BTS: Miyamoto Musashi

Hey y’all! I announced last month on Instagram that I would be doing illustrations to support myself financially. After a week spent on my latest digital artwork, I’m happy to share Musashi: Tengan no Hana with the world. Musashi is my favorite Saber in the Fate/Grand Order universe, so I thought to pay tribute with a little fan art. Doing some behind-the-scenes work for this piece would be pretty cool, right?

We’ll start with the most important phase: sketching and conceptualizing. As someone who learned how to draw with traditional tools–pencil, pen, and paper–working digitally sometimes feels clunky by comparison. I bought my very first tablet and stylus more than a decade ago; back then, Manga Studio 4 was my software of choice. But that was a long time ago. Since I started practicing in March 2022, I’ve learned that my digital art skills were seriously lacking. Artistically, my advantage is a foundational understanding of illustration; learning new tools of the trade will always take some time.

I used a reference photo to roughly sketch what poses I was going for. Musashi was a solid drawing from the very beginning. Master/Fujumaru Ritsuka, on the other hand, gave me a lot of trouble. I made several passes at him before coming to some satisfaction. I almost never draw multiple people, and never have I drawn them so…entwined. Once I finished, I began the line art.

Line art took longer than I hoped it would. I drew using Clip Studio Paint, which is the successor to Manga Studio. Clip Studio is much closer to Photoshop than I expected. Sketchbook Pro, the software I’ve used for many years, is good but doesn’t boast vector capabilities. I looked forward to drawing with vectors for clean lines, but learning how to do it required a lot of YouTube and manual references. Controlling line weight and adjusting errors are very helpful features.

After I was happy with the line art, I colored the characters. In Sketchbook Pro, I was used to coloring all in one layer or merging several layers to complete my work. In Clip Studio, I created separate folders for Musashi and Master’s colors. Each folder contained subfolders for Body Color and Hair Color. Each subfolder was further divided into Occlusions/Shadows; Skin Pigments/Tones, and Highlights. The layering gets more complex depending on my needs, but the real challenge was keeping track of the layers! Clip Masking became my favorite aspect of the program at this stage, as I could color in one layer without affecting the rest of the canvas.

I proceeded to create the background after coloring characters. I sketched out an idea I had for this early on in the process, but I gave up when realizing I lacked the time, skill, and willpower to make a beautiful screen background for this room the characters were in. Looking for Edo-Period Japanese art, particularly work created when Musashi was still alive, was a difficult process because I specifically wanted green mountains. I was fortunate to find Waves at Matsushima, which is old enough to be public domain artwork. Throw in a Gaussian Blur and it’s perfect! The real trick was painting the tatami mat in the corner: I used the Pointillism brush in Clip Studio, changed the stroke density and rotated the canvas to paint, alternating between brown shades until I was happy with the result. The bed and pillow took several passes, but once I learned how to illustrate fabrics, it became fun.

Finally, the piece needed heavier shadows and lights. I knew I wanted a sunset color wash, and that light would becoming from the screen door on the left. I used a gradient to cover the entire image, then Multiply layer to darken my shadows. A Soft Glow layer allowed me to add the stray light beams, ambient light, and dust particles. My characters had their highlights accentuated towards the door.

There are plenty of things I can continue fixing in this photo, but I think it’s time I move on to another piece. I learned a lot during this process. This is the best illustration I’ve ever done. I am very happy with the result, and I hope to receive your support as I keep growing. If you are a fan and would like a commission, please email me at pvcwaifus@gmail.com, or hit me up on social media.

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