This scene began with a different layout, from another perspective from that which it would eventually become. It was intended to be a 3D full color digital version of the pen and ink illustration that was done for the Prologue page of "The Saga of Beowulf," which was dedicated "To the Unknown Poet..."
For those who don't know, there were actually two scribes who wrote the single extant manuscript of Beowulf, as deduced from the sudden change in penmanship and diction in the latter third of the poem. No one knows why the first scribe did not complete his task. He may have been called away, or he may have died, of natural or some other cause.
The initial scene above was a simple attempt to recreate the pen and ink vignette, with an overlay of parchment for the prologue text. In this instance I left the candle burning in order to provide illumination to the room, in which our poet was simply absent.
But I wasn't satisfied with that. I wanted to show the "scene of the crime," so to speak. Consequently, I expanded it by pulling back the camera and adding in more props, including a snuffed out candle, spilled wine, and dripping ink. The idea here is that the life of this creative mind was snuffed out prematurely, possibly due to meddling in arcane pagan matters better left alone. Or poison, perhaps? Viking raiders? Or was it divine intervention...
While I loved this final scene, it left too little room for text, which was crucial if it would be used for an illustrated edition of the novel, as had been planned. Thus, another version was required, and for this one I wanted something that had more of a "painted" feel, something more "artistic" and less "rendered." Yet I still wanted to retain many of the elements that had been used to create this image. Moreover, I wanted to incorporate the additional visual look of antiqued paper from an ancient book. This required some experimentation. The simplest solution was to combine digitally rendered layers with a painted "parchment" done as a watercolor, using Photoshop's blending modes to merge the layers and produce the desired effect.
The background elements were merged together using the "Difference" blend mode and then copyed to multiply the result. The dodge and burn tools were used to lighten and darken the resulting image, and some subtle color adjustments were applied. In addition, feathered text boxes were created using Adjustment Layer Masks to increase the brightness behind the overlaid text areas.
The same was done for the floor element, using "Pin Light" for the blend mode and gradient masks to create a dark-to-light shading for depth, while also exaggerating the perspective lines to draw the viewer's eye. To create the "hellfire" burning beneath the floor I copied the floor element and changed the blend setting to "Soft Light," filtering it using "Ink Outlines," which gives it a hot red glow that was then blended with the default texture, creating fine detailed lines over color washes. I also later added a not-so-subtle alchemy symbol using the Linear Dodge (Add) blend style to "burn" it into the floor using "Soft Light" blending (at 35% opacity), which I then partially erased. Alchemy symbols were also laid over the walls.
The next element I brought in was the Dead Monk and Lectern, which was rendered all together originally as one piece, but re-rendered in several layers here for artistic reasons which I'll get to in a minute. For one thing, I decided to use the full body of the monk rather than just the upper torso, which is all I'd done before, so I had to re-pose the lower half and recalculate the dynamic cloth of the monk's robe in Poser. The need for this became obvious with the background all laid out, as there was now much more space and distance in the scene than before, so that a close-up of the monk was no longer possible. And while I lost some nice gruesome facial detail, I gained a better look and balance overall.
The technique used for "painting in" all the props was essentially the same throughout, although I employed different settings and sorting orders for the four to eight layers of each one in order both to try out differences and to match the background style and lighting, as well as creating an overall artistic feel.
The basic steps are these:
For the high-backed Medieval chair I added a "Soft Light" layer to further wash out the color and create a subtle watercolor wash effect to its woodgrain texture, while heavily darkening its outline by doubling up the "Find Edges" layer. I did this for the Vitrine as well, but added a gradiated layer mask to make the top more abstract and the bottom more detailed, which helped to blend it with both the wall and floor. Initially I made it dark on the bottom and light on the top, but it actually looked and blended better by using a contrasting gradiation. That's just one of the many reasons to always experiment and try new ideas.
For the dead monk (but not the lectern) I pulled back the Ink Outlines layer, but added both "Sumi-e" and "Crosshatch" layers, each at low opacity, and each of which were painted in only where I wanted them using layer masks. Here my concern was to keep as much facial detail and coloration as possible, while rendering a painterly quality. I had used a deathly white skin texture for the base render, so I avoided as much as possible adding the surrounding golden-browns back into it and losing the deathly pall.
For the book and the lectern I used three "Find Edges" layers set to Darken, Multiply and Overlay, in that order, erasing the candle flame portion from the top two. I also added in the dripping ink, spilled wine and candle smoke layers from the previous version of the scene, all of which (save the wine spill) were created using various versions of Ron's Photoshop brushes (see the Credits tab for details).
Finally, I laid a very low-opacity copy of the aged paper texture over the whole image (except for the smoke and wine stain layers), which leveled out the color and luminosity a bit. I then painted in some blending shadows using the burn tool on the underlying parchment layer.
And there you have it. All that remained was to add the text, which itself consists of two layers, the lower one set to "Overlay" at 100% opacity and the top one to "Soft Light" at 67%, so as to pick up the underlying color. Each set of text also received a one pixel black stroke to darken up the edges and render the text more crisp and clear.
Davey Jones' Ghost
(dead skin texture)
(and yet even more!)
Mystic Places 'n Poses 5
by Danie & Marforno
(candle & stand)