Andree Wallin analysis

I watched a webcast Andree did last week, and it was like we were soul mates.  Like me, he got into art watching Dylan Cole Gnomon DVDs, and like me, he's an environment guy who started out wanting to be a matte painter.  Now, he paints keyframes for Star Wars...can't argue with that!

I've been trying to "amp up" the action in my paintings more lately, so I picked this image to analyze.

The painting

The painting

This is so...cinematic!  Exactly as a keyframe should be.  It doesn't tell a story, it expresses a moment, and makes you want to know what the story is!  The first thing I notice is how bloody simple the idea is.  Simple and clear, with a strong point of view, and no extraneous information to confuse the viewer or dilute the impact.  All the background shapes point down at an angle that is dynamic and easy to read.  They intersect the axe shaft and then follow up the guy's arm and straight to his victim.  Everything that matters is there, anything else - Nope!

2-values

2-values

Really nice 2-value read.  Low-key, the darks cover about 70% of the image, and the light halos the action and the important silhouette parts.  The victim's hood gives a reverse halo around his face and makes that a super-clear read as well.

3 values

3 values

The mid-tone value gives us the story.  Now we see the arm and the weapon shaft.  Note that we only get direct "white on black" in 3 places - the arm, the horns of the attacker's helmet, and a tiny bit around the victim's face.  The 3 important story locations!

4 values

4 values

Pretty much, the 4th value just introduces atmospheric perspective.  It pushes back the pillars and gives a bit more sense of depth.  The grey areas combined seem to form an arrow that points right at the victim.  Nice!

The victim

The victim

One of the tighter rendered areas of the painting, as you would expect.  The gold adds visual interest, but he's been careful to keep the values muted except where they point at the face and reinforce the action.  Pay attention to the blood - It's actually not rendered super-tightly, and almost looks like an overlay.  It doesn't need to be more than that, and he's kept the value range low enough that it doesn't pop out anyway.  Highlight strokes are rendered cross-contour, and in the larger areas look like they were reinforced with a radial gradient on top of brushstrokes.

The attacker

The attacker

Like his opponent, the attacker has been painted with a very narrow range of values.  His silhouette is very clear, but little inside of it "sticks out" visually.  The armor, the fur, the straps - they all point your eye in the direction of the action, and none of them draw your eye in any way.  The fur gets a rimlight to separate it from the red bg element, and the helmet gets a very hot rim for the same reason.  I love the sub-surface light on the ear, subtle, but really adds to the realism!

The victim's body

The victim's body

Let's just geek about painting for minute - Check out how loose this is!  The gold holds everything together, but the other strokes are just blobs pointing up at the face.  The snapped sword is given a little bit of a highlight as a nice tertiary read "found moment" for the eye, and is great for the storytelling.

Chroma-wise, the whole image is desaturated warms, with "pings" of saturated red and gold.  Nothing is cooler on the hue scale than a brown-yellow.

Learnings:

  • Keep it simple!
  • You don't even need complimentary colours....Monochrome can be highly effective
  • Again, silhouettes are more important than rendering.  Have your details support your forms, not the other way around.
  • Never, ever forget where you want the eye to wind up.  Make sure your painting supports that decision.

Hope you enjoyed this one!  If you want to see more of Andree's work, his website is here!