In a faraway land, long ago…

I’ve used quite a few excerpts from Patreon to make up this post on what was to become my acrylic painting ‘Dragon Steps’ a homage to the classic 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty.


29th December 2018

…before Christmas I had decided to once again return to the plentiful land of Walt Disney and the film Sleeping Beauty. 

It was only back in May that I worked on a painting of Maleficent’s tower castle and I’m sure most of my supporters will know my admiration for the design and styling of that film along with most of the Disney output. While referencing that last painting I was struck by three or four scenes that I thought I would return and look at again at some later point. So it is back to Maleficent’s castle but this time the interior and in particular a scene where she descends to her dungeon to converse with Prince Phillip.

Screengrab from the film and some quick Photoshop layout changes.

You can see from the screengrab I took that it is very dark and brooding. The castle is obviously very old and the dark tone offsets the fact that there are a lot of colours going on underneath the surface. In the scene you have a light source coming from further down the stairs but also from above, neither are strong sources of light.

I thought I’d expand on the scene as seen and and decided to make some changes to accommodate what I had in mind. I want the light source to mainly come from below so that Maleficent is walking from the gloom down to the light, this will mean I can add in a long casting shadow of the character back up the wall. I got rid of the just seen archway at the bottom of the stairs to open up the extent of the light source. In general I thickened up the pillars and adjusted the angles slightly. The pillar on the far right being the most obvious as I didn’t want its archway to then come into the picture as it does in the actual screengrab but I did want it still there to help frame off the light coming from below. The stairs in the film are somewhat higgledy and the steps lower down are of different sizes. I decided to make them a bit more standardised and also to drop their position to make them appear steeper. This in conjunction with the angle of the steps I added to the left help give the staircase a much better sense of depth and height as if she descending into the bowels of the castle.

Digital layout pencils done in Photoshop

It’s important to get the basics of this right and I’ve spent a good bit of time yesterday and today sorting out the rough of just the castle, after all it is the majority of what is going to be the painting. I quickly coloured the rough to help keep me straight as to how I want the light to work. I’m happy with how this is looking so I’m going to move onto pencilling the piece and at that point I will add in Maleficent, Diablo her raven and the shadow caste by them.


Traditional pencils

7th January 2019

During the holidays I started work on a new Sleeping Beauty piece and this past weekend I took the chance to pencil up the painting and transfer it onto a board ready to get painting.

You’ll see I’ve added in Maleficent and her long (dragon) shadow, Diablo her pet raven and given the crumbling brickwork some more character. I’m planning on painting this in acrylic but with the latest Commando cover taking precedence then I’m hoping that I can perhaps find and hour or two in the evenings to make a slow start to this. Hopefully doing a little bit while concentrating on the paid work will keep my mind on the painting and not feel like I’ve got to rush through it when the Commando cover is finished.


First washes over painted acrylic pencils

14th January 2019

I was determined to make a start to this painting over the weekend and although I didn’t get as many hours in front of the board as I wanted (I never do) I did managed to begin. The majority of the time was spent painting in the pencils again in acrylics. This is as boring as it sounds and takes no small amount of time but it does afford you the ability to make some minor changes which I did with the dragon shadow. If I had started to add washes of acrylic on top of the pencils without first painting them in again they would’ve quickly disappeared. Often when I do this I paint in the pencil work in roughly the colour I think I will then be painting the area in. So for example a lot of it was painted in various shades of grey and blue but on the right hand side I painted a lot of the steps in a medium green.

Having finished the pencils (again) I then set to adding in washes of colour over the whole piece building up colour and tone. This is very much like using watercolours and you can make it do some similar effects but I just want to keep building up the layers until I get to a level I’m happy with then I will start to add in some detailing.

So far I’m keeping the palette very limited having used Payne’s Grey, Cerulean Blue, Sap Green, Ultramarine and Zinc Mixing White and I reckon that will be the colours for the majority of the painting. I will add in some others but only in smaller amounts.


Building up the layers on the brick work

18th January 2019

I spent the day working on castle walls keeping to the colours I mentioned before. Ultramarine with Payne’s Grey for the blue colour coming in from the top left and all the ‘faces’ that look onto that direction. A mixture of Cerulean Blue and Payne’s Grey mixed with Sap Green for the sides that are being lit by the glow at the bottom of the stairs. 

At the moment I’m being put off by the untouched steps at the top and the fact that I need to do more work on the walls above it. So the next session, hopefully over the weekend, I will concentrate on sorting that out.


Top steps and the dragon take shape

21st January 2019

This was what I’d managed to get done over the weekend, essentially as planned I painted in the steps nearest to the viewer, added more tone to the wall above and painted in the shadow of the dragon. At the moment I think I’ll need to darken up the head of the dragon but today I’ve been working on the green of the lower stairs.

I’m at that frustrating point where I’m not happy with things but I know I just need to keep going and it’ll come together. I’m not happy with the work I’ve done today anyway so maybe it’s best that you are seeing the weekends progress rather than todays. More work on it tomorrow should hopefully sort out my issues.


Filling in those lower greens

22nd January 2019

Well the trouble with painting at a larger size is that it’s taking more time 🙂 I always hit a point in a painting when I know that I’m well past the half way mark and that it is maybe not quite the home stretch but I can envisage the end.

Getting that first stab at the lower green walls and steps was hard going. I mistakingly decided to add Emerald into the green mix but quickly spotted my mistake and swapped to adding Lemon Yellow in with the Sap Green to get the right shade I was after. Still lots to be done on it but I know the base is right and with it the painting is coming together.

Tomorrow I’m going to do more detailing and with the majority of the board covered I’m going to start sorting out some tonal issues. And I want to add some random strokes and some light colour changes (small blobs) in places to help break up the monotony. All of this has been painted without any Black as I want only the characters of Maleficent and Diablo to be painted in Black to help them stand out from the dank interior walls. So there is more washes of mixed Payne’s Grey and either Ultramarine or Sap Green to be added to help get the tonal balance right.


Diablo and Maleficent start to appear

23rd January 2019

Good session today, lots done although you might not be able to tell comparing this to yesterdays post. But I did a lot of tonal changes today and added in more random detailing on the walls. I still think I might need to add yet another wash of Payne’s Grey on certain places but I’m pretty happy. Finally got the Mars Black out and painted in Diablo and started on Maleficent before time ran out.

All being fine I reckon I will finish the painting tomorrow then it might be best to let it sit for a day so I can check on anything I’ve missed on want to change before scanning it in. 


The physical painting finished

24th January 2019

It’s done! I finished painting it this morning, sat with it for a few hours and then realised I’d missed of Maleficent staff! Doh! So with that added I painted on my little ‘R’ signature and removed the masking tape. Pretty sure the painting side of this piece is done and dusted and all I need to do now is scan it in and tidy it up.

I’d always planned to paint in the three ‘glowing’ dots of the following fairies but I’m not sure you’ll have spotted that throughout showing the work in progress? Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are sneakily following Maleficent down into the dungeons but of course her dragon shadow has its eye, mouth and claw on them. I fully intend to enhance the fairies glow power in Photoshop once it is scanned in.

By pure coincidence, while looking online at title logo designs for Sleeping Beauty, I’ve noticed that it will be the 60th anniversary of the films release next Tuesday. I honestly hadn’t intended to paint this image in recognition of that date but it seems somewhat apt now.

While painting this piece it became quite apparent that I was running out of acrylic paints. Many of the tubes I own are quite old and have dried up through age so after I finished painting I went online to my art supplier of choice and ordered a nice big pile of acrylic paints. Luckily they’re having a January sale on acrylic paints so the pennies spread further and I could order more than I intended and some new brushes. Being able to order paints like this comes down to having your support. Seriously, apart from using your pledges to pay for postage on the postcards recently I’ve saved up the last few months pledge money and blown it on supplies. You guys keep me going. No exaggeration, and I hope you’re enjoying what I’m painting with your support!


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