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Painting Nightmares

Instead of trying to explain why you wake up screaming every night, why not paint what you see? Cyril Van Der Haegen captures the ordeal of nocturnal terrors...

When I was asked to create a workshop based on my image called Insane Asylum Surgeon, I decided to do it from the point of view of the patient, perhaps half an hour before lobotomy.

My intent is to show my thinking process in creating some HP Lovecraft-influenced work. I tend to like drawing horror, erotic and chiaroscuro (among other things) and I will try to combine those elements visually to create a reaction in the viewer. Positive or negative, any reaction is good. I also want to keep a painterly look and stay away from an obviously digital feel. The important elements are simplicity of composition, focus and tonal values. Those are the ones I struggle most with. Ideas and colours are easier to master.

I use Painter, because in my opinion it’s better to achieve a traditional feel, with the occasional help of Photoshop, which has better manipulation tools (for working with colour in this case).
Often, I’ll do the initial sketch on paper and scan it in, because I still find that pencil and paper gives you more freedom than a stylus ever could, but for this assignment it’ll all be done digitally.

Try to work from as many references as possible. Grab a camera and take photos. If you get the lighting and angles right, you’re a third of the way there. However, I don’t recommend painting over a photo collage directly if you want to keep a painterly look. Rather, use the photos as references only, on the side, and repaint everything from scratch. It will look and feel more authentic.

From issue 11.

Click here to download the full workshop for free (PDF)
Click here to download the support files (17.90Mb)
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