pictures and words by paul mccall

October 2018
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Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 01
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 1:55 pm

This is a new category for the blog. Here I will show the progression of a fantasy portrait. A Fantasy Portrait as I offer them is this; choose a scene from a book, TV show, film or any other area and I will paint you into it using photo reference I shoot or you provide. I’ve done this a few other times. A Farscape portrait, a Space Marine and a few others.

This couple chose the TV show “Firefly” and wanted to be painted as a pair of characters against a shipboard setting. After looking through lots of images from the show I chose the engine room and some representative shots of the characters in costume. From that I developed a starting sketch.

After getting their approval on the sketch (I showed them two different ideas and they chose this one) we set up a photo shoot. They arrived in clothing as close to the character costumes as possible. That’s important as it helps with the lighting on the wrinkles of folds in the clothing. Here are a few of the shots.


After the photos were shot we all three viewed them in the computer (digital photography has made this step so much simpler!) and they chose the shots that best reflected what they wanted for each individual. As almost always happens one shot would be good for one person but not the other and vice versa. Using Photoshop I cut each figure out and placed them together into one image on top of the engine room photo.


From this I developed a line drawing and emailed it to the couple.


After their approval I transferred it to a 3 foot by 4 foot canvas which I had drawn a grid upon for that purpose. I used spray-fix to set the pencil drawing to the canvas in anticipation of the next step.


The engine room scene is an overall brown tone so I made up a thin brown wash and covered the entire canvas.


While waiting for that thin coat to dry sufficiently to paint on I took a shot of the reference stand set up. I use an older Apple laptop and an auxiliary screen to display the reference photos. This set up allows the reference to be back-lit by the light of the screen. Much more satisfactory than a paper print. I also stained a scrap of canvas the same brown to place under my glass mixing palette so the colors mixed there will look the same when placed on the canvas.

One Response to “Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 01”

  1. Dan Says:
    Wow, seeing this come along is great! Amazing work, can’t wait to see it completed.