Work in progress: “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard” ***UPDATE 4-1-19

I’m going to be detailing my working methods with this blog post regarding this new painting “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard”. As an experiment, I’ll be updating this particular article post as the painting progresses.

For the most part, I have been painting digitally since early 2018, using my iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil. My app of choice is Procreate. I do have several other apps and from time to time I used them for miscellaneous things. Such as I’ll use Affinity Photo to sometimes adjust the levels of some sketches for posting directly online from my iPad to social media and the like.

Other times, I’ll just want to get out of Procreate and work in a different app. Isn’t that kind of funny? I like the simplicity and how light weight Procreate feels. I’ve read online that Photoshop is coming to the iPad Pro and I’m very interested to see what the experience and file handling is like for digital painting. When I do work outside of Procreate, I find myself using Adobe Sketch. These first images here show my attempt at working up some really loose sketching, trying to hit something that captures my interest. The sketch of the lady just went nowhere for me. But, as I worked smaller and smaller, finally I hit upon something.


In the image above, the small thumbnail toward the upper right is where things just finally clicked for me. The app I’m using is Adobe Sketch.

Zoomed in 400%, you can see the basic, rough sketch of Caelestis. The sketch itself is tiny, but therein is where I finally hit upon a certain satisfaction sketch-wise.

The initial thumbnail then gets ported into Procreate, my app of choice for more detailed sketching and rendering. A quick side note here, I am currently fully drawing my Realm Ethereal comic book pages all within the Procreate app. Getting back to the topic at hand, here is the thumbnail now in Procreate.

Here is the tightened up sketch, fully rendered in Procreate.

As a bonus of sorts, I’m including a downloadable PSD file if you’d like to see my layers for this first stage of sketching. It’s not too involved, but you can check it out just to get an idea of how I work. Interesting note: you are limited in how many layers you can use in Procreate based on how large your canvas is. I’m also including a video time-lapse of the sketching phase. Enjoy!

As I mentioned, I’ll be updating this blog post as I progress further with this painting in the coming days. The next stage is a fully rendered greyscale painting. So check back in a few days (or subscribe to my email list and get notified when the next update happens) to see how things are coming along.

UPDATE: 3-25-19

The next phase of the painting involves working entirely in grayscale. It’s been quite some time since I’ve worked this way and when I did, it was using traditional media. Bringing it back for this painting is motivated by the fact that I am curious to add color using gradient maps in Photoshop. What I’ve done so far is leveraged my comfort painting in Procreate to do much of the heavy lifting in drawing and establishing value first hand.

So right of the bat, I’m delaying any colors. Instead, colors will be added using a totally different approach. I’m still a little nervous because I’m really comfortable with working in Procreate. I know Photoshop inside and out, but have never really used it to paint with. The adventure continues.
Caelestis fantasy art

UPDATE: 4-1-19

As I finish up this blog post, and after having completed the painting shown below, I’ve come to the realization that working in grayscale was of tremendous benefit to the outcome of this piece. After making the very first print, I could see how the time I spent working on my values really paid off in the end. But the other element that struck me was this: my color palette. Painting digitally, it’s so easy to use almost any color you can dial up on the color picker. But since I was “painting” color in Photoshop, I was able to see what I was not seeing before: how a limited color palette helps to unify a piece throughout.
Using the gradient map method in Photoshop was a bit of a struggle at first. And I’m sure I’m still going to learn a lot more the more I stick with it and pick away at the process. But, for the first time, I think this painting gets as close to what I would define as being ideal. Ideal in the sense that the composition clearly has the main subject in focus (the robed figure) with stark contrast to help keep the focus right on him. The background element of the bird, although busy with my mark making, is kept in check due to the values I had worked out beforehand in the grayscale painting.
To put things in perspective, I spent (according to the time clocked in the Procreate app) 14 hours and 33 minutes refining that grayscale painting. That’s a big deal, but in a good way. I was really able to focus on more of the drawing aspects in the grayscale since I was not worrying at all about color. I see the advantage in working in this fashion. The painting below is the final result. I’m excited to try the next painting I work on to see what the process reveals as I delve more into gradient maps and painting.
 “Caelestis, Ethereal Guard” is available in my online store as a limited edition, 17″ x 22″ art print.


No spam, just updates on what I’m working on, thinking about, and things I’m putting out into the world, like my Realm Ethereal online comic book.

I respect your privacy and won’t share or sell your info.


Realm-Ethereal.com and all contents of this website © Rene Arreola unless otherwise noted. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy.