Here are some of Mike Schley’s incredibly detailed imagined worlds. He creates these fantastical maps full of tiny details. He took some time to tell us a little more and show us both his digital and traditional studio set ups.
I usually begin with sketches on paper. Once I have some ideas flowing and I’ve rounded up any reference materials I need, I then start building a few compositions. Rough thumbnails usually get jotted down in my sketchbook while more finished concepts get worked out on crescent board or some other strong archival paper. Once I have a good idea of where I’m going with the piece, I will then scan the pencils into Photoshop and start thinking about things like surface, color, and visual flavor.
I typically use a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet in combination with Photoshop CS5, but occasionally I’ll use Corel Painter 11 since it’s brush and media emulators are better at surface blending and wet paint simulation. For an ink & wash piece like a map or The Frog Price, I usually brush my inks over top of my scanned pencils and then paint my color layers in a loose watercolor manner underneath the black line work.
If I’m taking a more painterly approach, on the other hand, then I’ll build my brush strokes in a manner similar to the way I use traditional paint. I tend to fixate on naturalistic textures and as a result try to emulate traditional techniques while benefitting from the speed and plasticity of the digital environment.
© Mike Schley, 2011.