Well, this was quite an interesting experience into going back to the more realistic drawing ponies again, and for trying out a few new things on this project. This is the cover art for A Journey Beyond Sanity by Stardust Balance on FimFiction. Originally, I didn’t want to invest so much time on this project, only about ten hours, seeing that the scene provided for me didn’t tickle my muse much, but when I actually stated to get a good feeling of exploring in the original sketch, I fell in a good groove for it and really started to become enthusiastic then. I think I have put in about 30 hours of work in this. I had decided then to just change the lighting for the scene, I wanted to try out something different, so I decide to do a low level light source for this so that the lighting would be coming from the bottom; which really helped to give it a new outlook in my imagining the scene that gave me something new to explore.
Here is the original sketch of the cover art; I didn’t first pay much attention to the drescrition that was given to me at the time, beyond the fact that Stardust, spike and Twilight was in it, so I sort of forgot that Starlight Glimmer was supposed to be in the scene.
For the heck of it, I also decided to go with a more “realistic” design in drawing the ponies, as much as I do like the MLP designs it get boring to always draw the same cartoony look all the time, and I much prefer to go with the more realistic looking horses.
I wanted to make sure that despite their “realistic” design approaches that I had in mind for the characters, I also wanted them to look as much as possible as actual “pony” proportions to them, and not just make them look like multicolored regular horses. So, I when the same three heads high rule and give them larger heads, rounder belies, shorter “bony” or “stunted” legs to them so there is a sort of “dwarfish” quality to them, that I don’t usually see in other artists that uses that same design approach .
Doing Twilight Sparkle was quite the challenge to do because she was the first that I started drawing and shading. I wasn’t entirely sure how the low view lighting of the body would beam on her. Drawing “realistic” wings is always hellish to do, because there is a specific order to the group of feathers in the way they have to overlap each other. Still, if the minimum requirements are achieved to make convincing enough it makes for a great element to focus the attention on for the viewer, making all the work put into it worth it.
To be honest, I entirely cheated on the design of the wings because I wasn’t originally planning to invest so much time on this project and when I really go invested in this project I was too far gone in the details to fix the mistakes that I originally did, and didn’t want to spend the extra time to in fixing it; I almost regret not fining it. The most glaring issue is her left wing, which shouldn’t be in that position in relation to her flank and the right wing. The right wing was an interesting subject to tackle, because of the angle of the lighting and the strong contrast with the light and shadows of the piece, which I haven’t done that well in the past. I usually had the black shading on and other layer, with a low opacity soft brush, after I am done with the general shading of the subject, which to be honest was pretty lazy of me.
Shading Twilight’s head was interesting not only did I had to rethink how the light would beam on her, comparatively on a human head in an unusual angle, but also take into account defused lighting which I still have a lot of trouble with.
Stardust Balance offered another set of interesting challenges, more specifically trying to find a way to convey his general body shape through his blue cape with the bottom lighting. This was actually a lot fun for me to draw, the fabrics folding pattern of the drape along with the body silhouette under it. The part that I am mostly dissatisfied with was the drawing the head. In the process, I drew his fedora at the same time that I was shading the head and really hindered me determining the proportions of the face.
Spike was a fairly simple to do after tackling Twilight and Stardust. I had fun drawing his body but his head gave me some trouble as the facials traits that I first gave him where too pronounced, making him look like an old drake rather a hatchelling. I over accentuated muscles of the limbs, I regret a lot not taking the time to make them look softer.
For Starlight Glimmer, after being done with the other three, was breeze to work with, maybe I was a little too much on a rush to finish it, after spending over sixteen hours on it, I was getting tiered of working constantly on it toward the end. Still I did like experimenting drawing her in a different angle pose was interesting, especially the hunches, and I became more appreciating of Starlight Glimmer’s general design in the process. I went with a stronger contrast in colors for the shading because I was having difficulties distinguishing the Starlight’s coat color with that of Twilight’s so I had to put more contrast with the lighting. I wanted Starlight to still be nervous with around Twilight and Stardust so I widen the eyes, and make her staring at the both of them in her peripheral view while her head was looking away.
For the lighting on the very bottom, I just put a simple nearly white teal gradient, then I put a cloud rendering, with a color Overlay set to Darken. With the pitch black back ground, the high contrast in light value will make the gradient very vibrant to the eye. With a mask layer attached to it, I sued a 50% opacity soft brush in the areas that I wanted at the bottom and around the fonts. At their “hooves” I had created a series of with circles with a lighter teal outer glow to it, as a source of light. For the blinding light, I just put a radial gradient set to Lighten at about 60% opacity over everything.
This project really helps me to feel better for myself and I started to find my passion again in drawing again that I didn’t have for a while now. I have notice a lot of my previous mistakes from that past and I think I can now know what to look for in my next projects.
For a while, I thought that I had reached a plateau in my art skills, and I was worried that I wasn’t going to do better for a long while. But, with things looking better for me in life in general, I feel that I can push forward even more with my art.