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Making Of 'Koschei The Immortal'

Last year, my friends had a chance to visit the Carpathian region of Eastern Europe. They brought back lots of photos and interesting stories about their adventures. I was so inspired by the atmosphere of these places that I had an idea for a picture.

STEP 1: Sketch

First I made a sketch of the landscape in Photoshop to put down the visual impression I’d gained from the photographs I’d looked at. Most of all I liked the mountains, and the rare trees with bizarre roots and stumps that stick out of the ground. I used the default brushes with wet edges to draw all of this. The sketch took me 15 minutes. I did it quickly and then began to imagine the bigger picture (Fig.01).


When I started working on sketches, I had to reverse the figure of the horseman because I wasn’t going to draw the woman. And later I had to change the figure of the horse to create the warhorse. I was interested in reproducing the natural movement of his animal. The proportions of the horseman were an interesting challenge for me too (Fig.02).



I started to build in color gradually. I usually do sketches in Photoshop, but after that I do all the basic work in Painter 11, because I like imitating oil painting. So at this point I started using Painter. At first I worked with the big oil brushes (Fine Feathering Oils 20, Fine Camel 10 and Smeary Bristle Spray) and Smeary Palette Knife 10. In such a way I planned the sky and started to work on the man’s figure. I worked out some details and made a helmet. I first I thought to make a traditional helmet, but then I decided that it would be insufficiently fantastic. Also I wanted to show the wild and mad expression of my character’s face (Fig.03).

I worked with the clouds more, using the same brushes, but making them a little smaller. I used a blender (Just Add Water) to do some edges softer. I sketched mountains in a background. I wanted to depict how the distant clouds hang over the mountains, therefore I made a ray of light between the clouds, which separated them (Fig.04).



started to work with color in the others parts of the landscape. I wanted to make twilight illumination, without bright colors. According to my plan the landscape and the figure in the foreground should look like a dark silhouette against the sky. I used Painter acrylic brushes (Wet Soft Acrylic 10, Captured Bristle) and oil brushes (Fine Feathering Oils 20, Glazing Round 10) with different opacity to draw vegetation. I like to work with colors very much. That’s why, when I start coloring, I never paint the outline. I mean I never work with color on a sketch contour. I think that work should be live and drawing must be changed all the time until the end.

I made the general earthy complexion to add to Koshei’s skin. I used a small oil brush (Fine Camel 10) and a blender (Just Add Water), and I used F-X Glow to add shine and expressiveness to Koshei’s eyes. I used an airbrush (Fine Detail Air 8) to draw small details. I used some transparent layers to make the face of Koschei more natural and I also painted more powerful armor (Fig.05).



I then worked on adding shine to the metal and details to the armor. I used F-X Glow, the same acrylic brushes, the same blender and the same airbrush to get the effect of metal shine. At first I drew the general form of an element using an acrylic brush, then by means of an airbrush I underlined dark places and did reflexes (the same airbrush with the biggest size and low opacity). I made highlights (I mean a patch of light) using F-X Glow and softened it using shadings of glow (Fig.06).

I began to make the horse stronger and bigger. And when I finished the silhouette, it turned out that the horse was on the very edge of the picture and I had to increase the picture’s size. I added earths in the foreground and then started to work with the average plan. I made soft light, which makes its way through the trees on a hill by means of oil brushes (Smeary Bristle Spray and Fine Feathering Oils 20) with different degrees of opacity. Also I gradually painted roots and stubs. I worked with the figure of the horse by means of large brushes. I wasn’t exact in my proportions because I was pursuing other aims. I needed to make a dark stain in the foreground. Besides all this, I also made Koschei’s hair longer and almost finished his armor. His shoulder had the head of a dragon as a result (Fig.07).

I wanted to add more story details to my picture. It seemed to me that the killed warriors and the burned down houses in a background would go well with the mad horseman. And this addition even helped to remove the mountains from the spectator and move them more into the distance. I created the smoke with oil brushes, using some transparent layers for volume. To add dynamics and connect Koschei with the trees (I mean compositionally) I drew a flying owl. Owls are considered as mystical birds in Slavic mythology, and they often enter interaction with sorcerers. Therefore the owl seemed to me the pertinent object. I drew an owl by means of oil brushes and blender. And then I wanted to do owl’s view more harmonically in the sky. I use Erasers (Real Hard Eraser) with a low opacity (about 7%) (Fig.08).



The picture still didn’t have enough dramatic character. Moreover, Koschei with his horse still didn’t unite with the general environment. I had to work with illumination to correct all these things. I made dark clouds in the sky by means of large brushes. I glazed Koschei, his armor and his horse too, making them all darker. The figures should look darker, when they were placed against light. Also I added light on edge of Koschei’s face, because the gleam among the clouds should influence the figures. At last, I started working with the proportions of the horse and readjusting the drawing. I drew the sword and added dark locks to Koschei’s hair. I used an airbrush (Fine Detail Air 8) and some layers with different degrees of a transparency (Fig.09 – 10).

I increased detailed elaboration. I worked with the grass and the foreground, and glazed the owl and the sky. I divided the mountain’s plans by means of transparent layers (Fig.11).

It was a hard task to make a dramatic picture without using the forced colors. And it was difficult for me to paint shiny armor, with it being located against light at the same time. But I did it! As usual I searched for inspiration for this artwork in the best museums of Moscow. I was inspired greatly by works of the great Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov, who worked with Slavic mythology. And though I didn’t use Slavic elements in my artwork, nevertheless most of all I was guided by the work of this artist

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