Ruchira & Ipsita commission process

I recently published a commission piece to my galleries called Ipsita & Ruchira. I thought I’d share a little bit of the behind the scenes that goes into a commission.

The client contacted me and gave me a very detailed description of her characters, how they looked, thoughts on the background, and then let me go to town. She was very free about poses, how the characters would interact, and even allowed me to play with the costumes described. I’ve worked with clients who describe every nuance of the piece, and others who are happy to allow me a great deal of freedom. There are good and bad things about both types of commission, it’s just a matter of talking it through, and working through options!

At least one of the characters had been drawn before by several different artists (just because I was involved in a couple of communities where people had shown WIPs), so off I went to do a search for these. I know this sounds stalkerish, but it’s kind of like a cover artist having to paint a new version of a cover – it’s interesting to see what’s come before.  Sometimes a client will send me previous artist interpretations off their own back, or their own reference ideas, sometimes they just leave it up to me! Anyway, this is my background research of the character (I’ve included some of the links at the bottom of the post for those who are curious to see how one loose description can be interpreted differently by different artists and in different media). Because I knew the characters were D & D based, I also went off to do some research about the character types including various renditions of succubus characters. I’ve got some source books, I’ve dabbled with gaming (mostly on computers, but soon I’ll get to play some dice and paper versions with friends in the new year), I know that gamers like details.

Yes, yes, I know this seems really boring, but stay with me, there are pictures coming!

So then I start sketching. Initially I started in photoshop, but as you can see below, I wasn’t having much joy. The sketches seemed stilted, and just didn’t work. Sometimes this happens. (All images should link to slightly larger versions)

Sketches1I finally threw down the wacom in disgust, headed over to a photo stock site, and just trawled for inspiration. All I knew was I had to do slightly sexy poses (they are succubus after all), where their wings wouldn’t be awkward.  I printed off a whole stack of reference photos – small ones, and grabbed a pencil and paper and just drew. I did about three or four pages of just rough sketches that I could scan into the computer and play with.




The last two sketches were the ones we ended up going with. Anyway, I scanned each figure and then began playing with composites. Below is a copy of my working thumbnails. I was still having a rough time of getting a composition I liked, but I kept pushing, adding some values to the ones that I thought might work.


I sent off the 4 ‘completed’ thumbnails to the client to see if I could get some feedback. At this stage I was feeling really uncertain as to whether any would be suitable. Some commissions you just ‘know’ which one the client will like, with this one, I felt really clueless, not a great feeling. Yes, artists doubt themselves! Even if they’ve painted the subject matter dozens of times before.  At this stage I often discard the thumbnails I don’t want to work with – just because you know you’re either going to hate it when you paint it, or it’s just not going to ‘work’.


This is the one the client liked. So I started on the linework. I started getting references together, and began working in photoshop. I actually went a step further than I normally go as I’ve worked with this client before. I basically did linework plus most of the values. Most of the time I’ll just work the linework (some times I print out the thumbnail to A4 size, then on tracing paper work out the sketch with pencil and paper), but I felt comfortable enough to push this one further. I actually did two versions, one with an alternate head for the character on the right. I was worried she looked a little too ‘mean’.


I then did a colour test. Because the client had been specific about colours and mood, I only had two options to present. This is where doing a value sketch helps. I just took a small copy of the approved lineart, added a multiply and a colour layer, and then added colour over the top.


The client preferred the one on the right.

After this, it was a matter of painting in the details. I actually grabbed the layers from the colour test and resized them over the full sized lineart to act as an almost underpainting. I kept having to stop and get more references. I looked up cave fish, crystals, ermine fur, lanterns, caves, rocks, silk, leather … the list goes on! By the time I’d finished, I had about 400 reference images saved to hard drive. Admittedly half of them I probably discarded after the thumbnail stage.

Ruchira And Ipsita - Succubus character portraits

You can see the final painting with details in the gallery, or in the commission gallery

Check out more about my commissions at my commission page (includes rates) or contact me for a quote!

Previous versions of the character by different artists: