The Fort: Process and Notes

After finishing The Treehouse I decided to experiment a bit more on the topic. If that gave a more jungle feel to it I wanted to paint something a little bit more for a child, preferably somewhere along the lines of a child having his or her own fort/treehouse in the middle of the woods near home or a natural park; maybe giving a more playground feel to it too. I wanted to imagine a place where a kid would want to spend time in, maybe with his or her friends or just alone. Somewhere to read, somewhere to play, somewhere to go that’s both safe and adventurous. And like I said before, I’ve always wanted a treehouse, and this maybe close to how I wanted it to look and where.

Entire process Summary
Entire process Summary

I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea, all I know is I had an image as reference in my mind. Yes, it is from the imagination but I can’t help feeling I’ve seen this before or I was influenced to lay the image out this way. The closest I can think of is the treehouse from the movie The Lucky One.

Drafting The Fort
Drafting The Fort

Drafting and Notes
I wanted to practice perspective, but this time by separating the image into three parts which I will further discuss later. But for now, as I was drafting, I focused on creating a wider image. Wider meaning from left to right, and wider across meaning something is near enough to hold and something would be far enough for your eyes to trail to. I wanted to give the viewer a path somehow, a path to start on and continue to.

So with that, the closest thing was the log to start on. The path would be the mushrooms and the grass, which will then lead to the rocks in the river (which was an add on note when I was creating the concept and possible story behind the image. Whoever this kid was, I wanted him or her to have a way to get across the river, hence the rocks) And finally, the fortress. I would like to call it that ’cause it sounds a lot cooler than a treehouse, if I ever had one I’d certainly call it a fortress. (childhood dreams, ugh) I also noted though that even after the main image is shown, I wanted to show how big the location was, I wanted to put more details in the background and to also have the chance to learn rendering it.

Four Main Notes
Not all my notes (in red) make it to the final output, but I did have four I kept in mind throughout the entire process:

1. Fall Colors
2. Play with Textures
3. Light and Calm
4. Colors will Fade in the Distance

Drafting The Fort
Drafting The Fort

Rendering the Fort
When I was making this illustration I was going back and forth with all that was going on with it. I would work on the log, then work on the tree then maybe jump to the grass. It was because I had an image in my mind of what mood I wanted it to be in but I wasn’t exactly sure how to get there with all these different layers. So I had to experiment per part.

As always I started with the main subject of the illustration which in this case would be the fort or the treehouse. I first rendered the trunk, and instead of a rough texture I wanted to create a softer and smoother look. I told myself I didn’t want the tree to look stiff, I wanted it to move and to show thickness through shadows and light. One curve would overlap the other, and this was fun to play with and to figure out.

The leaves were next and I started with different shades of green at first just to see how I wanted it to be placed, later on I rendered it to look Autumn, which was one my main notes while I was drafting. The treehouse followed, and it was the last part I worked on, and I rendered it in a way that it didn’t exactly face the light source, it was mostly darkened and only a small part of it had its actual colors.

Bridge and Treehouse Color Layout
Bridge and Treehouse Color Layout

Color Forms and  Reminders
I usually do this just to see what I’m working on as a whole. They’re kinda like reminders to me where the light and shadow would be and what angles should I take note of. I wanted to remind myself that the roof of the treehouse wouldn’t be just planks, I wanted to play and experiment on rendering with this so I decided to make them look more like red bricks or something like that. The bridge was the second to the last thing I rendered while painting this but I made sure that I colored in the form first so I wouldn’t forget.

Layer Notes
Layer Notes

Distances and Rendering
This is just to explain what my thought process was while I made the three main parts. This was something I was studying before making this illustration and I really wanted to apply it. I learned that an image had three parts, the foreground, the middle ground, and the background.

It was important to note that everything closer would be darker in color, and the farther it was the lighter it becomes, and I learned this trick while experimenting on that that if I were to use the sky’s color or rather the background as the main color keys on the objects that were farther away they would somehow blend in. And the effects would look soft and calm, which is again found in one of the four main notes.

The image above was taken after a couple of rendering test runs, this was the color that satisfied me most. I also had a reference in mind for this, I worked on this illustration on an off for two weeks and one day I was walking around a school campus (University of the Philippines) and I saw this distancing right then and there. And to me it looked foggier the farther an object was, so I kept that in mind and applied it here.

Adding Mushrooms
Adding Mushrooms

Foreground: Log, Grass, Mushrooms
I wanted the same texture for the log as it was on the main tree. I wanted it to flow and to keep moving even though the log was just still. And like I said I had to make the foreground darker so the viewer can distinguish how far it was, and in this case it was the closest part of the illustration.

I added the mushrooms also to help show that but in terms of size (same with how I scaled the log bigger compared to my first draft). The mushrooms on the left were bigger, meaning they were much closer to the viewer, then it followed through all the way to the river and began to seem smaller. Plus, adding the mushroom made the foreground more interesting, I thought that if I left it as just the grass and the log it would look too bare.

Painting the River and Background Details
Painting the River and Background Details

Middle ground and Main: River, Field, Fortress
The river was fun to make, I used the same technique in coloring Not What It Seems  for the first layer, and the highlight and waves from The Treehouse which create movement for the water. I used blue, green, gray, and a bit of brown for the water’s based color, then I added the small bit of land where the main “island” is placed along with the many layers of grass. Later I added the highlights for movement and the shadows for each one.

River Details
River Details

Rocks were placed as a path, as I’ve mentioned, and I colored them with blue, brown, gray, and green. I wanted it to have moss . After that I added white bits pf splashes one side of it to create the flow and movement of the water, I didn’t want to do it too much ’cause the river should be calm, but I did want it to be moving and pushing itself against the rocks.

Rendering the Background
Rendering the Background

Background: Sky, Layers of Trees
The sky only needed two layers. The first layer being purple, and pink from right to left; the second layer was yellow to orange from top to the bottom. And you’ll find it in my notes that I wrote “No Clouds.” I didn’t want any sharp edges or distracting images in the background, ’cause for me the background strongly contributes to the entire mood and feel of an image. I added a little bit of clouds though, almost like a mist or softened swirls across the background.

The layers of trees in the background were labeled as “Faded Tree 1” to “Faded Tree 12” and the farther they were, the smaller they got and they blended more with the sky. Most of the trees you can barely see but it was still important to add that detail.

(FUN FACT: The last tree that was added is the most faded one and it’s behind the swing)

The Fort: Final Design
The Fort: Final Design

Final Thoughts
I’m still learning how to really apply rendering the different parts of an image, and it was really a fun learning experience to make this one. I want to experiment more on moods next time and maybe even different times of the day.

I try to apply whatever I learn from studying and observing to the illustrations I’m currently working on, and whatever I learn while I’m making it would lead to another lesson I could apply to the next one. Kind of like a domino effect and I’m really happy with the results of this practice so far.

Thank you for reading and I hope this has helped! More coming up!

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Paper Pirate

Paper Pirate (Mary Cruz) is a teacher by day, artist by night, and an entrepreneur in between. Inspiring others to keep making art and taking on adventures. The is the official site and blog of Paper Pirate, showcasing the art and illustration of Mary Cruz.

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