Discover the amazing composition and attention to detail that went into Fenghua Zhong's conceptual piece, Juezhan with this sneak peek look inside the pages of Digital Art Masters: Volume 8
Starting a new image
When starting a new image, my goal is to convey the mood that I have imagined into a painting. Juezhang is a piece I made for a Chinese game called Sword Heroes Fate. I was given a rough description of how the image should look. The idea was to paint an epic final battle ending a long, bloody feud between factions of an ancient Chinese martial
I started by brain-storming words and phrases that would fit the scene, like ‘bloody', ‘ancient vendetta', ‘a corrupt imperial court's exploitation', ‘faction's last resort', ‘total annihilation' and so on. I then found a common thread running through these in order to find a story for the image.
The story grew into a tale set at a breaking point in society, where powerful, ancient martial arts factions have joined together to rise up against the corrupt imperial court.
However, the imperial court has exploited old vendettas between the factions to create internal conflicts, crippling the uprising by using their power against them. The image depicts the conclusion of the conflict, a time when the factions and the imperial court have put an end to all of the hatred.
Color and composition
During the initial stages, I started to paint in color blocks to find the overall mood of the painting. I chose a warm palette of reds, oranges and yellows in the clothing and environment to create a sense of pressure and anxiety (Fig.01).
When painting the details, I varied the hues in the colors in order to age the objects like the clothing, to suggest that the fighters have been through many battles. Varying the hue, saturation and brightness of colors also makes the overall painting richer. For the background, I employed a cooler palette composed mainly of blues, suggesting the desolate, cold reality of the battle.
While in the process of finding the right colors, I considered the composition of the image. Since this was the final battle, the scene needed to be hectic with a lot movement in different directions.
I used angles within the image to create movement and show the volatile nature of the battle (Fig.02).
These also created spiritual connections within both the imperial court and the assembly of martial arts factions, who were now unified (Fig.03 – 04).
I also took the power disparity into account when deciding the composition. Facial expressions and body language show who is the aggressor and defender, while the direction of the flying guillotine (Fig.05) creates momentum and a connection between the two forces in battle, as well as guiding the eye of the viewer.
I designed the imperial fighters as assassins, wearing light clothing and armor for agility and mobility. Their weapon in the legendary Chinese Qing dynasty was the flying guillotine, as it is agile and suits the image of an assassin.
As they are from the imperial court, their clothing is made of expensive materials like silk and is more uniform, demonstrating that they are trained professionals. The colors they wear are dynamic and restless as they are the shadows of the imperial court, masters of sabotage, assassination and open combat, employed to suppress the discords of the rebellion.
On the other hand, the rebels are amassed from different martial arts factions. I depicted this diversity by varying the design and color of their clothing and weapons, and the weight of their armor (Fig.06 – 07).
Once I had figured out the main composition and color of the piece, I considered the lighting. I tried to direct the eye of the viewer to a specific area. In this image, I used the strongest areas of lighting and contrast to accentuate
I feel that there are areas which could be improved upon. The overall color palette could be more balanced for example, and the composition of the subjects could also potentially benefit from more balance to add rhythm. On the whole, I enjoyed painting the piece and learned more about painting light in busy scenes.