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In a total of six pieces, Digital Artist Vladislav Andonov transforms some of his simple environment thumbnails into stunning final products using classic techniques. Don’t miss out on this instructive breakdown that proves returning to the basics never fails.

  1. Values Warm-Ups
  2. Impact of Composition Solutions
  3. Lighting Perspectives
  4. Color Techniques
  5. Interior Shots

Hello! My name is Vladislav Andonov and I’m from Bulgaria. My love of art started about 10 years ago. Since there are no specialized schools for the entertainment industry in my country, I built my education and fundamentals through self-instruction. I believe in constantly learning! I currently make illustrations for book covers, plus a few small concept tasks for an indie game as well.

“The Museum” Vladislav Andonov’s final piece from a CGMA-sponsored workshop. Check out the Fundamentals of Environment Design course if you want top-quality instruction and feedback on similar projects.

1. Values Warm-Ups

Giles made some good points about the importance of values for a good image read and introduced value design as part of the composition process. Value design was very interesting and gave me an entirely new perspective when analyzing images.

Giles introduced me to classical rules, used by old masters. They were new to me, but they were interesting and gave me more possibilities in composition.

Vladislav Andonov, Digital Artist

From the stack of images available I worked through four in total. I did the low key and high key value studies. My notes of what attracted my attention and why I choose them are scribbled on the image.

2. Impact of Composition Solutions

If you don’t know how to start a drawing, try thumbnails. It was such a fun and easy exercise. The images happen quickly and there is no need to worry about mistakes. In minutes you’ll have a variety of ideas to pick from and variations to explore in values. It is good, if possible, to solve most of the composition problems at this stage.

I didn’t have any idea of what I was going to draw so I relied on lots of “happy accidents”. What I did was let my hand explore shapes, then look for any scenes based on anything that came to my imagination. Once I had an idea, I pushed and pulled elements to fit basic compositional rules, like the rule of thirds. I did add and change shapes to support the area of interest.

In order to explore some alternative versions, I also pushed some of my ideas further. It didn’t matter if I changed it completely. I was looking for an interesting and better solution. In case you get stuck on an idea, Giles shared some of his clever tricks to break this moment. A few of my thumbnails were created using this method.

I admit as a self-taught artist I may be missing knowledge or techniques. I suppose even with an art education I couldn’t know everything right? Classical rules, used by old masters, that Gilles introduced were new to me, and they gave me more possibilities in composition.

Above, you can see the beginning of my fisherman piece. The slopes of the trunks are following exact lines from the grid. The next slopes and the fishing rod are not placed exactly to the lines of the grid but they follow similar angles. All of these lines point to the character.

With Gilles’s help, I rethought the silhouette of the left and right sides. They were a bit similar in volume so cutting from the right side and adding to the left solved this issue.

Below, you can see how composition solutions impacted some of my other thumbnails.

Read “6 Steps to Master Illustration Composition: From Apartment Scenes to Ghoulish Posters” to focus on this stage.

3. Lighting Perspectives

For me, the challenge here was deciding which light scenario was best for a scene. We can play a lot with it and it can be used as a tool to support the composition or ruin it.

After creating six thumbnails of the fisherman scene with various lighting, I singled out three of my favorites: sunrise, sunset, and almost noon.

In example #2, the light rays are peeking behind the rock and hitting our character. He receives rim light on his silhouette and it creates a strong contrast in our area of interest. I make him easily noticeable. We can also follow the rim light down the hill and the lit river back up to him. In example #3 we have the opposite light play and an emphasized silhouette. Again easy and noticeable. There is a line on the left rock created by the light and shadows back to the character. In #6 we have a shadow from the trunk. My intention was to make the viewer follow the dark value of the shadows to the character. Here I noticed one more thing― I have a pointy tangent. Tangents like this have to be avoided.

4. Color Techniques

I would like to say I’m good at coloring… but unfortunately, I’m not. I’m crazy with my coloring techniques and can be destructive when I paint. I’m not a big fan of coloring from a black and white image. Usually, I start with a sketch and then straight to colors. But for this week I tried the techniques Gilles suggested. I’m always open to new stuff and I’m here to learn, after all. With some of my work it turned out nice but I made mistakes on others. I’m okay with that though! I learn by making mistakes.


Usually, I work better if I have an image for color reference. For this piece, I liked the monochromatic reference, but I added some blues and greens to balance the palette. This also emphasizes the two areas of interest.

Also in this stage of coloring, I still worked on the composition. I changed shapes, characters, added new elements, anything it needed.

With Gilles’s help, I redid a couple of things on my red planet exterior. I broke the majority of vertical lines as well as the rocks behind the main character. For the slope of the debris, instead of leading the viewer out of the frame, now it is in the opposite direction and I have an entrance that leads to the focal point.


For the next image, I used a coloring technique Gilles showed us. It turned out really smooth and I’m happy about that. I’ll definitely practice his techniques to master them. Again I had a couple of images for reference but his time I was picking colors by eye and not using the color picker.

I ended up needing to make a composition correction but ended on a strong note.


This next piece was a real pain in my butt. I chose to work from the original thumbnail. It has potential and I envisioned a gloomy look, but I made lots of mistakes during the coloring process.

Overall I shifted the main values down and lost the value structure from the thumbnail. Then I tried to save the image with different light. It could have been beautiful but it was not what was in my head. I guess at some point I gave up on this piece.

After the course, I returned to the Fisherman and simplified the lighting, ending with the result below.


Even though I was disappointed by the Fisherman’s fate, I was not discouraged. I drew one more from scratch during that week― a cold post-apocalyptic environment. It involved a more overcast day, with no direct sunlight and shadows.

Check out CGMA’s The Art of Color and Light course to learn even more techniques to make your palette more powerful.

5. Interior Shots


This week was a nice break but also a challenge since I don’t draw many interiors. For the first interior, I took a thumbnail from week 2. I liked it almost instantly. The design of the lines was very loose and organic. Some sort of sci-fi scene in a structure deep down under the water. I used the coloring techniques from Gilles and it went quickly.

The color choices were taken from bioluminescent sea creatures. In a complex scene with three light sources, I always deal with the main or dominant light first. Then, I take care of the second and third in strength. Keeping some order helped me not be confused with the lights in the scene. Gilles also provided good lessons that guided me this week.


For the second interior, I was inspired by classic shots from Film Noir. I like the triangle hierarchy of characters and had a clear idea of what I wanted to draw. I started with a  rough, loose sketch then jumped into values. I worked with Gilles’s lessons on light sources starting with the sun and bounced light from the floor. The red lamp was last.

Final Thoughts

My first course with CGMA was Fundamentals of Environment Design, but I decided to take Environment Painting & Design because I’m very interested in concept design. It was easy for me to choose Gilles Beloeil’s course as I’ve seen some of his work before and love the moods he creates and the way he plays with light.


CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.


“The Museum” is Vladislav Andonov’s final piece from a CGMA-sponsored workshop. Check out the Fundamentals of Environment Design course if you want top-quality instruction and feedback on similar projects.

Read “6 Steps to Master Illustration Composition: From Apartment Scenes to Ghoulish Posters” to focus on this stage.

Check out CGMA’s The Art of Color and Light course to learn even more techniques to make your palette more powerful.