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Melissa De Nobrega

Graphic designer & Illustrator

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Creepy Cleo

I couldn't resist the delicious opportunity to try my hand at creating a horrific portrait! I've recently started digitally painting and I thought this class would be the perfect chance to try painting from my imagination rather than replicating photos. Process and final below:

Step 1: Inspiration

I leapt around Google and pulled images that I found particularly intriguing. I was in love with the colours in some, while for others it was the composition, lighting or atmosphere. I included images with styles that I would love my own work to reflect. Overall it was a good haul.

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Step 2: Character

I started drafting up a sketch of my character. I knew when I started that I wanted to make a Cleopatra inspired dead mummy-ish kind of creature. I didn't want too many bandages, not too many open wounds (because I was worried I would focus too heavily on getting the exposed anatomy correct and forget about having fun and experitmenting) and goodness, she shouldn't be sexy by any means. Here's what I came up with:

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I know, I know, she doesn't look dead or creepy at all.

Actually, when I was sketching her out I could see her so clearly in my mind that at the time I felt like this was all I needed. And in hindsight, after going through the whole process, I can admit that I could've saved myself a whole lot of headache if I started mummifying her here instead of later down the line. Anyway – lesson learned! Next time I'll create better thumbnails hah!

The next few shots are progress. I messed about with some of the colours and after I settled on my palette I started filling her in.

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I ran into a bit of a problem here. It seems that I had just ended up painting a normal woman. I knew that at this stage I HAD to uglify her – it must be done. I tried a couple of things, first I made her nose a bit crooked, then I gave her a bit of a wormy texture under her skin. But these things just didn't seem to work very well. In the end I took out her nose entirely and was ready to leave it at that due to sheer frustration. 

And just when I was staring at the screen feeling a bit defeated, my boyfriend popped over to take a look, pointed at it and said, "I like that in the dark parts she seems dead and in the light she looks more alive, cool!" Then he bounced away joyously to the other side of the room.

I didn't even realise I had done that with the painting, but I went with it – I actually decided to emphasis the contrast between dead and alive by rotting the dark flesh on one side.

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And here's the final with the added textures and new colour palette (after I fiddled around with the levels and hues):

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So in the end I'm quite happy with what I've created – especially with my poor planning!

Thanks for checking out my work, your feedback is priceless to me. Cheers!

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