Making of The Blues Singer Leaves Town
by Luis Melo, Lisbon Web:

This picture was done in a hot summer day, in the memory of an old anime series I used to watch as a kid, about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Historically, it’s off from that period, but it’s the feeling of summer, childhood fascination and nature that I wanted to re-create. It’s also a tribute to music.

The picture was done to resemble an animation still, cel-shaded characters over a “traditionally” painted background. I tried to do this digitally, using colour as if I were working with watercolours. I worked in Photoshop CS2, at approximately 3000 x 812 pixels. Could have been bigger, but my home pc isn’t so powerful.

For inspiration, I also had an open book with Oga Kazuo’s work. He’s the most brilliant nature painter and animation background artist I know.

I started out by sketching the background. I used a 100% black, round, hard-edged, variable width (set to pressure) brush – the Photoshop standard, at low-opacity (less than 20%) and the size of 10-20 pixels.

I sketched in a separate transparent layer. The reason I always sketch like this - with black, or with another colour, but in a transparent layer instead of setting it to multiply - because this way I have real transparency and total control on how the lines blend. If I don’t want to use multiply, I don’t have to. When your lines are set to “normal” blending mode, it’s much easier to do whatever you like with them, like changing their colour, luminosity, and transparency, although, for what I’m using the sketch for, it doesn’t really matter.

By then, I didn’t have a clear idea of how the final image would be, how many characters and where I’d place them. But I started to lay out things in a way that I could decide later. I sketched quite loosely, and ended up with this:

I was satisfied at this point, even though it’s still rough and not very pretty. But since I was planning of rendering and detailing with colours, I felt it was enough.

I started to put down colours. I worked from light to dark, like working with watercolours. I put down a really bright and saturated yellow, to where the sun would shine so bright it was almost white. For the road I went with an orange, and I left much of the white showing through, to give the same bright sunny impression.

I also did the sky gradient. It’s easy to have a clear idea of how you want the blue for your sky. By applying it right at the start, you have a nice reference, in terms of tone, brightness and saturation, with which you can compare all the other colours to.

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