Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Battle of Five Armies: Tight Drawing

by Justin Gerard

I've been busy penciling away on my tight drawing for the Battle of Five Armies.  I am trying something new this time around and am working with graphite alongside the usual colored pencil.
Graphite has a tendency to muddy the delicate tones of a watercolor, to smudge, and to be too soluble, and so I usually prefer working without it.  However, on the other hand it has the benefit of giving you more control, sharper detail and a better value range.

With so much area to cover and so many figures to work out I have opted to risk the muddiness this time around and utilized it to lay out my figures.  I am finding that I really like how it blends with the Caran D'Ache Pablo pencils I have been using for the colored bits.

In the above image I have used the graphite to really isolate the characters from one another. This reinforcement of the major shapes will help a great deal later on when I begin to work on the lighting. It will help separate the characters from what's behind them, and thus keep the whole scene from merging into one blurry goblin quagmire.

"...with them came the bodyguard of Bolg, goblins of huge size with scimitars of steel."

A story note here: If you saw my last post you will notice that the giant goblins in the Bodyguard of Bolg have gotten their noses back. 

In "The Hobbit", Tolkien calls the orcs 'goblins' and not 'orcs.'  And though in his later writings he would use the terms interchangeably at times, he generally means orcs when describing the miscreant servants of the dark lord. (He would do this in part to give his creatures more distinction from their fairy tale interpretation of goblins.) Thus, there was only orcs of varying sizes really, and Peter Jackson it would seem, had it right all along.  

However, that explanation is not good enough for me. The damage is done Professor Tolkien. It's too late and too bad and now no matter what, when I read the Hobbit, I will always see them as big-nosed goblins. 

To add some justification for this: I still hold that The Hobbit is more a fairy tale and less a fantasy epic. Goblins fit better in this setting than orcs do.  The orcs fit in the drama and epic glory of the later writings, but "The Hobbit" is a tall tale, told by a curious and sometimes dubious author in Bilbo Baggins.

So right or wrong, I have decided to go full goblin here.   

Next Week: Watercoloring!


  1. This is intense Justin. There is so much going on, yet you don't lose the center of interest. Awesome work. I really like the addition of the graphite.

  2. I love how each face tells a unique story! Are you going to spray this with anything to hold down the graphite before you start painting? Please tell me you will have prints available of this one.

  3. Thanks guys!
    As for spray fixing: Good question! I think that I will avoid using any this time. I like the way that watercolor interacts with pencil and gives everything a really nice glow. I find that I lose that when I use fixative. So even though some of the drawing may wash out and some of the colors may get a little grey, I think am going to risk it. Plus I drew this really dark, so I doubt I will kill my lines altogether even without the fixative. And if I need to I can always redraw them. I'd rather have the paper more absorbent so I can get the nicer lighting effects going on.

    I definitely plan on making prints of it! Hopefully some limited edition larger ones this time around too.

    1. Awesome! I was disappointed when I found out you couldn't sell prints of your other battle of five armies painting.

      What lead hardness are you using? Doesn't the wax in the colored pencil keep the surface from accepting the watercolor? Do you ever use ink for your drawings? I recently used colored microns for the first time to ink a drawing before I painted it with watercolors. I was really happy with the results.

    2. Hey Anthony,
      HB for this one. And I am not applying the Pablo pencils very harshly, so it isn't enough to prevent the watercolor from being accepted.
      I do use ink sometimes when I work in a more Rackham/Bauer method. I thought about using it here and *almost* did, but decided to stick with pencil for this. Pencil has always been the most reliable for me.

  4. That is one beautiful drawing! More power to you for using graphite, I've tried and have ended up with smudges as well. This is the first time I've seen such a detailed drawing for a watercolor piece...hope it works out well!

  5. Wonderful piece Justin! Looking forward to seeing what you pull off in color....

  6. What a sight to behold - masterful stuff here!