Sesame Street Drama

yip yip tenebrism sesame street

Tenebrism is one of my favorite art concepts! The only problem is I get a little heavy handed with my shading. So for this month’s project, which centers on tenebrism and chiaroscuro, I wrangled that urge to make every shadow pitch black. (If you missed my last blog, there’s a quick overview of tenebrism vs. chiaroscuro.)

I knew I wanted to paint something in grayscale and overlay the color. That way I could focus on the values and get the contrast just how I wanted it. But what to paint?? I scrolled and scrolled through old projects and sketches and there it was. The Yip Yips. 

sesame street yip yip sketch

I don’t even remember why I drew them, but they were already shaded, ready for tenebrist drama. They just needed something to look at. At first I thought I could plunk a candle down and have my single light source and get to work, but it just didn’t feel right. The Yip Yip martians were always trying to figure out some sort of technology like a phone or a radio. The solution? Use technology to figure it out!

Since I was streaming, I used MixItUp to help out. My prompt command pulls an adjective, noun, and verb to give my something to draw, but I also have each one of those broken out into commands of their own. I hit that noun command until it gave me something that could work. Eventually it gave me cake, which made me think of cupcakes, and who doesn’t love a cupcake?? Plus I could plunk a candle in the top and still have the original idea. Sure, it’s not technology, but baking is all chemistry and that’s pretty amazing too!

sesame street yip yip sketch with cupcake

A few quick adjustments to the sketch and we’re off to the races! Next, I mapped everything out with three gray tones (light, medium, dark) and blended it all together. I wanted some different textures, so the martians were blended with a hair texture brush, the cupcake and table with the regular blender, and the eyes with the blur tool. 

yip yip digital painting grayscale tenebrism

This is the part where I changed course. The original plan was to use the Rubens color set and make this a Baroque-style painting, buuuuut… I couldn’t bring myself not to make the Yip Yips pink and blue. So the color set went out the window, but I did use one of the browns for the background!

yip yip digital painting tenebrism

After overlaying the color, the shadows were a bit washed out. There are a bunch of ways to deal with this, but I took the quick and dirty option. I used the airbrush tool and (gently!) swiped black over the darkest areas and it picked up those spots that really needed to be dark shadows. 

yip yip tenebrism sesame street

Now that it’s all balanced out better, we can call it done! Sort of? Sorry, but for me it’s just not dark enough! It’s chiaroscuro, but not tenebrism. For the sake of this article, and my heart’s desire for blackness, I corrected the contrast on the exported file.

yip yip digital art sesame street

Aaaaah, that’s better! And it still doesn’t go as dark as half my other stuff! I was 100% determined to do this in one sitting – and I did. It took six hours and I could spend another six picking at all the things my brain can’t unsee. But I think it was a good exercise in contrast and I’m pretty happy with it – yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip uuuuuh huh!