Panel Process: A Night Scene

I’ve been busy at work on Rolling Blackouts, so I often forget that I have a website here that I should be updating from time to time. Here’s a panel I was working on yesterday from the book. Night scenes can be challenging because they often involve unusual lighting. For this one, the panel involves some of my characters walking up to a house which is lit by a car’s headlights.

I start with a thumbnail sketch of the panel layout. My thumbnails are usually VERY rough and even I can't decipher them if I wait too long after I sketch them.
For a panel with complex/weird lighting, I do a value study with inkwash. Before I did this, I looked up some photos of car headlights shining on things to see how the light falls.
I drew the scene in pencil on my page (I use pretty heavy watercolor paper) and then inked it with a G nib.
After I erase all the pencil lines, I usually start painting by putting down a very light wash of yellow over every panel on my page, reserving the whites for any areas which I want to be a pure bright white later on. This panel has no white, though, so its completely covered in yellow, which you probably cant see from this crappy iPhone photo. I lightly added some skin tones to my characters so they won't look like ghosts, but most of the rest of the color of their clothes will be washed out by the headlights.
I usually paint scenes in full color, a little more on the side of realistic color because that's how I was trained as a painter and its hard to break out of it. We don't really perceive much color at night because of the lack of light, so this panel will be pretty monochromatic. I use purple for night and shadows. I never really knew how much I loved purple until I started using watercolors.
Now I've started to progressively lay out the different values, separating the figure in the foreground and the car--who are behind the light source--from the figures on the porch.
Its got to be pretty dark up on the building where the headlight beams don't reach, as well as off to the sides. I also added some very light color to the characters' clothing.
I'm calling this panel done! I always have the urge to keep working on panels, making things darker or adding more detail, but I know I can ruin a painting that way. I want to keep some of the looseness that I found in that quickly-done value study. Time to move on to finishing the other panels (I usually watercolor two pages at once, skipping to another panel while waiting for things to dry).


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