Here’s my new painting, a peaceful wintry scene of Arctic life featuring a big green bird named Guido. Click for the big one:

My Portfolio has a couple of close ups if you want to take a peek at the brushwork. And now a little info on the process behind the painting.
I was inspired by this snowy forest from episode 1 of Frozen Planet, an impressive documentary series narrated by David Attenborough.

Frozen Planet

I liked the lighting and the weird tree shapes. I wasn’t sure about what I’d come up with, I just explored ideas until I was reasonably satisfied. I ended up exaggerating the shape of the trees (until they were no longer trees) and introducing a character to create a complete scene.

sketch 1

I liked everything about this sketch except the way the shot was framed: Guido was at the center of the image (too static) and the big shape on the lefthand side needed some breathing room. So I expanded the environment above and to the left and finally I was happy with the composition.

sketch 2

The above sketch is the result of several hours of endless tweaking: getting the shapes to look just right, keeping elements diversified and unaligned to preserve the irregularity of a natural environment, creating the illusion of an endless forest of bulbous ice pillars extending towards the horizon.
The more time you spend on the sketch the less you have to tweak the picture later on while painting.

I still hadn’t figured out the lighting at this stage so I just started replicating the color palette of the reference images.
While the eerie Polar lighting was fascinating, I was after a happier, less disturbing atmosphere—it’s a holiday card after all. To that end I introduced some light blue into the snow. Note that at this point I was still completely unsure of what the image would look like.
You make it up as you go along.

paint 1

Several hours of failed attempts, hair pulling and diligent blocking resulted in this:

paint 2

The atmosphere, the background, the color palette and the lighting have all been established at this point. All that’s left to do is the detailing.

paint 3

Note what a big difference the introduction of the yellow rim lights makes. The whole scene lights up and sits so much better underneath the Arctic sunrise.
After detailing Guido and adding more fish the painting is finished.

paint final

With this painting I tried to take a very specific reference and turn it into my own picture, creating a character imbued with my sense of humor. Most importantly I had fun and I learned a lot.
No time to rest on the afterglow of a finished picture, though, so on to the next one.