How Echo Chernik created a beautiful chocolate-inspired portrait

To ensure the pose was as physically accurate as possible, Echo set up a shoot with a body model, who's acrobatic contortions allowed Echo to capture a beautiful hip shape.

 

"I still used this only as reference, because no woman could stand with her hip perched as such an angle," she notes. "That is the difference between 'drawing' and simply painting from life.

"I've learned from studying art history and years of practice, that with enough skill, you can make a drawing stronger by granting it a certain level of impossibility -- and life is not always the ideal.  The viewer will accept it, as long as it looks right, and it becomes an even stronger piece.  Her hip, perched at such an angle, to hold forth the tray, is amplified in its sexy curves."

The piece's colour palette of blue and red was designed to integrate with the shop's overall scheme.

"The exact hues were left to my discretion," says Echo. "The store is located in upstate New York, where deeper alizarin crimson and darker blues are more accepted -- as opposed to the tropical palette that is popular where I live in Florida. So, I went with a deeper blue, with a touch of indigo, and bright, chocolate-covered cherry reds to deep crimson (my favourite colour).  [Tara's] hair is slightly different in hue than the chocolate colour that I used for the piece. The concept was to have it swirl down and around like vats of creamy chocolates."

To create the artwork, Echo first drew the outline in pencil on vellum, then scanned it in and began painting in Photoshop.

"Over the last few years, I've started using fewer and fewer layers, and treating the piece like an actual painting (with one to five layers at a time)," she says. "This happened primarily when I switched from the Intuos tablet to the Wacom Cintiq 21UX, which allows for a much more 'painting on a canvas' workflow."

Once the painting was about half-finished, Echo brought it over to Illustrator, also importing the sketch. Using a clipping mask to lock the figure's postion, she began creating the vector elements -- moving backwards and forwards between Photoshop and illustrator to create and manipulate the painted figure and vector elements.

To ensure everything ties together, Echo has two monitors flanking the Cintiq. One has reference materials, while the other shows the current state of the artwork in Photoshop when she's working on the piece in Illustrator on the Cintiq -- or vice versa. The final step was the import everything into Photoshop, flatten and rasterise and then add a few extra painted elements.

"The biggest challenge was composing the chocolates," says Echo. "Chocolates are a little tedious to draw. I used the Gradient Mesh tool to achieve the silky feeling of the chocolate. I tend to use the Gradient Mesh only on occasion. The highlights, shadows and forms are done as layered vector objects."
 
Echo says that it's important use all of Photoshop's and Illustrator's and tools.

"There are several different ways to achieve the same effect -- and many people gravitate towards one, and stay there -- but each will have a slightly different effect," she says. "Depending on how you want to manipulate it down the line, or if you're looking for subtle differences, you may find that one way of executing the effect will work slightly better in one instance and another will work better in another instance."

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