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Here are a few shots plus tutorial that show how the community-gift for the [ profile] sshg_exchange was done, as well as some details:

As can be seen here I used coloured pastel paper in a green-blueish grey to make the large amount of sky easier to paint. Mi Teintes paper like this has two different sides: one with a honeycomb structure and a smoother one. I used the smoother side here.

You can see the line drawing of the rock formations faintly. Those line drawings of figures and BG were of course the very first thing I did.

After that the sky was done. Tip: Do it before colouring your main subject! Block every background in before starting on your subjects. Trying to work later around hair, wisps, flowers etc. is a bitch and likely will look weird or badly cropped. I learned that one the hard way. Believe me: it's no fun to work painstakingly around single hairs for hours only to have it look so unnatural you end up doing everything again.

Tip: to give your picture depth and make it look real always graduate the sky from darker to lighter from top to the bottom (horizon) ! Even if most of the sky will be covered by clouds later - if you don't have the flow in the sky visible it will look flat and wrong. Lots of smudging and blending is essential here to make it look natural.

Hermione's robe was next. Gryffindorish dark red was contemplated and rejected as too clichee and too similar to the rocks in colour: she would either blend into the scene too much or she'd work with it and he would stand out like a sore thumb. I went for a bluegreen that works well with brunettes but not be too extravagant for Hermione with the simple design. Base tone, shadows and highlights used 6 green, white and grey tones and lots of layering and smudging. Her sensible brown hiking boot was next and surprisingly easy.

Then I switched to Sevuers' robe. I rejected his trademark black on account of him being in a scorchingly hot desert. I chose a blueish grey: not too colourful for Snape but not too harsh a contrast to the background and his partner as black would be. Boots were next with solid black, same colour lightly applied and a little bit of light grey for the highlights.

Last for this step was the surface they sit on, the Totem Pole located in Monument Valley, Utah. The proportions of said pole are pobably wrong since I have no idea how wide the diameter is. The references I used didn't give an indication. I call artistic license on this one!

Next were the clouds. I smudged very lightly to avoid getting the edges too smooth. Tip: It's important to plan placing your clouds in order to get a pleasing and interesting composition. Look at cloud references but don't copy a real sky blindly! Otherwise you might end up with clouds swallowing your actual subjects or looming weirdly behind them, or coming seemingly out of body parts.... Or you produce a sunset or storm so spectacular nobody is interested in your foreground anymore. Key is to tailor your background to supporting and enhancing the main subject of your picture.

The rock formations were blocked in with a yellow ochre as base. The shadows got blocked in with a darker gold ochre and made deeper with burnt sienna and  mars violet. Last followed the highlights in very light yellow ochre and sienna nuances.

Background is now finished with the orange sand added and the desert with the plants in the closest part of the background. These parts were painted quickly and loosely with some lightly applied highlights. i didn't smudge much here in order to keep  texture, making the sands and bushes more realistic.

Now for the big finish! Skin, face and hair have been added here. No more WIP-pictures taken because I didn't want to lose momentum while painting. I started with Hermione's leg: it's an ideal place to try out colour and tones without mucking up delicate lines. If something goes wrong it's easy to overpaint or erase in a place like this, unlike a face.

Since the faces take up little space on the whole picture it was very delicate work with the pastel sticks. At one point I thought I'd bollocksed it all up!
After colouring Hermione's face and adding the base for her hair she suddenly looked frightengly like early 90s Michael Jackson's lighter haired twin! That was definitely not part of the sketch and hadn't been there in the outlines. It was uncanny and I had a hard time figuring how to correct it without taking the whole head and background around her off. Since I couldn't muck around much in her face for fear of smudging her eyes I carefully started with the right outline of her face, altering jawline, chin. Now the resemblance was down to "younger cousin" rather than "clone". Then I changed the shadows on her nose tip, thus changing the nose angle a bit. After altering the fall of her bangs too, thankfully the resemblance faded. *phew* It's an example about the power of colouring: I had followed my outlines carefully and yet the effect just by shaping her skin and features via different tones made her into someone else! Correcting it was essentially a matter of changing just millimeters.

Severus was a piece of cake after that. I used a pale but more yellowish basetone for his skin. The shadows for him I did with ochre and 2 mars violet tones, a lighter greyish-lavender one and a darker reddish-brown one. In contrast Hermione's skin is more rosy, with reddish and tan shadows. 

mars violets are the colours for shadowing things! They're gorgeous and anyone working with pastels should have some of this particular colour group: even people who don't use Rembrandt's still buy the mars violet set. They work wonderfully on skin, adding depth, live and contrast as well as on fur, on rocks, water reflections and as underpainting colours. They're a secret weapon all on their own and a good way to experiment with values, or highlighting and shadowing in nonrelated colours since they are quite delicate and subtle.

Lastly I did Hermione's paper work on her lap. I finished with those since I didn't want to accidentally smudge the small writing while working on something else. Signature, and- done!

Close ups of Hermione's and Severus' faces: these are nearly 3 times bigger than the original.

Quite frankly I'm surprised how much detail I managed to cram in such little spaces...
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September 2010

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