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  07 July 2005
STePbySTeP: ROMaNeS eUNt DoMUS! *Now with Text*

Paperclip asked me if i'd post a step-by-step of my recent 'Romanes Eunt Domus' (or 'The Last Call'). I thought i'd post it here, rather than on the original thread, because of the request for contributers to the Art Techniques forum last week!

I produced this image over a few lunch hours at work so it's more of a concept than an illustration. It's a slightly different style to my usual stuff, but it was for a mini-contest over on and i thought it'd be fun to experiment. And i was experimenting a bit with technique so if the process seems a bit bizarre, then don't get cross with me! If you fancy dropping by the original thread for a HiGHER ReSOLUTiON IMaGE, go here:


I hope some of you find it interesting!

'Romanes Eunt Domus' was an image for a contest on The topic was 'Rome 3000', 'Imagine if the Roman Empire had thrived and survived to the present day'. I started off with a bunch of quick sketches and went for this because it actually made me smile when i sketched it... and i thought it'd be fun to colour. The sketch took about fifteen minutes. I don't always work in blue pencil but i think they're great for roughing stuff out. I usually work in blue col-erase on Goldline Marker PAds.

The next step was to scan the image into Photoshop 7 and do some tweaks on the drawing. I used to do subsequent sketches with an animator's lightbox, until i got the pencil drawing 'just right', but i've changed my process a little to give myself more freedom and be a little less dependant on the pencil sketch. It makes the colouring more fun and creative and less a 'colouring in' exercise!! I sketch in with my favourite brush that i use for colour and black and white and everything which is Photoshop's 17 pixel Chalk, but with opacity set to 'pen pressure'. I increase and decrease its size all over the place, but i really like the feel of this brush. I also like 'Conte pencil' and 'Charcoal pencil' for the drawing. Most of these lines will disappear so i'm not too worried about the finish of the line work, but it's still nice to draw with Photoshop's brushes.

Next stage is to make the drawing a layer and set blend mode to 'multiply' and then block in some base colours. For those who don't know, using 'Multiply' as a layer blend mode makes everything white transparent and everything black opaque, so you can paint beneath your drawing with only the lines visible. I've started using a deep blue/grey for the base for characters, particularly in daylight conditions. It works for me at the moment, but i may be doing something completly different in a month or two...

Then i start working quickly on the colour, with the Chalk mentioned above. It gives a nice sketchy mark with opacity on pen pressure and a lovely wacom pen. I generally use a 6"x8" wacom. All these quick marks at this stage will gradually be covered up, but they'll form a nice base to the image and will subtly show through subsequent marks and give some nice depth to the image. even on a quick concept like this, it's good to build up layers of colour.

I decided to switch the head direction. I couldn't get it to look natural the other way with him talking on the phone. He looked like he was staring and bemused by the phone, rather than talking. That could've been a good thing, but it wasn't what i was after. This is the best thing about working digitally... it's so flexible!! I also created a shadow layer with blend mode set to 'vivid light' and painting in a very very deep blue. It's a bit of a cheat, but it looked right. I paint shadows in quickly and apply a layer mask (small rectangle icon with a circle in it at the bottom of the layers palette) so i can quickly adapt the dark areas as i work up the image. I also dropped it briefly into Painter (i'd love to get more familiar with this program) and slapped dwon some big brush strokes on the background.

Add in the graffiti. I knew i wanted graffiti, but wasn't sure what. Then i caught myself singing 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' one day, and remembered the graffiti scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian!! So in went 'Romanes Eunt Domus'. I actually did a screen grab from the movie one night and copied the graffiti very closely!! It's supposed to mean 'Romans go Home'... but it's the wrong spelling and means something like 'People who are Roman go to the house'... or something..?? I loved this bit of the movie as a kid. And anyone who hasn't seen the movie should go out and rent it!!

Last edited by duddlebug : 07 July 2005 at 10:40 AM.
  07 July 2005
Here's the rest of the process:

A couple of major tweaks. One of the other sketches i did for this contest was a girl with an afro on roller skates. Mainly because i've got some strange 'thing' about girls on roller skates... *sigh*... i i attribute this 'thing' to growing up in the 70s and watching the girls on my street going up and down the road on their roller skates. I don't have a 'thing' about big hairy men on roller skates, but i thought it'd be a nice touch. And just the sort of thing an emporer might decree to add a bit of spice to a gladiatorial contest! I tweaked some of the other limbs to accommodate the raised legs.

I did some more work on the shadows, now that most of the elements were in the picture. Again, this is the benefit of working with a shadow layer. I also did a lot of painting into the skin. Adding warm tones and subtle colour overlays of blue, pink and purple. I was trying to keep the 'layer count' down, but i worked these skin tones into a seperate layer until i was happy with them.

Following on from the shadow, i started painting highlights into the 'colour' layer. I was using a pretty simple light source and i'm really trying to improve this element of my paintings. After years of sketches and not a lot of colour work, i think lighting is a big target for improvement, and this image was meant to be a learning process as well as bit of fun. I also started thinking about the colours of the chainsaw.

This bit is all good fun. I really started adding in the details... telephone, plugs, cigarette... These were on a seperate layer so i could play around a bit. Some details went into the image, and came straight back out again, for instance. I was still aiming to keep the layer count down. In this image there were about 7 layers i think. From the back to front, there were: Base colours, the linework (i painted over the lines and used them as a guide), the main colour layer, the Graffiti, A detail layer, another detail layer and the shadows layer. I used to go mad with layers, but it just slows everything down and gets confusing, so i'm trying to limit them a bit to see how it affects my work. I'll create layers and merge down as i go along, but i'm aiming to keep away from 100 layer images! I also added more 'flex' to the bench because he's a chunky fella... thanks to Matt Dixon for the suggestion... who oddly enough normally works on just one layer. Now that is odd.

The final stage is the tidying up and adding in all the detail. This was a laugh. There's the 'Access All Areas' pass, a burger and fries, grenades etc. I just had some fun and then said 'Finished'. This, as i said, was a fairly quick image i worked on over a week of lunchtimes. So five to six hours would probably be a good guess. By the next day there was a bunch of stuff i'd change or do different, but i've never been one for going back to an image (unless i'm asked to by a client!). I'll just start a new picture and try and get it right next time...

Here's the another link to the High(er) Resolution image...

Romanus Biggus


Last edited by duddlebug : 07 July 2005 at 08:27 AM.
  07 July 2005
Thanks for sharing the process of making this great piece of yours!
I think I've already lernt from it. Gotta scribble something now...
  07 July 2005
cool stuff , jonny boy !

  07 July 2005
Great post! i love seeing the process other artists go through to make these pieces.
Remember: Periodically Flip Canvas Horizontal
  07 July 2005
I noticed most people sketch on paper (using blue, but it doesn't matter I think). I draw much better on papar, so maybe it'll work out for me too.

Later I'm off to draw! AWESOME work man!

- Leo

Lastest works:
The Retired Pirate, "What are you looking at?!"

  07 July 2005
I...I....I mean, I...


I really like this image, man and not just because it's executed so beautifully, but also because it has a really nifty concept behind it. Thanks so much for posting the WIP!!

*little more worshipping*

Once more, thanks. I have a question though-- how do you get that 'texture' on his belly, do you have a specific technique or was it a 'happy accident'?
  07 July 2005
Great work, very expressive.

I thought Romanes eunt domus was Romans, Go Home! and was directly from Life of Brian
  07 July 2005

Thanks for this Step-By-Step. I really learn from this stuff.
  07 July 2005
many thanks duddlebug! glad to see you with your great tutorial! alway love your work!
Secret Agent

  07 July 2005
Always good to see a breakdown! Splendidly done sir!
"There Really is No Secret"
Martin Brennand - mocha Product Manager - Imagineer Systems
  07 July 2005
Thanks for the interest and replies! Hope the text adds something for y'all...

As i mentioned, i posted this as a response to paperclip because i had the WiP images ready to post on my site. I'm glad some people found it interesting. I'd never suggest it's a fantastic, well thought out process, but it's how i work. And a bit of an experiment. And a bit of fun.

coCoKNIght: Haha... glad you got 'something' from it, even without text. Hope you had a successful scribble..?

Squibbit: Thanks Mr.Squibbit!

Lord Blue: Me too!! I love looking at other artists working process and i'm sure i've taken an awful lot from other artists. And that's what is dead good about the internet. And over time, and from looking at an awful lot of artists and sticking with little elements and practices from all over the place you develop your own way of working. It's great! And the digital process is such a quick and easy way to experiment... not squeeezing paint and stretching paper and washing brushe and all that malarkey!!

vegabros: Col-erase is such a lovely blue pencil to work with... i started using it by accident because i started a new job at Warthog a few years ago and my computer wans't ready. So they asked me to do some concepts and gave me some blue pencils!! (That's actually how i became a concept artist rather than a '3D car modeller'!?)

paperclip: Ummm... now you are being too nice!! I'm glad you enjoyed looking before i'd posted the text!! The belly is just built up with flesh and little hairs and the shadow layer. Maybe i could do a step by step of just the belly? But that might scare you... unless you like big hairy bellies..?

cgman27: Congratulations! You spotted the Monty Python reference even before i'd mentioned it! I'd send you a dead parrot, but....

remcv8, monsitj, erilaz: Thanks!!

I'm glad peeps liked the step-by-step even before i added text! Hoipefully the text won't spoil it for you...
  07 July 2005
This is a great progression thread Jonny. Fab to see the way you work in stages, clear and informative. Thanks for posting it!
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Rosie Poe

  11 November 2005

A truly informative post!
Thanks for sharing all the stuff.
It was great inspiration....
  11 November 2005
my only crit is *draws sword*: "it must be romani ite domum!"

("accusative, sir, accusative...")

God, I love that movie, and I love that graffiti in an altogether wonderful picture!
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