Dark Parts / (Before July is Over)

Better late than never.  This recently ‘finished’ digital sketch was begun just after Independence Day (U.S.).

The piece was inspired by an encounter in a park while waiting for the official St. Paul city fireworks display.  On nearby tennis courts, a couple college-age guys were setting off their incendiary devices, including some pretty impressive roman candles.  The way their forms were briefly silhouetted in light was intriguing.

I compared a few different snapshots I found online to see what exactly was going on to make this scene look the way it does.  Then it was time to set about experimenting.


The the figure was devised without any source material. Ditto for the background, though, that was the last thing to be drawn in (and, though sketchy, makes a huge difference in bringing the piece together).

The lighting of the sparks and the smoke did require a lot of study and trial-and error to get the right effect.  The fountain of fire is really rough: it would probably have benefited if a little more time had been spent polishing it up.  The smoke, however looks really cool, as far as I’m concerned.  It is composed of four layers of color.  Once each layer was drawn, the values needed to be individually adjusted to get the right balance of light layers and dark layers.  Then, Photoshop’s “smudge” tool supplied the wispy effect to each of the layers before they got sandwiched into one.

The halo of light emanating from the burst is composed of three circular gradients.  Each one starts with a color and fades to transparency.  The first is the lightest and yellowest.  The next two get redder, a bit richer, and larger.

The last few effects that give this drawing its character are some shadows supplied by the ‘burn’ tool.  For examples of this, check out the underside of the sparks and the lower extremities of the figure.  Finally, the “add noise” filter lend the whole thing a bit of fuzziness.  This not only softens the ‘digitality’ of the piece, but also emulates the effect of dust being illuminated in sharp light.

The heading for this post invokes the song “Dark Parts” by Perfume Genius.  Thematically, it may not relate too closely, but it brings an almost cinematic juxtaposition to the scene.  Think ‘really poignant montage’ in a mumblecore gem.  Think ‘a little self-important, but effective.’

Think whatever you want, actually.  And share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

Take care, all.

This entry was published on July 29, 2013 at 10:18 pm. It’s filed under Bold Color, Digital Drawing, Drawings, Figures, Seasons, The Artistic Process, Tools & Equipment and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

10 thoughts on “Dark Parts / (Before July is Over)

  1. This is wonderful, Gabriel.

  2. I’m having major problems with WordPress at the moment, Gabriel, but had to try to leave a comment for this post… I hope it reaches you!
    I love this image! The contrast, the brightness, the smoke and the silhouette all work really well together! I can actually hear the sizzle off the sparks!
    Great one!

    • Oooooh… and as we know, it’s all about the sizzle. THanks for tackling WordPress in order to ocmment.

      It’s a very funny platform, and constantly changing. I hope your difficulties work their way out soon.

  3. The man is sugested so the fire and the smoke are the center of interest. Very powerful.

    • Thank you. I’d love to revisit this subject again soon. This drawing was more of a study, and while it turned out well, there’s some opportunity for a more fully realized composition, with the various parts integrated a bit more.

  4. Wow. That’s really great.

  5. I love love love this piece. The smoke and his stance make the piece.

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