Concept art study - "I'm not alone"

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Today here's a slightly different bit of work than usual...

 This started as a simple exercise in abstraction: build up a textured background from various diluted out colors and fill up the whole canvas. The idea is that i'm hoping the different tones and brushstroke shapes will suggest a few ideas...

I keep building up the canvas but I have, at this point, no idea of what am going to paint. Once I was happy with the background I decided to build up shapes in the background. I used darker colors and just started applying them without much purpose. I did the shapes bellow and let the painting sit like this for a few hours, not looking at it...

Once I returned to the painting, I saw that he shape suggested a tree branch, so I dediced to go with the idea of a backlit dark forest scene. 
I, removed the branch and lightened the whole centre of the painting with paint, adding quick brush strokes from the top right to bottom left. This will suggest some light breaking through the highest branches in the background of the painting.

I then started the process of building the scene from the background to the foreground. As with previous paintings, I use darker and darker values using my background color as a basis. This is the part I enjoy most as it sets up a scene for the final piece.
I added a big blocking element on the right, sweeping from the top. The trees going into the background follow the same slope but they're getting more vertical as they fade in the back. This helps create a focus point right a the root of the tree in the foreground. This will most likely suggest a focal element in the painting later on.
I also added a large blocking tree on the right for another element of focus in the painting. This will help me as it gives me a choice of using the right or left for my focus point (or both!)

Again, I let the piece sit for an hour, not looking at it (this is VERY important) and came back to it.
Looking back at the piece there's a clear movement suggested: from the top left to the tree on the right. It looks like the tree on the right will be the location for the main point of focus of the scene and the tree on the right will be recipient/source... 
Since the scene had a gloomy feel, reminiscent of the Walking Dead series, I decided to add zombie-like figures. This creates a tension in the scene already, as you cannot see the figures properly but can clearly identify as threatening. I use small light dots to suggest their eyes. It creates a feel of unease, eyes aren't supposed to glow, and helps suggest where they're looking. How the scene plays out now depends on what is going on, on the right hand side of the picture: another zombie, someone running away, resting or just stumbling on the zombies by accident

After thinking about it, I thought the scene would be even stronger if the zombies where instead 'the victims' in the scene ; so I used the character of Michonne in the Walking Dead. Anyone who's seen the show knows she's not one to run from them and will possibly hunt them if she needs to.  This create a really strong scene now as we have a pretty clear idea of what is going to happen next.

Finally I added some details to close in the scene. Notice I didn't add a lot highlights though, just a few to suggest the twisting shapes of trees and rocks. However I didn't detail the edges or bottom of the picture ; the action happens in the center of the picture so that's where the details should be.
That's about it. Thanks for reading this and if you liked these tutorials, don't forget to check out my Patreon page too:


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