As part of my Revolution project, I wanted to draw a French street depicted in the novel. As this was an intensive scene, and my first crowd scene that I had painted, it required a lot of prep work. First I went to the book and jotted down notes on how the author had described the location.
Since the scene took place in 1795 Paris, I really had no idea what the make-up of the architecture would look like. First I googled “Rue du Grand Chantier”, the street name. I found out that it was an old street that had been renamed, and probably completely rebuilt by modern day. But the article referred to which modern day section the street was now and included coordinates for it. Luckily for me, Google Street View existed of those coordinates and I was able to get a brief idea at what the make-up of the street might have been.
After this point, I gathered together some of the paintings I had of the time, and I looked at some of the production stills from Assassin’s Creed: Unity, as that video game took place during the French Revolution. Seeing how other artists had depicted streets at the time helped me formulate my own ideas. Unluckily for me, at the time period that I needed reference paintings from, artists were not yet interested in painting realism, or depicting the middle and lower classes. A lot of my picture would have to be designed on small amounts of fact.
Next, I began to thumbnail. It was hard to get the composition I needed, as I wanted to show a large part of the environment, while also showcasing a lot of people. Although my thumbnails are very rough, and perhaps unreadable to other people, they helped me immensely.
Once I decided my composition, I set up my perspective grid and drew out the environment, before drawing any of the people. After this, I sketched out what I wanted the positioning of the people, and then I drew the people.
I had some reference for clothing, which I obtained from paintings and from my local library. Clothing changed so drastically from pre-revolution to the revolution that was hard to find enough reference for the few years I needed. The key is to look at a lot of sources so that you get enough variety.
After I cleaned up the line art for the characters, I did several color studies. I have been learning about limiting my color schemes, so I tried to experiment with that in the studies and the final color. If you are having a hard time thinking of color, look at other people's paintings and paint a study with their colors. Avoid the eyedropper to train your eye to better see color.
After blocking rough color, I colored all the people, as they were rendered differently from the background. After the people were done, I finished painting the background.
At this point, I make any final adjustments to color and add atmosphere and small touches of additional rim lighting or bounced light to make sure all the characters stood out, or did not distract from one another. Specifically, I added some blue atmosphere to the background right portion so that the people being taken away in the cart moved back in space, I added some more shadow to the tunnel, and some glows to the light sources.
After I completed the painting, I realized that nuns were persecuted during the Revolution, so they might not actually have appeared in this scene. But no one would pick up on that, unless I wrote about it in a blog post. Hmmm...