Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Back to the Silmarillion

by Justin Gerard


 Lately I've been getting back into working digitally over monochromatic oil again.  In a previous post I claimed that I would someday return to this Silmarillion-inspired image and finish it. So to prove that I only break most of my promises to our readers, I am finally getting down to finishing it!

Color Comp

I will be adding the colors over the underpainting digitally because I am a wizard and this is the sort of thing that wizards do.


Pencil and watercolor is excellent for showing personality, but there is nothing like oil for drama.
The following image is one I finished recently using this method of digital color over a monochrome oil.

"The Last of His Kind"

One of the great difficulties in working in this method is preserving the wonderful, distinctive brush-strokes that are so characteristic of oil.

To overcome this difficulty, after I have scanned in the image, I work in transparent layers set to either multiply, soft light or color. The object is to enhance the original, not alter it or interfere with the brushwork in any way. I work very transparently to slowly work the image up to the right tone.

Lastly there are some opaque normal layers and a color dodge layer or two. Remember: If you get stuck you can always add rim-light and that will probably save it.


  1. No kidding about drama! The soft glow of the light in that last painting is just mesmerizing.
    I was recently going through one of your printed sketchbooks, and I was struck that you're not only controlling your value in these monochromatic paintings, but in some instances really planning out where to leave these areas where the warm underpainting shows through more saturated than the opaque whites. Do you always know where you are going to leave those places, going in? Or is it more a result of the needs of the painting as you go through it?

    1. Hi Sasha,
      I love the warm little shadows wherever I can work them in. Some of them I have planned out, but others end up getting worked in later. When possible I really want to avoid having any white in the shadows, so the more planning for this on the front-end before painting the better.
      A lot of it is just drawing and redrawing and redrawing until I get it right.

  2. Is that a dwarf or just a short dude?

    1. Hmmm... I think short guy in this case. Or in this case maybe just a poor fellow who was of completely normal height, but who got a few inches knocked off so he better fit in the composition.

  3. Do you find that people are interested in owning the original monochromatic oil paintings as they are fully finished full color oil paintings after you complete the digitally finished color piece? or are you losing out on the original painting market when you do pieces in this style?

    1. Hey Addison,
      Good question! The monochromes don't sell as well as the full-color paintings since it tends to be only the very serious collectors or other professional artists who go in for the monochromes (I own several monos from other artists actually! I love them.) And they don't bring in the same amount of money as full-color paintings.
      But! They always do eventually sell. So I would say the demand isn't as high but they do sell. And since I always find them really rewarding to work on, these drawbacks don't bother me quite so much.


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