Sunday, July 6, 2008

Color Scripting

Picture books, like animated films, video games, or graphic novels, are sequential art forms. Each painting is part of a larger statement that unfolds across time.
In The World Beneath, the second Dinotopia book, I planned the sequences with a color marker storyboard, which I mentioned in a previous post. I also made a few pages of tiny oil sketches to establish the range of colors for each sequence. Each sketch is about the size of a postage stamp, and they’re juxtaposed so I can see how one color scheme will lead into the next.

In film, this kind of overall color planning is often called "color scripting."
I planned a few individual paintings more comprehensively, with color sketches about the size of a postcard. I mixed up a gamut of colors with a palette knife and laid them down quickly, almost abstractly, without thinking too much. This painting was intended to be a night scene lit by firelight with people and dinosaurs, but I wasn’t sure of the details.

Here’s another variation on the idea of an evening ceremony, this time with a skybax. This is one of many ideas that I explored in sketch stage that I later abandoned.

By this time I had established which of the paintings seemed worth working up to a larger size, and I developed those images a little more. These oil sketches are each about 1.5 x 4 inches. Juxtaposing the little sketches helped me to think of not only of the individual painting but also the adjacent sequences.
Gallery of finished paintings from The World Beneath, link.


dragonladych said...

I'll have to remember this term. People never realise how important this step is no matter if it a "small" book or a big edition.
I had to redo two drawings for a book because the author completely rewrote the story after I finished the illustrations.

It was so frustrating trying to explain why we couldn't simply change the colours in Photoshop, and why it would break the rhythm.

CCG Coordinator said...

Interesting process. Especially since I am interested in storytelling and comics. Do you have the story written up like a prose novel at the start of these processes? Or is the story developing at the same time as the art? Which came first - the chicken or the egg?
It looks like you might just have the chapters and settings established at this point -without the full detail of the text?
I'm not a painter but I am amazed at the little color studies in oil. I would think you would use markers or watercolor for these thumbnail images. You must be using tiny brushes and very thin washes. I guess I just associate oils with huge paintings not little miniatures like these!
In the last set of these scene color sketches did you jump right in with the brushes on blank canvas or did you sketch out the architecture in pencil first? How do you get mechanical edges so straight in these and your other paintings? Do you have bridge or maul stick that you use a guide?
Sorry for what might seem like such basic level questions?
Thanks for the great blog!

Random York said...

The color scripting is exciting! I think color is the first thing to get my attention.

James Gurney said...

JG: I have the book planned to an outline and rough storyboard stage before doing these color sketches. The writing and art definitely develop side by side and bounce off each other. Oil works really well at a miniature size. In the case of the last set of sketches, I did a quick pencil drawing first on illustration board, sealed the surface with matte medium, and then worked the oil thinly over the top.

JP said...

This sort of stuff is like a treasure trove for me. I love comps and early studies from artists because that is really where you can see the mental gears spinning in search of a solution. It's great to see the genesis of these pieces! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I dont recall seeing the Poseidos 1000 BC painting in the book, but it sure looks cool! would love to see a finished painting of that shot.

Unknown said...

It's great that you pay so much attention to these early steps. It makes the finished painting so much less daunting when you've worked out the color relationships ahead of time. Thanks for sharing these.