The Journey Begins Challenge (2D) Entry: Michael Dashow


I don’t think the plant in the left-hand foreground is working. I like the theory, only it doesn’t look as good in practice.

I think this is because it’s not there enough. Hard to explain exactly what I mean but if you’re going to put something there, such as a plant, make sure it’s properly there or not at all.

Looking great, keep it up. :slight_smile:


It’s a nice sunny day outside and I’m ignoring real like yard work to work on virtual yardwork here on my piece. :-/

But you can see I’ve done a bunch of work on the yard. Added lots of different kinds of flowers, clover, mad even dirt patches. I also turned that bench in the back left, it was really bugging me that the wall was curved and it was pointing directly at the camera… cheap!

Also, I found a much better space for the birds, don’t sweat it.

xeophex - sorry, but I’m not really following you. What do you think would make them “there” more?

Anyhow, back to work (or not, as far as my RL yardwork is concerned. :slight_smile: )



One of the final steps in the illustration is to colorize the line art. This entire time I’ve just been using the greyscale line art I scanned in at the beginning. But the black and grey lines are a bit unsubtle. So remember that depth-map layer I made way back when? In case you don’t, it was a greyscale layer masking out sections based on how deep in the scene they were. I used it to generate the atmospheric hazing in the background. But now I get to use it again, this time to colorize the line art.

Using the Adjust Hue Saturation controls, I colorize the line art to a nice warm red. This works well on the main characters. However, it’s too warm for the lines in the distance. So I load up the depth mask and use Hue/Saturation again to make the lines selected bluer and lighter. Now my lines are gradually getting cooler as they recede into the distance.

The above is a detail of what my line art layer looks like. It is still set to multiply, by the way.



I still have the sky in a seperate layer from the rest of the painting, so next I select the whole foreground, invert selection, and save as a selection. I go into that channel and blur it so that the selection bleeds over the background columns a bit. I fade out the selection on the left side of the scene but keep it strong on the right. I create a new layer above the line art and load the selection and then fill it with a reddish-orange and set the layer to Color Dodge.

(In truth, it takes a little experimentation to get the exact color, opacity amount, and even Layer Blending Mode exactly correct, but that’s what I ended up with.)

So what this does is makes the columns and the sky glow, as if they are lit/backlit by the sun.

On another layer I draw some pale yellow lines perfectly horizontal, blur them, and Transform them into a diagonal direction. These become the god rays / sunbeams. They’re in Hard Light mode at 50%, but it took a lot of experimentation to get there too.

Oh, and lastly, you can see in this shot the final solution I came up with for the birds: Took them out of the sky on the left, and but them down there swooping around the right side of the village.



And here we go: Final Coloring.
You’ve got a couple of weeks still to tell me everything I did wrong and can still improve. Get to it! :slight_smile:



I absolutely LOVE this one!


Wow ! i’ve just discovered the new sky, it’s really great !! Your pic is getting better end better as time goes by, though it was already great several weeks ago :wink: … I’m still amazed by the deepness of your image, what i also like a lot is the overall design. I sincerely hope that you’ll be one of the winners :slight_smile:


Hello, I wanted to say that your picture is really good and I that enjoyed very much looking through the WIP steps.

I have two critics, though I’m in no way an expert.

First, I think the girl’s dress is a bit too somber, the contrast with the very light and softcolored landscape is a bit uncomfortable to look at, especially with her figure at the heart of the composition. Giving her dress a lighter colour could maybe also allow some interesting plays of shadows and highligh, making her figure a bit less muted.

Secondly, maybe you could add some highlight to the grass on the foreground, to match in intensity the reverberated light on the big birdy. The grass is looking a bit flat compared to the depht of the shadows on the principal figures.

Well that’s it, and it’s my first post too.

Good luck for the contest, I hope you’ll win as I really like this picture.


This is the “journey begins”.My favourite. Perfect…

but,i wanted to specify that, there isnt any epic side for this journey. ıt seems a little bit a little journey…:)…As she will come home at the end of the day…Anyway this is just my feeling…:shrug:



That’s one exelent illustration, man :thumbsup:


so sweet!!i love ur entry of luck.:bounce:


This is one of my favorites!! Beautiful feeling, strong composition, exquisite detailing . . . Well done *)


Since you still have a few weeks, I have a few comments to give. First, the arch in the background seems rather flat at the right side, as if it goes from being round to being paper thin. Second, I feel like maybe you should soften part of the edge of the path at the foreground? It looks to me as though it comes up to a point then dips down, instead of being a hill. The last thing is that the faces and the hair of the two characters seem to be shaded like, in a different style or something from the rest of the painting, maybe because they seem less detailed. I feel like they could maybe use a little more work, and also the lighting on their faces make them look like they have a strange curvature.

Ok well that’s everything I could find, I’ve been staring at it for quite some time now, this image is just spectacular overall (not to say that it isn’t a journey of course). You did an incredible job creating depth, the style of the image is great, and the lighting is gorgeous. Lovely work, congratulations on a wonderful piece.


Hey, all, thanks for your notes. Looks like we got a large enough critical mass worth of people calling the StriderBird rider a female that he had to go and get a haircut and a slightly more square jawline. I hope he looks a little more masculine now?

Oregano, ElectroNico, ElGrozni, xric7, and Elrond - Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! :slight_smile:

Cixi - I’m flattered that I’m your first post here. Thank you! I did try a lot of other colors when I was first doing my color comps, but honestly, the dark brown/grey I’m using just worked the best in the composition. Black can be considered somber, but I think it has other interpretations as well, but I’m sorry it makes you uncomfortable to look at it.

Emptyparenthesis - Thanks for your note. Nothing in the rules said it had to be an epic journey, just a journey (or at least the beginning of one.) I happen to think it feels like a larger journey than you do, because of the scale and depth of the environment and all of the gear on the StriderBird (bedroll, pack, etc.) but we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Remy - Thanks for the post, you made some excellent points. It’s not in this post above, but I did go in and make a lot of changes to the arch-way. I think it reads a lot better now: more round, a more consistent color throughout… it looks good, I’m glad you pointed that one out.

As for the characters’ faces, let’s see how they look close-up (and with a bunch of new changes.)

As for the point abount the hill, I just reread your note and realize I misread it earlier. Now I see what you meant, and understand. I’ll have to take a look at that too. Thanks for commenting on it!

Thank that’s all for now. Keep them notes coming, I still have some time…



Hey Michael, really enjoy the details: scratches on the undersides of your character’s boot, shading among the feathers of his mount, the light catching the leg of your standing character…um, really don’t mean to be a jerk, but, honestly that character on the left (I think) has a guy’s face??? Perhaps ankles and hands too, but – definitely nice legs for a woman. Maybe blush, longer hair, thinner cheeks, and a smaller chin? Anyhow, that’s the last I’ll comment on that… Really enjoy the colors and mood of this image. Definitely one of my favorites. Good luck!


This one’s for you, Ramy! You had some excellent points in your last post, thank’s so much for pointing all those things out. So now the arch looks more round and continuous from left to right. And the hill in the lower right hopefully looks more like a hill, like it’s got some curve to it instead of being the edge of a cliff dropping off there. A definite improvement, I think.

OceanBlueSky - Thanks for your post. I think you’ve got a good point. There’s still more I can do to make her look more feminine, including a lot of changes in her face and hands. I’m not changing the hair - i think it looks cute… and if I get the other parts right it will be clear that she’s a girl even though she has short hair. So next post…
By the way, my wife and I had no idea where Christmas Island was so we looked it up… Wow! Sounds like you live in a pretty neat place!

Anyhow, that’s all for now… closing in on it…



Wow this is totally awesome. The image has such a nice warm feeling about it. I really like your style of drawing. This is definetly my favourite entry so far. I also really like how you showed your method of working with shadow, highlight, etc layers, like using render passes. Really interesting technique, and one I’ll definetly try to use on my next painting. Keep up the amazing work. Any chance of making this available as a 1280x1024 wallpaper when the challenge is over?


Wow Michael:
Would you believe me had I said that it simply took me a few days to be able to go through your thread?
(Not TOO slow a reader… just was too busy :sad:)

But in it’s own it was very rewarding… so no worries there!
Of the best and least shallow reading material I have seen on these challenges for a long time… with additionally rewarding illustrations that came with the deal!

As much as I may strike you as the “Dark One” that has nothing to do with the life unrelated to the Old-ones… I have to confidently admit that I think that this is definitely of the best works I have ever seen you do. It is fantastic!
A pity that like every other activity in my life… I had to put aside browsing through the works of some people that I really had enjoyed earlier. But I was very busy with a lot to loose otherwise :frowning:

About the image itself technically (the good old nagger here) The most obvious things that had screamed out to me were very successfully remarked by Korysome few pages back… The beginning in fact I believe. And you seem to have had listened to all that was mentioned (Even if you forgot them first)
[color=silver]The lighting and the new gradation of the arc in the back all looks fantastic.[/color]

Actually There is a little something that still does bother me… Definitely not as much as the rest had had. But your StriderBird and as a result the group he dominates (The boy and the girl) looks oddly flat to the background in spite the volume you seem to have given each of them.
I sort of believe it is because of the highlighting you have given his tail. If you dim your eyes and look at him with trancuated enough to be able to view the whole composition… you may notice that he must have a conciderably thin vloume to be able to allow light to skid past him and highlight the tail like that. Because in the state it is now, the tail does not really give the impression that it is coiling or bending towards the girl.
Just a depth issue that I may be wrong. But since I noticed the flatness to compair… I just couldn’t get over it.

Well none the less it is a mere trifle to what you have accomplished by now… and might simply be my own pov. Because the image as it is is definately outsetanding!

Best of luck!


Ps; I had really loved the concept sketch [color=silver]#63! I know you already made your choice and proved it worthy… but I think it would be really great if you would store it aside as a project “To-Do” for the futur tence :slight_smile: I would love to see it if you ever do.[/color]


Amazing piece. I think the flowers in the lower left corner are nice, but perhaps too numerous to not appear in more places around the image. I noticed them by the fence posts but somehow it seems too little since there is a whole bunch of them in the corner…


Hi Michael, loving how this is all coming together, especially as I’ve not dropped in here in a while. The background looks amazing, I love how all the lights and shadows mix together in so many lovely shifting tones. The rocks look like something some ancient civilisation once erected and that more recent occupiers of the land would have no clue about, which I love, it gives a whole other level to the story of your characters and what sort of world they inhabit.

Only one minor crit, or suggestion… something about the way the boy is balanced seemed odd to me, then I realised he has no stirrups to put his feet in… they’d make the bird much easier to ride, stop his falling off, and would plant him firmly on the bird in this particular moment, so it does look like she’s pulling him, rather than him falling off. It’s just a suggestion, you may not want to spoil the lovely composition you have here…

Whatever your decision, this piece rocks muchly already. Great work!