I painted this picture as a Christmas present for John back in 2010. When I uploaded it to deviantArt, I promised, “I’ll upload concept and progress sketches to my blog after Christmas.”
Wel’p Christmas came and went and another one too, and it’s finally time for me to fulfil that promise.
I wanted to paint a picture that could be quite personal but would also be quite ‘accessible’ to the casual viewer as just a pretty illustration. Based on this I discarded the possibilities of doing portraits and looked instead to find suitable avatars of myself and John. The answer was quite simple – Zodiac animals. What fortune that I had such a great pair of animals to work with, too!
Do a google search for ‘dragon tiger’ and you’ll immediately find images of the two locked in combat. Frequently poised over a Yin-Yang symbol, the two animals represent balance.
My first concept sketches attempt to riff on this idea.
The hearts felt hackneyed and the composition uncomfortable. I decided that I wanted to portray the dragon and tiger as an exuberant and harmonised pair. For this I decided to move them in the same direction, as though they were running toward a common goal.
Unfortunately my laptop was stolen around March 2011 so I’m missing all the Photoshop sketches and any progress scans I took. But for a quick run-down of my process I think it went something like this…
- Sketches were scanned into Photoshop and composed into a rough arrangement.
- The sketch was worked on in Photoshop, correcting awkward anatomy and finalising details.
- The final lines were traced to the watercolour paper (probably straight from my computer screen, as I can’t find a paper-trail (hur hur) to indicate I printed the lines).
- I laid down washes and underpainting, sprinkling in rubbing alcohol to create texture (it’s most effective in the little bubbles at the top left). I don’t think I used any salt for this painting, and if I did it wasn’t very effective!
- Lastly I worked up the Dragon and Tiger in a series of layers. The dragon’s scales and the tiger’s stripes were probably added last. I also used a white gel pen to add texture (along the dragon’s hair and in the tiger’s mane).
Like many of my paintings, this one doesn’t have a lot of tonal depth as I was timid about laying down too much paint and being unable to correct mistakes. When choosing a frame and mounting board for the painting I kept this in mind and went for a light mount and a dark, rich frame to bring the viewer’s eye to the painting and complement the tiger’s stripes.