It’s finally time to get the ball rolling on this one. I’ve been wanting to write about this piece I made back around March, but I disliked the idea of writing on that piece so soon. Why particularly this piece instead of the other ones I wrote about less than two months after they were made? Your guess is as good as mine, I’m not too consistent sometimes. So now I’ll get into the thoughts and process behind this piece What’s There, Kya?
So what got this illustration started? When I was reading Vanity Fair towards the end of winter, there was this one full page photograph of a sky very similar to what I illustrated here, except the black hole was more of a thick black block. This was such a random image to include in a women’s news and editorial magazine that it immediately stuck out to me. I loved how ominous the orange sun looked when it was surrounded by darkness, and its normal overbearing shine was completely absent. The blue sky on the outside of this area was also fascinating, it appeared as if the darkness had come suddenly during a time of solid daylight, and that something strange was about to happen.
There’s this other photograph I found in that same issue of Vanity Fair that I’d love to illustrate Kya in, this photo of a deep orange sky and trees cast over with dark blue shadows. I’ve had this idea in my head for half a year now though, so who knows when I’ll ever realize it.
Kya, as I’ve mentioned before in other blog posts, is an original character of mine in her own story about how she travels different places despite losing her sense of wonder. Because of this, while I don’t like the idea of making all of my characters fit into a certain theme 100% of the time, I do like the idea of having Kya in more illustrations with an earthly wonder focus. I have slapped her into my fashion drawings before, and I still quite like them, but this was also because I didn’t have too many OCs at the time. I imagine once I get some more finalized characters, the purely fashion illustrations will stop with her, and any fashion I want to put her in will be combined with other illustration ideas I have for her.
Actually Drawing the Thing
Okay now for the actual drawing, one of the hardest things right off the bat to make was the head shape. First of all: I wanted to draw Kya at a different facial angle than I normally do. I wanted the pose to be her looking up at the sky and there to be under-chin to make, at least the head pose, more dynamic. With the angle being what it was, I didn’t want Kya’s rounder face shape getting lost in the pose. Obviously, I had to use a ton of references, and the key points of those references showed that her ears had to be pretty low on the jawline, and for most of Kya’s facial features to be squished closer together. Second of all, I wanted to challenge myself on top of what I was already doing: I was going to make a dynamic background too! My way of doing this was to draw the clouds and trees, and eventually color in the dark sky, in a way that would frame the illustration as a large oval that drew your attention back to Kya. I know the reference image had more of a rectangular/stripe focus on the darkness, but I was absolutely convinced that I wanted my illustration to have the darkness be a big circle. This original sketch I did as normal, just with pencil and paper, and for the fixes I scanned the drawing into my laptop. During the sketch editing stage, you can tell a lot of the original pencil lines got erased during that part due to me trying to get it right. These lines are darker and more solid if you look below. There was also a brief period in this stage where I had a giant oval of empty space on a new layer, just to make sure the clouds and trees were drawn the way I wanted, and didn’t “intrude” on that space. However, despite my battles, I will say I think the edited sketch for this illustration is one of my favorites I’ve ever done. Just the way the clouds frame this image made the prospect of coloring it very exciting.
I will say I really like the idea that in this illustration, Kya doesn’t react much to seeing the sky looking like it does. She would just go “oh okay” and carry on.
When it came to coloring the piece, a lot of the color palette came from that same photograph that started the idea, with some light saturation editing. With Kya’s more naturist artwork, I wanted her scenes to look as colorfully realistic as possible. I believe this adds to her whole theme of “exploring with little to no wonder” aspect, this is a scene that’s colored to feel normal, yet the circumstances of the illustration clearly aren’t very usual at all. Maybe Kya’s missing something here? Even if she is, that’s why I chose to color it in this manner.
The lighting was definitely not what I do for my standard pieces. This time, the lighting comes from both the left and right side of Kya’s body, and her center receives the harsher shading to coincide with the sky behind her. This was pretty difficult to pull off, especially since the shading on her jawline had to look symmetrical to look right. There was lots of image flipping in this part because of this, and lots of broken hearts when I’d mess up! The eyes were one of the easier things for me to color this time, I normally don’t color them in lots of detail, but with me trying to establish the side lighting, those extra light streaks in her eyes really made Kya look pretty. Easily the hardest blending though was with the dark sky blending in with the blue sky. I’ve mentioned before in the past I like to use one brush for consistency on my artwork, but with Medibang being my coloring program here, enlarging the brush really made blending softly difficult. What I ultimately did was duplicate the large black hole layer multiple times, rotate them, merge them at different opacities, and kept at it until I got a result I was satisfied with. It was one of those things where you weren’t completely happy with it and just decided to move on before you lost more sleep over it…
Now I have to talk about the bane of my existence for this piece: the trees. I know it doesn’t look like it, but I colored those bastards in at least 4 different times! I struggled so hard with them because not only did the original inspiration photo only have one blurry tree to make artistic decisions off of, and I wasn’t so keen on blurring for this piece, but because I just wasn’t sure how I wanted them to look with this style. I ended up opting for something with minimal detail and more akin to a silhouette, to add to the foreboding nature of the piece. Granted, I know one solution for this illustration would have been “just don’t have the trees!” However, my main reason I wanted the trees was because I wanted it to be clear a heavier wind was blowing, and I thought Kya’s hair and necklace alone blowing would have looked silly. With the trees, their darker shading, and Kya’s hair blowing rapidly in the picture, I think it’s, at least, much clearer that there’s a big wind that’s causing Kya to question the sky’s conditions. However, I learned a lesson here with these trees… I need to draw more detail in the lineart so I have a better idea of what’s going on with them when I color.
The final result of this piece is below. I will say for a while this made a good Twitter banner until it got replaced with that flower gate illustration, aka the very next piece I did lawls. Even if the end result wasn’t completely what I wanted, I consider this to be a good “breaking the norm” piece, where I got out of my comfort zone just a tiny bit.
That’s all for this posts’ thoughts and process, I’m glad I was finally able to get this one out of my system. I also apologize for the lack of art in the end of September, I try to keep a consistent art upload schedule because I want to output more art, but all my moving nonsense definitely made just about everything go on the back burner. Now I should be back to normal, so yay! Thank you all for reading this far, it means so very much to me that my ramblings are read and hopefully helpful to someone. I wish you the best, until we meet again.