Earlier last year, I was commissioned to paint a couple of historical backdrops for LifeWay Kids. I was asked to paint an exterior of a Temple and an interior of a Palace from biblical times. These backdrops were to be used with paper dolls so that kids could play out historical scenes. Neither of these were to be based on actual buildings, so I had freedom to make up my own buildings. This was such a fun project that let me explore architectural design without the addition of figures.
Published by LifeWay Kids, December 2016.
Like all my projects, I began with research. If I wanted to make historically accurate paintings I had to do my homework. Because photography didn't exist back then, I couldn't look at photos for architectural information. Instead, I primarily looked at what other other time period masters like Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema and Jean-Léon Gérôme have painted. These gave me some great inspiration for architecture, patterns, and lighting.
Using my inspiration as references, I imagined two scenes that would fill the long format of the compositions. I decided to use pillars as structural elements to fill the space and create depth.
For architectural scenes like these, it was important that my perspective be worked out. I don't often use 3D models, but for something like this it was asset in building structurally sound designs. It allowed me to build my scenes and then move around the camera to find the most interesting angles.
Value Sketches and Color Studies
After I built my 3D models I drew my Value Sketches which I then sent to the client for approval. I used only basic lighting in my models, not relying on any high tech rendering. Instead I used my knowledge of light and shadow to create a sense of atmosphere in the scenes. Using my value sketches as a base, I then overlaid colors digitally to create my color studies.
Putting all my information together, I then transferred my sketches onto their boards and completed the paintings in oils. This was a great exercise in architectural design and historical recreation!