Andrew Burke

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FramePainting 5: The Orange Room
Posted on: 2016-05-11

I'm learning how to paint on my iPad Pro by "tracing" stills from "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and sharing the results here.

This picture features one of the most striking design elements in the movie: the orange patterned sound baffles in the secured meeting rooms at The Circus. They give every meeting a surreal feeling while also echoing some of the more outrageous "mod" wallpaper designs that were popular in the late 60s and early 70s.

This picture was going to be tricky: the background pattern had to be done right. Also, the dominant feature in this still was the very distinctive and super recognizable face of Colin Firth - and as we've seen before I'm not very good at faces.

For the background, I discovered Procreate's brush tools, which essentially let you "roll" an image onto the canvas. I figured I would have to make my own custom brush for this (by making a greyscale image and importing it into the app) but I discovered that Procreate already had a stacked blocks brush that looked pretty close to the original. The trick with this, though, was to paint the whole background in one go, since the pattern restarts every time you put put the brush down. I also didn't want to press too hard because the block pattern actually had some subtle grey shades in it which disappeared if I pushed too hard. In the end, I think it came out pretty well - even the stray brush-strokes at the top manage to look pretty cool.

My original plan with the foreground was to try painting solid blocks of colour first and then filling in the details in light and dark on top. This would solve the problem I'd been having in earlier pictures where shadows and highlights were just drawn separately and I ended up with faces having a weird mask-like colouring book feel.

But as I put in the solid slabs of colour, I found the resulting image was really working well just as it was. The background had all the detail, while the foreground stayed strong and simple. It managed to also keep Colin Firth recognizable without me messing up his face. Keeping to simple slabs of colour helped highlight certain aspects of the shot composition I had missed before: notice that Colin Firth's blue teacup matches his tie? These are the kinds of details that make this movie so inspiring to paint.

I really like how this came out. It looks a bit like a book cover from 1971 or so, or a more psychedelic take on "Mad Men".

I finished this work last night at the East Coast Creatives meetup at the Foggy Goggle, surrounded by much more technically skilled artists. When they weren't asking to try the Pencil, they gave me some great advice: I had a lot of trouble getting the decanter in the foreground shaped properly - it's at a funny angle with semitransparent edges but needed to be symmetrical - and they recommended I just leave the whole thing out, which turned out to be a great idea.

Lots of people at the event wanted to try out the iPad Pro with Procreate and the Pencil. Someone saw the blank faces and shouted "googly eyes!" so I gave them their own layer of the image to play with and they passed it around the table. Thanks, creatives, for taking my picture to the Next Level!

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