How to reimagine a classic painting

08. Populating the background

ophelia step 8

I move around the background, which keeps my eye fresh and avoids over-detailing of certain areas, and start to add algae, leaves, grass and lilies.

I use a transparent Calligraphy brush to create shapes of green and flowers and add detail with the Detail Oil Brush on 15 per cent Transparency.

I combine large and small strokes for visual variety. This also adds depth to the image.

09. Ophelia's face

ophelia step 9

I want to depict Ophelia as if she's daydreaming, so I keep her eyes open and suggest she's more alive than dead. I use my base palette of pale skin tones, then add background colours for the shadows.

I paint the eyes, lips and face details with a Detail Oil brush set to a small diameter and on 15 per cent Opacity. I use a medium Wet Acrylic brush for the skin tone and texture.

10. Painting hands

ophelia step 10

Ophelia's hands are prominent in Millais's art. I decide to place them underwater, but am not happy with the results.

A few photo references of my own help, and I paint the hands with the Calligraphy brush and small highlights with the Detail Oils brush.

I paint a new version of her hands under the old one and add some white and green tints to cover them like a water ripple.

11. Dress making

ophelia step 11

The clothes are a challenge because a lot of Ophelia's dress is underwater. I paint the corset, capturing its shape and materials with the Calligraphy brush using a mix of skin and water colours.

Then I add folds of materials using the Detail Oils brush on a small diameter. I create drapery shapes that follow the body’s curves. I want the dress to have a fantasy feel to it.

12. Adding volume to the skirt

ophelia step 12

Pre-Raphaelite artists were adept at using light and shadows to generate a particular mood, and I want to do the same in my image, specifically on the skirt.

I pick the Calligraphy Brush and start to create volume. I work with big strokes, combine pale white, grey and marine blue, and paint quickly, focusing more on the light and shadow interactions on the dress.

13. Finishing touches

ophelia step 13

A large lily on the dress breaks up the expanse of white, and also acts as a tribute to the original art. It'll be in the foreground so it needs to be full of detail.

I use Calligraphy and Detail Oil brushes on 15-25 per cent Transparency. I paint the leaves and petals with the Wet Acrylic brush. A clear white with 5 per cent Transparency is perfect for water drops on the lily.

14. Smoothing and colour correction

ophelia step 14

I smooth everything using Painter's Blender tools, relax the shape of Ophelia's lips, and add more glints in her eyes. Then I take the image into Photoshop, duplicate it and set Vibrance to 75 and Saturation to -75.

Then I select Levels and type in 20, 1 and 222. I change the layer mode to Soft Light with Transparency at 14 per cent. My colours are now deep and rich.

Words: Katarina Sokolova

Katarina has been painting digitally since 2000, and has worked in the book illustration, advertising and video game industries. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 112.

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