I began to pay attention to features and how the expressions were. I turned the bird's head to see the viewer better and tried to give Merla a sense of intention of some kind, instead of a sleepy look. Its important to establish in the beginning what the characters are feeling so that the rest of them is in accord. I have always been frustrated when I have a hand or arm with no place to go. Neutral faces are worse.
4- Time to pay attention to the coloring so the lighting is correct over all. I tighten the details a bit more.
5- Still rendering details such as on the bird. Backgrounds should actually be planned at the beginning in the 1st frame, but I had an idea to place more clouds and have lighting streaking down for a more epic feeling. Something wasn't right about it so I left it alone and kept going.
6- I decided instead of an alien vulture head, I would just make it a snake head. Its quite similar in design to the cartoon but its a snake. I liked where it was going so I pushed it. Also I added a bit of important details like Merla's pupils and shiny spots to her lips and nose. Hair braid and such.
7- A new day and fresh eyes helps in seeing what isn't right in the painting. Normally flipping a painting horizontally will jump things out that are wrong, but sometimes it doesn't do the trick. Anyway the lighting on the snake head was too bright. It didn't make me believe it was close to Merla's face so I added a midtone to the neck being careful to not stop the moon's light from wrapping over the crest. So.. it still looked plain to me.
8- Time to paint proper hues. I looked up a few snake heads and referenced them for color. I added the oranges and other colors which made me feel better. I also had been trying to decide how i wanted Merla's headband to appear. Black metal? Chrome? I decided to do the polished steel look. I added a bit more detail to her facial features. Oh yeah, the sky wasn't right for a villain queen. Green seemed to be okay to try, and I decided the lightning was trash. It only makes sense to have more vultures so I painted them in instead.
9- I adjusted the shadows on Merla's face and neck and ears, softening and correcting so it makes more sense. I began painting the lighting on the armbands and neck collar to look more like steel that was beaten, getting it ready for details. The sky was so generic, so i screened back my green colorize layer for the sky to 60% and saw the red underneath. It was working.
10- Now is when I have a little more fun. I get to add scratches, dings, stray hairs, tears in fabrics, creases and such. I also add subtle colors to Merla's face and eyeshadow. The bird is bothering me now that Merla is finally coming together.
FINAL- I figure instead of repeating the final image with the Voltron logo I would just finish it here. So I did a little more painting on the birds feathers to make it feel more like bird anatomy. The neck didn't make sense to me as I looked at more vultures. I had to place the bib further back so the neck looked more accurate and I added stray hairs I noticed most other vultures had. Merla's own hair seemed too flat so I added some height to it. I textured the metal a bit more along with the rest of the painting. Since Merla is something of a lizard race, I had to invent how her skin would be textured. I felt happy enough with it. I also added eyelashes lastly. I always end up doing those last cause I keep painting over em ^_^ The sky was looking a bit dull so pushed the yellow to give it more energy and added more magentas and purples where it pleased me. Once I looked over the whole thing one last time I add the Voltron logo and place my email so anyone can get ahold of me if they want to.
Queen Merla by Josh Burns
Queen Merla of cartoon Voltron
That's about it! Mostly afternoon work and 1 solid Saturday, its my side project ^_^ (I make the time after my normal work). Of course it doesn't show every little bit of my process, but each artist should invent a way to paint for how their brain works. I like to paint as if a Polaroid instant picture is developing and coming into view. A technique taught to me by John Hrehov, a teacher and friend I had at school. Learning never stops and I am already in the process of painting the Ultra Droid. Hopefully its a bang!

Never stop painting! Go the distance to try things that seem impossible. It may take years, but it's what we like to do anyway. Why not fall short of impossible instead of achieving mundane? Do it! Cheers!


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