Ethereal Borders is my most complex digital painting to date. With two main characters as centers of interest and a cityscape in the background, this one really challenged me.
This painting started out back in 2014 as a pen and ink illustration. I can’t seem to find that original drawing and I hope it’s just misplaced somewhere in my studio. For now, I’ll have to show you the drawing as it is in my sketchbook Art Book One.
There were some modifications made for the painting when compared to the ink drawing. The ink drawing was drawn with only reference used for the horse body. Everything else, I drew out of my head.
For the 2019 painted version, I decided to make this a part of my Realm Ethereal universe. I’ve done this with several other ink drawings. Aeliana and Nenael also started out as ink drawings a few years ago. The most prevalent changes to the original drawing in the painting is the reference I used for both the good prince’s head and the centaur’s head. The prince still holds his charming looks, but the centaur (Adastrion) has a much more developed look.
2019 is the year I really started to dig my heels into digital painting. With that came the realization on my part that using photo reference was only going to enhance my work. That being said, I also ended up using reference for the hands and feet as well as a horse reference for the musculature. The pose of the horse body itself was already composed in the original ink drawing, but I could not find the original reference for it. So, the final painted horse body is a blending of new reference material I found online while retaining the original ink drawings form.
The other component that was a huge composition change was the “bridge” element. In the ink drawing, I think it’s pretty clear that this is some kind of bridge, but not in the real-world, three dimensional sense. In the drawing, as in my painting, it’s fairly flat. It’s also on a different plane than the floating city in the background. I know, this is all fantasy type stuff and part of this process is me making the stuff as I go along.
There are times when I will cue the viewer in on the finer parts of the art and other times when I’ll forget I have a viewer. I think that’s part of the creative process. You get on a roll and sometimes you just keep on rolling.
As I developed the painting, I removed the foreshortened portion of it as I felt it tended to direct the viewer’s eye out of the center of interest. In this case, it’s our good prince (Prince Aegyon) and the centaur Adastrion.
In the end, I made the decision to remove that foreshortened area in favor of showing the Dreaming City in the background. In hindsight, and after some critiques, perhaps keeping that sliver of “bridge” would have explained the perspective a little better.
“Ethereal Borders” was a self-directed illustration for my Realm Ethereal world-building project. As such, each piece is going to be a learning experience. Both in terms of illustration fundamentals as well as content creation. This one is no different. But this is one of my favorite pieces so far.
It’s currently available from my online store at as both a 13″ x 19″ art print. ■