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At the FanExtra network we believe that the best way to learn is from experts in your field. That’s why we employ some of the best tutorial writers and bring you regular quality content.
Tutorials are great, but I often find myself looking at work from some of the world’s top digital artists and wondering about the thought processes, techniques and workflows used to create such incredible art. I always think ‘if I only I could get my hands on their original Photoshop files I’d be able to break down exactly what makes their work so awesome!’.
Well that’s exactly what we aim to offer you guys, as part of our new series ‘Artist Breakdown’. We’re going to be talking to some of the world’s most respected digital artist’s and offering an insight into how they’ve created some of their most popular works. We’ll also provide a full .psd source file for our FanExtra members to explore. This will allow you to look through every layer, object, blending option and technique used. It’s a true behind the scenes look into some world-class work, and we hope you enjoy it!
Today we’ll be talking with Eric Vasquez about his stunning piece The Kraken. You can check out more of Eric’s work at his portfolio.
1. The Kraken is a really interesting piece with a lot of detail. Could you please explain the concept behind the piece and your main artistic aims?
For this piece my original idea was to create a pirate ship or ghost ship on stormy seas. I did a lot of researching and probably saw hundreds of images that were pretty much exactly what I was envisioning. While it’s great to have so much inspiration readily available I also realized that this type of image has been done over and over again. With that in mind I started to ask myself ‘How can I do this in my own way to make it different from all of the images I have seen?’
From here my concept started to evolve into something else which involved more than just a boat on the ocean. I wanted to tell a different kind of story, and by having the ship play more of a supporting role as opposed to being the main focal point it allowed me to take a slightly different approach.
2. It’s quite interesting how typically in this type of work the ship would be the main focus, but you almost incorporate it as part of the background. The main scene in focus is the tentacles and treasure chest. Could you tell us a little about the depth in this piece and what you were going for with your framing?
Absolutely. With many of the images that I looked at you are exactly right – the ship is almost always the main focus, but to give the ship some context I started to ask myself things like ‘where is the boat going?’ Or ‘where is it coming from?’ Because often times it just appears stranded at sea with no real purpose other than navigating through a storm. I decided to use the mythological sea creature known as The Kraken to help tell the story and also to give the ship more of a purpose. The ghost ship is traversing worlds and coming from a sunny and bright environment into a cold and desolate one in search of a lost treasure which is being taken by the giant squid.
This also allowed me to show different planes and really create the depth that you mentioned. I wanted to keep the sharpest and most detailed images directly in the foreground closest to the viewer and then by the time you get out beyond the ship to the distant seagulls and land formations you can see the effect of the atmospheric perspective. I felt that by having this amount of depth it would help capture a moment of impact and energy in an otherwise calm setting.
3. There are a lot of layers in this piece (hundreds actually). Could you tell us a little about your workflow and how you built up the image. I’d particularly love to know how you achieved such stunning lighting.
I did get a little carried away with this one. With most of my work I generally try to keep things pretty organized but once I started to build up the composition I found that I would just start creating without any real inhibitions. I think that when most artists have an idea or concept in their mind that they are really excited about they can just kind of go on autopilot and start designing frenetically once they get in the zone.
Each time I would add an element like the treasure chest or the bones washed up on the beach I would find myself using several adjustment layers to help it blend into the composition that I had already started to build and then tweaking the colors and brightness of things in an effort to make it more believable. In some cases I would just make layers and start painting on top to help push it even further.
As for the lighting, I knew that I wanted it to be dramatic and also cinematic in a way that you would expect a cut scene in a video game or a scene in a movie to be. What I find really helps is when you can achieve just the right amount of contrast by getting these rich and deep colors and then placing complimentary colors around it. Even when you zoom in really closely on a photograph it’s like no two pixels are the same, and in this case I just kept messing with the colors and mixing things together until I could achieve a balance that just felt right.
FanExtra members are able to access the .psd source file for The Kraken, allowing them to see the specific workflows and techniques being used to construct the piece. (If you’re not already a FanExtra member you can sign up today.)
Existing members can login here to access this source file.
Tom is the founder of PSDFAN. He loves writing tutorials, learning more about design and interacting with the community. On a more interesting note he can also play guitar hero drunk with his teeth.
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