Biblically, angels are messengers and warriors, guardians and protectors. I developed a depiction of an angel as warrior, inspired by superheroes and fantasy characters. Here’s how I created it.
I began by sketching the figure, drawing several versions on transparent vellum until I got the proportions, movement and anatomy correct for what I wanted to communicate.
I developed one final preliminary drawing – the comp – and transferred it to the illustration board.
The final drawing was transferred to the board and detailed with colored pencil to blend with the colors I would use in the painting. Once the drawing was finalized, I covered the entire board with frisket paper and then cut away some to reveal the background areas.
I began the painting process by laying in dark and light washes of transparent watercolor. My go-to brand in Winsor Newton for both watercolor and gouache, but I also use M Graham. I always work with high quality watercolor brushes made with synthetic sable.
For backgrounds, I generally work from top to bottom. After layering a few washes of increasingly dark blues, I applied a lighter series of washes to the lower background areas, including a couple dry brush washes to create texture.
Then I added some spatter to the top and bottom areas. I use a toothbrush for this, with gouache. I build up rougher textures and gradients which will add visual interest and play well against the smoother textures on the figure.
I developed the entire background area before peeling away the remaining frisket to reveal the figure.
Starting on the figure, I first addressed the most important aspects – face, hands and weapon. These are the primary elements that tell the story. I first apply a light wash over the face, neck and hands, and slowly build up form and cast shadows, being careful to retain areas of reflected light. I decided upon a Caucasian flesh tone for this guy (I’ve painted others darker), and used a base wash made of naples yellow, yellow ochre and alizarin crimson.
Once the skin tones were laid in, I switched to the garments. At first, I was going to keep them light – white, but I decided the figure would appear more powerful and active if the clothing was dark. The initial wash was light and scrubby as I determined the shadow shapes.
So I continued to build layers of color, using a primary triad, until I had a full range of values from light to dark, and rich blues, reds and golds.
I used gouache and colored pencil to add detail to the sword and skin areas, and corrected the curve of the cape to depict a more accurate contour. Then I finished the detailing with more saturated colors and accents. With my signature added, it’s a finished work.
This illustration is available as a digital print from my store.