Monday, December 30, 2013

Frost Giant Sketch

While reading Conan Volume 1 by Kurt Busiek & Cary Nord, I doodled this frost giant. Still loving the blue pencil!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Boxing Day Sketch

Something from yesterday. Non-photo blue pencil is a lovely way to begin a sketch: I see now why so many people swear by them.
This is from a 9x12 ecru sketchbook with cold press paper, which provides some tooth. The initial figure pose was roughed out in blue pencil, which helped me "discover" where the pose should be. Then the darker lines went on top, finalizing "suggestions" made in blue. Darker lines are in my trusty Micron .5 HB lead technical pencil.

I found myself paying particular attention to how her gear wraps around her body, and focused a lot on edges of things. Edges are crucial, and I don't think that's stressed enough in art instruction. Where one thing meets another really defines the material and structure of the objects, establishes overlap and lighting direction, and describes form.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rotting undead sketch

One of the pitfalls of working digitally is the ability to endlessly revise and second-guess. This can lead to endless hours of noodling. Beginning on paper can help start you off focused: you commit to decisions -- good or bad -- and follow through, because it's more difficult to alter than a purely digital image. Of course, once you get something down in pencil and scan it in, it's easy to revise, but some of that initial commitment remains I think. 

In any case, I'm sometimes surprised at how many alterations I make to sketches!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Character Building

Pira the Ifrit Sorceress
It's been a few weeks since I finished that last character commission. Here's the final result.
The hair was fun and interesting to work on, but I realized as I began painting it that I'd failed to account for it as a light source in my drawing. So I had to re-work a lot of the lighting in the image.
In order to keep her clear and legible, I kept her face illuminated and didn't cast it into shadow. I think it's an acceptable compromise. The skin was also a real challenge. Painting red skin can be tricky, because while you want it to be red, you also want it to have depth of color and still be luminous, otherwise your character looks like a brick. And you don't want it coming out pink either. I ended up using a lot of orange, with green in the shadows to make the redness pop more on the lighted areas. Also some extra sharp highlights helped.

Meanwhile, I also got in on's ChoW (Character of the Week) contest. Participating in those is a great exercise and a wonderful opportunity to get feedback and encouragement from fellow artists. Unfortunately, ConceptArt has been going through some growing pains, and the server's been offline more than not recently.
Anyway, the challenge theme was Fantasy Thief.
When I start thinking about a project, I often begin with the most ludicrous and annoyingly contrary idea from what my first reaction is. When I hear "thief", I immediately picture the standard "black cowl on the prowl". So instead, I took that idea and tried to do a 180-degree turn from it. I settled on the idea of the guy who sets up the heists, plans the job, forges the needed documents, etc. He's not dextrous or charismatic or even particularly sneaky looking. So here's The Fixer.
The Fixer
fig. 1: The Fixer preliminary sketch
My initial sketch (fig. 1) was fairly detailed and established his clothes and general body type. But the viewing angle of the pose did not excite me. Also he looked a tad too friendly.
fig.2: The Fixer, second revision
So I started over from a different angle, more overhead, which I thought might be interesting. (see fig. 2) With a strong light coming from the left and him looking up at the viewer, I felt like I'd mad the right decision: much more interesting. I also liked the loose brushstrokes, which relay a lot of energy. I made him heftier and rounder, and exaggerated his lace ruff more. Also, the gesture of his hands was enlivened and made a bit more confrontational, as if he's engaging the viewer with pen and paper -- a nice tie-in to his character.
fig.3: The Fixer, underpainting
 At this point, I had a nice foundation to work from, and I simply began to move around the image, tightening up areas of interest and making decisions about his gear. I also had to do a lot of editing with the Warp and Transform tools in Photoshop, in order to reinforce the angle. For example, the tubes on his belt were originally more vertical, and thus parallel to the picture plane, which didn't sit right with the angle I was trying to depict. (see fig. 3)
The final stages involved choosing the color scheme -- a cold blue light coming from back left, and a warm orange light from lower right. The contrast lends a nice air of intimacy and contrast. The colors were glazed on much like you'd do in oils, eventually building up to a more opaque finish in areas that needed it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Character Commission: Pira

Here's a nearly-complete greyscale for a commission I'm working on.

I'm really holding myself back from adding color, and trying to get the thing as complete as possible before adding color. I don't normally work that way: it's usually a much more chaotic process. But being able to just focus on values, anatomy, and costume design without fretting over color certainly makes this part a lot easier. My fear now is that as I add color I'll end up painting over everything.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Big Red

Here's the final image.
Big Red
"After many years of pillage and carefree overindulgence, her successes and excesses began to take their toll. And despite her unmatched skill in combat, there was one foe that she could never manage to defeat: her weight. Eventually people stopped calling her Red Sonja altogether, and simply referred to her as Big Red."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big Red Desktop

A progress shot of Big Red, a piece for the IFX Monthly Challenge. Weird. She looks a bit like Roseanne Barr to me. Anyway,  I wanted to post a shot of it before I inevitably screw it up.

Big Red progress.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


In anticipation of the new season, I've been re-watching Game of Thrones. Here's a little sketchy-sketch of Peter Dinklege as Tyrion, in armor, taken from a screen grab.

Friday, March 15, 2013

King of Clubs

Goblin King of Clubs.
Something for ChoW at The topic was to design a fantasy character based on a face card from a standard deck of cards: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds or Clubs, and either Jack, Queen or King.

While doing a little research, I learned that the suits represent the 4 castes of medieval society: Spades is Nobility, Hearts is Clergy, Diamonds is Merchant, and Clubs is Peasant. Armed with this tidbit, I decided that using a goblin to represent the peasant class would be sort of fun, if a bit elitist. (Sorry peasants!)

I also got hung up on the idea of a meat crown, so that happened.