The Western Black Bear

I did this last night for the Avalanche Art Blog... the topic was "Villains," so I went with the obvious choice: the Western Black Bear. It would be hard to find a more feared villain in the folklore of my mind. Although I'd rather write something stupid about the bear, the old west, or how I'd benefit from looking at visual reference of a gun before I try to draw one, instead I'm going to explain the process I use to arrive at a final image like this one. I've never been much of a painter, so here's how I've managed to get around that with the help of Photoshop.

Step 1 - First I try to decide on a rough character design to base my drawing on. Sometimes I skip this step for time reasons, and that becomes pretty obvious... at least to me. I start out with a bunch of heads and faces, then as soon as I find one I kind of like, I add a body to it.

Step 2 - Now that I do a lot of storyboards, I've abandoned the skill of drawing on model. So the "design" of the character becomes a loose version of what the final drawing might kind of look like. But I at least have something to base my final drawing on, so I continue with a rough sketch of the character in the pose I want him in. Step 3 - After using very basic shapes to get the gesture I want, I add all my details in what I consider a rough sketch, but probably not as "rough" as a lot of people draw. I sharpen my pencil a lot too. I hate drawing with a dull pencil. That's the main reason my rough sketches stay somewhat clean. Step 4 - With the drawing mostly nailed down, I trace it using an ink pen, sometimes making minor changes to shapes and smaller details like fingers that weren't quite right. I've done a fair amount of animation clean-up, and that's pretty much what this step is. It mostly takes patience and a steady hand. I also generally use a thicker line for the outermost lines and taper them into the form where necessary. Step 5 - I scan the drawing into the computer, then in Photoshop I desaturate the image and adjust the brightness and contrast to make the clean-up line solid and clear. Then in the layers window, I duplicate the image twice and throw away the background. With the selection tool's tolerance set at 32 (which I believe is the default setting), I select everything behind the bear and delete it from the lower layer. Then I un-check the "contiguous" box from the selection tool's settings and click anywhere on the image that's white, which selects all the white area in one click. I delete that area from the top layer. Man, this sounds more confusing than it is. Then I lock the two layers. Now, finally, I can drop colors into the lower layer without losing any of my line drawing, which sits above it on the top layer. This paragraph makes less sense than most of the of crap I write on my blog. Step 6 - Next I color the outline (the top layer) using colors that are darker and a bit more saturated than the color of the object I'm outlining. Sometimes I skip this step and leave the outline black. Coloring the outline makes it seem rounded instead of flat, so when I have time, I prefer coloring the outline.Step 7 - Using the selection lasso, I select various areas of the character and "feather" the selections. I feather more for round shapes and less for hard shadows. Then I adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness to add shadows, highlights, and reflective lighting. Step 8 - By the time I get to the background, I've usually worn myself out on the drawing, so I drop a quick shadow under the character, mess with the opacity of the shadow layer, and call it done. But sometimes I want more of a mood than the white background offers. Enter the gradient tool. I choose some colors I think I'll like then use them to make a sky and a ground. Then I mess with the hue and saturation until I'm satisfied with my cheap, stupid background. Step 9 - Then to finish it up, I add some clouds or something. In this drawing I airbrushed in some haze in the background to fade out the ground line, and I added some foreground dust. Then I flattened the whole image and did a little more adjusting of the hue, saturation, and contrast of the image as a whole... trying to unify the colors a little more. And that's my final drawing. Here it is again so you don't have to scroll all the way back up to the top.Hopefully some of that made sense. I apologize to my family and friends who came here for weirdness and got a lesson in not painting. Back to the senseless ramblings next time. I hate trying to make sense for this long.

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