In an effort to beef up the composition and color use aspects of my work, I've been doing a lot of looking into how other artists build their pieces. Recently, I came across a particularly helpful ImagineFX tutorial by Gary Tonge called "Getting Composition Right" that covered both of those subjects extensively. You can download that tutorial as well as many others here. I'd highly recommend it as well as some of the others.
Here's a step-by-step process of a piece that was toying with earlier today using some of his principles and insight, trying to feel my way through a different approach to composition building.
First up is a quick thumbnail sketch for the layout of the composition. Quick, gestural lines and shapes to solely serve as a guide for the rest of the image.
Secondly, dropped a flat, dark color for my base (The green wasn't intially there. Just pretend, ok?) and lowered the opacity of the sketchy thumbnail drawing. That way, it still serves as a guide, but won't get in the way of molding the piece.
Next, I began bringing in some darks to help define the image a little more. I've seen a lot of artists that start with an even darker base color, and build the image by constantly adding light. For this image, I went with something of a medium-dark, dropping in some deeper darks...
...And then even deeper darks, as well as lights to further build definition. The source of highest contrast is strategically used towards the bottom of the composition. Every decision made in the piece should be used to compliment the focal point of the image in some way. Another aspect that I tried to employ was the play between warm and cool colors. In his tutorial, Gary Tonge mentioned that the most dynamic images will have both warm and cool colors, but the majority of the time, one of those temperatures will and should dominate the other. You'll notice some slight blues in the shadows of the trees.
And here, I began to build a little more definition into the piece, adding smaller details after laying down rough color work. Even with quick work, and without a ton of detail, the piece is shaping up nicely. Though this piece isn't for anything in particular, I'll likely continue on it.
Thanks for reading! And watch out for more to come. :)