RPG Half body and tinted lineart commissions

Another post showing examples of the work I do for the 1/2 body and tinted digital full body sketches. Commission information can be found on my commission page. They are normally around $150 US dollars and painted at about 8.5 x 11.5" @ 300dpi (2480 x 3508 pixels).

Digital Walkthrough – Dragon Thrall

From April 2007.  Nowadays I tend to completely work in Photoshop CS, but many of the techniques are the same no matter the software. This is a fairly rambly post as it's taken from notes I made while painting. This is NOT the way I work for client work!!!!! This was a personal face study that I built a painting around. I now plan things!

This painting was completely unplanned. It started out as a gothic vampire piece… ended up something completely different! These are some of the notes I posted to LiveJournal while painting, and subsequently featured in February 2008’s EMG-Zine.

Normally it’s a good idea to plan a painting. You should work out your composition details, color schemes, lighting sources and other technical details, but sometimes it’s more fun just to get in there and paint! Some of my best paintings have been the result spontaneity, experimentation and sheer desperation to fix a mistake! It started out as an exercise in skin tones, turned into a modern vampire piece and ended up having dragons! Hopefully you’ll learn a few things about why planning can be useful, as well as why it can also be fun to follow the rambling path your muse sets you on!

A few thoughts on digital art and painting software:

There is a plethora of information on digital art available online. This article isn’t a basic A+B=C tutorial. It’s more a discussion on the creative process I employ while painting digitally. For this article you will need a basic understanding of Adobe Photoshop or similar software and have access to a digital graphics tablet (or be really good with a mouse!). Access to Corel Painter would be handy too, however you can get similar effects in Photoshop with a bit of experimentation and practice.

I use Photoshop and Painter together. I’m not going to argue about which one’s better – because frankly it’s like comparing a banana with a pineapple! They’re both graphic software programs, however they’re designed for completely different purposes. Photoshop is an editing tool which you can paint with. Painter is purely designed for painting, with a few editing tools thrown in. With each new incarnation the blurring of these definitions decreases. I’m sure that if you experimented enough, you could probably get the result you want in either software.

Setting up the canvas

I started the painting as an exercise in skin tones. I hadn’t worked in Painter for a while and thought it was time to flex those painting muscles again. Unfortunately some versions of Painter can cause files to corrupt in native Painter file format (pre-version 5), so I recommend that you either create your file in Photoshop first, or save the files in Photoshop format (*.PSD extension)

Just started painting a face, based on a reference photo of Selina Fenech 

Just started painting a face, based on a reference photo of Selina Fenech 

Just like painting on paper or canvas, a blank canvas can be very intimidating. I always lay down a color of some type on the background layer just because it’s something to start with. When you plan a painting it’s a good idea to think about the lighting in regards to the background. If you are painting a scene which is sunny, then a warm yellow or warm blue might be a good choice. If you’re thinking about a night scene then start with a dark indigo or a cool blue. If it’s in a forest you may want to think about a green, while a snow-filled landscape may require a pale lavender-blue color.

As I said, this was a practice for skin tones so I decided on a dark maroon to pick up the dark tones in the hair (I’d planned on painting a redhead). Most of the time I apply a lighting filter, or a gradient to make it more interesting – kind of give it a focal point.

The first character I sketch on a separate layer to the background/ canvas. When painting directly onto the computer with a graphics tablet I generally start with a few lines to work out the placement of the head, eyes, mouth, nose and ears. I then work out a few ‘base’ colors that I will use for the skin. I place ‘dabs’ of the color I use regularly somewhere on the canvas:

  • A mid pinky-brown color – the base color
  • A pale yellow/ pink color for highlights
  • A redder tone of the base color used for cheeks and nose area
  • A purple version of the base color for shadowing
  • A darker brown-pink for the deep shadows
  • A light pink-purple (not shown) for blending in areas where the skin is fine and the veins show through.
My colour palette - I tend to try an paint with less grey tones and more vibrant tones

My colour palette - I tend to try an paint with less grey tones and more vibrant tones

In later versions of Painter you get a tool called a ‘mixer’ where you can place dabs of colour and create variants using the mixing tools. If you are having difficulties with colours try using the colour picker on real photographs and see what ‘real’ skin colours look like. You’ll probably be quite surprised!

Once I have the colours and some lines down I begin to paint. For this face I used Painter’s digital Airbrush set at about set at about 10% opacity, 100% Resat, 0% bleed and 0% jitter. I vary the brush size from about 150, right down to 2 or 3.
I spent about 2 hours to get to this stage.

Lips details

Lips details

 

A few notes on skin tones:

  • Every person has a different skin tone and texture – we’re not all a standard ‘flesh tone’, straight from the tube
  • Men and women also have slight variations in colouring
  • Different nationalities have different skin tones. Some have ruddy complexions, others a yellow undertone, while some have dark skin. Study photographs, place them next to each other and note the differences
  • Skin tones reflect the colours around them. If you are wearing a purple shirt, you will get some reflection under your chin depending on the lighting. If you are standing next to a yellow wall, the side facing the wall will reflect the yellow.
  • The colour of the lighting impacts on skin highlights and shadows. If you use a yellow light, the shadows of the skin are generally the complementary colour (in this case purple).
I don't know the origin of this picture, but this is the kind of stuff described in Don Seegmiller's book (if you know the source, let me know)

I don't know the origin of this picture, but this is the kind of stuff described in Don Seegmiller's book (if you know the source, let me know)

 

One thing I remember reading (Don Seegmiller in his book Digital Character Design and Painting) was the fact that the strip across the nose section of the face is pinker than the rest, while under the eyes should be purplish-blue as the skin is so delicate here. I recommend his book for color theory, regardless of the painting medium! In fantasy art, the ability to create convincing skin tones in important, particularly if painting something like a Drow, or even an alien with blue skin

Blue, green and everything between. Different skin tones don't just mean one colour

A light skinned Drow

A light skinned Drow

Adding the hair

Hair is basically made from 4 colours which I vary the opacity and size of the bush. The illustration below shows the four colours and the way I build up the hair.

  • A mid tone
  • A light tone
  • A dark tone
  • A very light tone for the highlights
Loose steps to painting hair

Loose steps to painting hair

Why having no ‘theme’ for a painting can be a problem!

Like most sketches where I don’t think about anything much except picking up the ‘paintbrush’, I get to a point where I start wondering about things like ‘does she want straight or wavy hair’, ‘does she wear modern or old fashioned clothes?’, ‘what the heck do I do with the background?’.

Started off as an urban fantasy portrait

Started off as an urban fantasy portrait

At this point I was listening to rock music and it was about midnight so I decided it should be a vampire/ gothic piece. Originally it was just going to be a strapless dress but it ‘felt’ wrong. I added a leather jacket and a cameo choker. I planned on having a night sky, maybe the silhouette of a building. This means that dark blue is going to have to replace the maroon canvas colour. A guy is going to be behind her, all ‘vampy’ and hopefully pretty good looking! I took a break and came back to the painting after some food. I’d been working for about two or three hours and realised that I’d changed the angle of her torso mid painting which is why it is looking odd. This is why it’s a good idea to plan your painting before you begin! You can waste a lot of time working on something, only to realise there is an inherent flaw in the drawing. So I really had a think about where the painting was going… which was feeling like the great digital dustbin in the sky!

Continuing to paint, still without much purpose. Note how I use colour patches beside him... I used to do this all the time, now I just use a second window

Continuing to paint, still without much purpose. Note how I use colour patches beside him... I used to do this all the time, now I just use a second window

Face detail of the male, still fairly rough

Face detail of the male, still fairly rough

Unfortunately I only had a clear picture of the character’s faces so I was basically very aimless when painting. I get bored with details so I moved onto the male character. I knew I’d have to revisit the female character but something was really bothering me about her and I didn’t want to think about it too deeply. I spent about 2 hours working on the guy. Notice that his skin base is slightly more yellow. Guys’ faces are also more angular than females (generally) so I painted in a more aggressive manner, not blending as smoothly as for the female. I also added in some texturing with a ‘captured bristle’ brush.

A note on photo-references:

When I work from photo references I try to avoid working directly from one reference for copyright reasons. Each painting I’ll often work from at least half a dozen images (which I normally collect AFTER I’ve made the initial sketch). I also have a huge collection of images that I’ve harvested from the net, reference books/ CDs, personal photo references. 

I also like working with greyscale images and using small images so I can’t rely upon them too heavily. This way I can make the colour up on the fly. I also find that it helps to practice sketching in greyscale. You focus on rendering the form rather than colours, which teaches you a lot about volume, lighting and texture.

Back to the painting

Further refinement of the characters

Further refinement of the characters

I spent another 2 hours on this (up to about 10-12 hours now). I kind of became obsessed with finishing his face. I put him in a leather jacket and white shirt and played around with where his arm should go, ultimately deleting it. I changed the background colour to a near black colour while I was playing with things. I’m still not convinced about what’s going on in the painting. But I’m happy to let my mood decide what’s going to happen. I enjoy these kinds of paintings because I just let the paintbrush take me where it wills. However it’s getting to the stage where I will need to decide if I’m going to do something with this painting, or just file it as an experiment.

Face is pretty much done

Face is pretty much done

 

I’ve got more details to do… tidying up his eyebrows, giving his skin some texture around the jaw line, finalising his nose and lips, and one of his eyes is slightly off (shadowing and shape’s wrong… but I’ll fix that up later.)

Vampire goes Renaissance?

I’m heavily influenced by music. When I paint I listen to a variety of music, and often it can influence what I paint. I stopped listening to my Dishwalla album and put on Medieaval Baebes… at which time I thought to myself ‘this is just two people standing together, there’s no fantasy here’. So the painting went Venetian 16th century!

Vampires go Renaissance?

Vampires go Renaissance?

I’ve obsessed over historical costume for as long as I can remember and one of my favourite paintings is Rafael’s La Donna Velata. I deleted the leather jacket and replaced it with a front-laced bodice over a creamy chemise. This costume was popular with working classes as it was comfortable and didn’t get caught up while working. I think it is important to think about the clothes you put your characters in… it is part of their story. It can suggest what they do and their status in society, it can also indicate if they’re light and fluffy, or rigidly straight-laced.

Detailing the bodice

Detailing the bodice

A few hours work went into the dress. It’s not finished yet. This is only the basic form. I’m debating about patterns and colours. The more elaborate fabrics tended to be used a few decades after this dress style was popular, and only by the wealthy, but it’s fantasy so I guess I can do what I like!

Working out the background:

Adding some background... seeing my layout

Adding some background... seeing my layout

I have decided a night sky doesn’t suit the lighting of the characters, so I’ll do a dawn/ dusk sky. I flicked through some reference shots of skies and started laying down some colours in Photoshop with a large airbrush tool. Not much I can say about skies except for the light will reflect on the characters, which is why it’s not a strong sunlit scene. In this low light there won’t be much reflection or shadow.

I’m still playing around with the idea of having a column behind the male character. The sky’s getting close to being completed. I’ll start looking at the lighting in the painting later on… normally that’s something I do in the planning stages for a *proper* painting. It’s up to about 200MB… time to save a new copy and collapse a few layers I think.

On a side note, I’m not happy with the poses or placement of the characters. They’re too rigid. There’s no connection between them, I need to bring them together somehow. I’ve started to realise the girl’s body looks too small and much too straight on for her head. I’m going to have to repaint whole chunks which will be a lot of extra work. You can do this with digital, however if I’d planned the painting I wouldn’t have to be ‘fixing mistakes’ at this late stage!

Reworking the poses and costumes

Reworking the poses and costumes

I added some columns and moved the characters closer together. Each character is on a separate layer and I often take a copy of a layer to do the modifications (in case I muck it up!) I also do iterative saves… I have 7 versions of this file from various ‘major’ points from within the painting.

I like the placement better than the previous version, but I know that I’m going to have difficulties with his arm placement. I also don’t like her headpiece. I haven’t spent much time on it, but it just looks wrong – far too elaborate. I’ve got a feeling that she’s not the kind of girl to wear masses of jewellery! The pose is still disjointed. Why is she moving away from him? It doesn’t exactly look like a comfortable pose. Is he trying to put on her cloak, take it off, or strangle her? When you paint, you have to think about how the painting could be interpreted.

The home stretch

Working out the male's body and some background details

Working out the male's body and some background details

Unfortunately I sat down and painted in one marathon session (without taking saves part ways through). Inspiration struck and all at once I knew exactly how the painting had to look. All the missing elements fell into place. I had the narrative that went with the painting, I knew why they were standing together. The pose was vital to the scene. I think it is important to know ‘why’ things are the way they are. Sometimes it can be as simple as ‘because it looked right’ or ‘because I want the viewer to feel scared’, but with more narrative pieces, the ones that work best tend to make every piece of the painting into something vital to understanding the whole piece… like clues in a mystery novel.

I ended up moving her directly under his chin and slightly curved into his body and moved his arm so he’s supporting her, rather than embracing her. The sky remained unchanged however the bottom needed a focal point – it was too empty. The forest and cliffs are a scene I’ve used in numerous paintings… they are like an old friend – something quick and easy.The lake came next, and the glow lights (which have no real meaning, but they ‘fit’ with the mood of ‘magic in the air’). It still was looking empty. In the story in my head the character’s connection is through dragons. I’d already planned on giving the female character a dragon necklace and the male character golden eyes, however I think a more ‘literal’ representation of the dragon was needed. The placement was deliberate in that I wanted the viewer to follow the motion from the dragon to the characters and back around.

Often when I’m working without reference (like I did for their poses, I try to work out their bodies in their entirety. Even though it still looks a little ‘wrong’, because of the angle of his body, his shoulder is right behind her hair. I tried extending his shoulder but it didn’t look right either.

Not quite there... adjustment layers

Not quite there... adjustment layers

I added an Overlay layer to do some lighting along the side of the girl’s head and the columns. There are 13 layers in the final version (after I collapsed the multiple character layers from the previous version).

I thought I was finished. I posted it online, added it to a few galleries, but something was still a little unrefined. So I stepped away from it for a week or two (see further down for the revised version).

Some notes on Composition

Rule of thirds

Rule of thirds

I like working with the Golden Mean (also called the Golden Section/ ratio/ proportion/ The Divine Proportion). It’s a way of dividing up a painting so that the image is artistically and geometrically pleasing. It’s based on mathematical principles and can be seen in nature in such shapes as nautilus shells. Below I’ve added guidelines in pale blue that divides the painting into thirds. Notice how the parts of the painting that your eyes are drawn to tend to fall along the lines, with the light in the forest being at a ‘focal point’, where the lines intersect.

L shaped composition

L shaped composition

The painting’s composition loosely fits into what is called the ‘L’ Composition

Leading the eyes with V's

Leading the eyes with V's

It could also fit in with ‘V’ or ‘triangular composition.

The trick is to try and get the viewer’s eye to follow the movement from one point of the painting to the next

Final Piece:

Final image

Final image

I went back and refined it a little… just added a few more details to the hair, fixed the column and tidied up the tree-line. There are still aspects I’m not entirely happy with, but I’ve spent enough time on this painting… I don’t want to overwork it.

So 20 or so hours later, here’s the final piece and the story that goes along with it:

Detail of male character

Detail of male character

NCadetDragon1.jpg

Text I wrote to go with the painting

The dragon-thrall caught her, its silken threads binding her mind to the golden dragon completely. Kara and the great beast launched upwards as one, pushed from powerful back legs. Muscles flexed as the wings extended fully, capturing the wind and propelling them higher still. Freedom! She threw back her head and laughed, the rumble echoing from the surrounding cliffs. The sun and sky called to her, daring her to fly higher and faster than she could ever dream.

She wheeled to the right as she caught movement in the valley below. Ruby eyes fixed on the deer. Tucking her wings to her side, she dove towards the earth, pulling up just above the forest, the trees bending then snapping back in her wake. Kara could taste the hot, sweetness of the blood. She wanted it, lusted for it, she had to have it. It was a burning pain that drove her.

Something yanked at her. Whipping her head around in annoyance she couldn’t see a rider. Focusing on the deer again she snarled as the strong will commanded her to stop. The hunger tore at her, but still he cajoled her, coaxed her, and compelled her. Snarling and baring her teeth she snapped at the unseen force. Finally he dominated, wrestling control from her. Emotions flitted across her mind – fury, hatred, pain, desire. And then she was in her own body again.

Rhys caught Kara as the dragon-thrall released her. He’d been with her throughout the flight, his golden eyes seeing just as the dragon had.

“Now do you understand?” he murmured, his breathing still ragged from the clash of wills. She shuddered, glad to still be in his steadying embrace.

“It helped, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand them, not the way you do.”

Prints and products are available here from RedBubble , painting can be found in the Dragon Fae Oracle as the Lovers card.

Painting for a historical fantasy cover

Updated January 2018 - I originally wrote this in 2016 and have made some minor updates

I have an interest in history, which makes me interested in painting historical fantasy art. Although not an active member currently, I was involved in medieval recreation for several years, so have made my own costumes and practical items. I know enough about history to know that I wouldn’t really want to live back in the past. But I love learning about the clothes, the crafts, the stories and mythologies. So when it comes to painting historical fantasy, and even illustrating RPG characters, I tend to look at things as more than just ‘pretty’, delving into books, documentaries and even more pop cultural references.

A fantasy story where the world is made up of decidedly Victorian London architecture, while the characters have animal features and wear purely fantasy costumes.

The Brief

When you get an illustration brief, you have to try and figure out what the client is actually asking for. Some clients say they want ‘historically accurate’, but what they may mean is ‘Hollywood history’ :). Others are more direct and point to pop cultural references, or say they want fantasy elements. Some people will be very specific on the type of sword/ costume/ building type. There’s of course nothing wrong with any type of historical fantasy, however what’s shown in a drama series or a movie may not be 100% accurate. Sometimes what is true to history (or what we currently think we know), may not have the right visual impact. Our ideals of beauty, sexiness, manliness, innocence and other cultural stereotypes are often completely different to the past, not to mention different based on where in the world you are from. For example, Vikings had beards and braids. Some people want clean shaven Vikings which in a fantasy world is fine!

If it’s a magazine that specialises in realistic and historically accuracy information, many of the historical fantasy tropes may not be acceptable. If however the client is an RPG games player, they may actually want armour that is impractical or not historically accurate.

How to get an understanding of what the client wants?

  • Ask questions
  • Make references to more commonly known representations when talking to your client, even if they are movie or film references. Having a common starting point is always a good thing, even if it’s absolutly NOT what the client wants. That helps us learn what they DO want
  • Pay attention to where the artwork is going to be used. Is it trying to sell something (book, game), is it purely for a character representation, is it for a historically knowledgeable crowd? History may matter, however it may not draw in the right kinds of people.
  • If it’s for a cover illustration, research the author, read any sample chapters or scenes they may send though, look at any references they may send through (being aware of copyright!)

Alternative cover to Spirit of the Sword Book 1

Spirit of the Sword: A fantasy novel set in a classical Roman/Greek world. Characters wear traditional costumes, and the sword is a Spatha. There are fantasy elements added, but most of the imagery is based on what we know from history.

Spirit of the Sword: A fantasy novel set in a classical Roman/Greek world. Characters wear traditional costumes, and the sword is a Spatha. There are fantasy elements added, but most of the imagery is based on what we know from history.

Starting your research

I dabble in history. I pick and choose things I’m interested in, and I am by no means an expert on anything. But when you are hired to illustrate something, for that brief, you must become enough of a master that you can make decisions about costumes, weapons, armour, architecture and everyday objects in the paintings. Beginning research for an illustration is like beginning research for an essay, but you’re focusing more on visual elements than words.

Me in one of my handmade costumes from a few years ago. This is a red short sleeved kirtle in linen, with a linen chemise, and a linen/ cotton head covering (sewn band and ties based on Swiss design)

Me in one of my handmade costumes from a few years ago. This is a red short sleeved kirtle in linen, with a linen chemise, and a linen/ cotton head covering (sewn band and ties based on Swiss design)

Start broad, then refine.

I’ll use Spirit of the Sword as an example (this was heavily directed so was designed within a fairy tight brief). The brief was for a historical fantasy novel set in a Classical Greco-Roman world. This is your starting point – Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. If you know nothing about the topic, look up an encyclopedia or wikipedia, maybe watch a documentary on the general subject. This should give you some key terms that you can further reference, and the beginnings of an understanding for the design aesthetic.

My client made specific references to items he wanted on the cover that are directly linked to his are of historical fantasy

  • peplos (Miranda’s clothing)
  • Spatha (type of sword)
  • Manica (armour covering the arms)

I loved Greek and Roman mythology as a kid so have a number of different books on the subject. But most of these have other artist’s visions. Although these days I tend to start with the Internet, I still love looking through paper books for ideas. Here are a couple of the ‘general’ books I sometimes use for ideas gathering

Some of my reference books - covering art objects from museums, mythology with art, ornamentation from Victorian copy books, arms and armour books, and costume books

Some of my reference books - covering art objects from museums, mythology with art, ornamentation from Victorian copy books, arms and armour books, and costume books

Another great reference is SketchUp. This is a 3D modelling tool, but there is a warehouse of pre-built models that include historical sites, buildings, and other objects. While most of the models are simple, this can be the basis for more detailed drawings.

Try historical re-enactor forums and sites as well. Be aware that there are degrees of ‘accuracy’, but people that are recreating items from the past, often have some great resources and detailed research, as well as photos of their costumes, weapons, armour and other bits and bobs. Museum sites, flickr collections of photos taken in museums are also great places to research. Always be aware of copyright, but photos of items help bring reality to paintings, drawings or sculptures from history.

Details can matter.

When you are painting fantasy, there are some things you can get away with. But history is a little bit different. A sword is not just a sword. It can almost be a character in the book itself. There are many types of swords, from many different eras and cultures, and used for different reasons. The sword Excalibur from Arthurian myth varies depending on the setting of the tale

  • Roman Britain
  • Generic medieval English sword
  • Purely fantasy representations that would look good at court, but might not be that deadly in an actual battle

Clothes are the same. Those pretty ‘medieval’ gowns with angel winged long sleeves were only in western European court for a relatively short period of time (called a bliaut and worn primarily in France around the 1200s – from known evidence). It was not worn by peasants, and the lesser nobility may have tried to copy it, but it would have been in lesser fabric. Vikings without beards? Only in fantasy. Medieval women with uncovered heads? Only during certain periods or by younger women. Ancient Greece and Rome women often had their head elaborately braided, even adding hair pieces – however it depends on the time period, the specific culture, and the status of the woman. People with slaves could afford time to spend on their appearance.

It drives me nuts seeing a ‘medieval’ historical book set in the 1200’s where the girl on the front is wearing an Elizabethan dress (1600s). Maybe the average Jane Smith won’t notice or care, but it’s easy to look things up on the Internet. If it’s a fantasy world with historical elements, it matters what the author has written.

The Accolade - by Edmund Blair Leighton - a Victorian artist painting about highly romanticised medieval England

Also colours and dyes were based on what they could get at the time. They had beautiful dyes available, but colours such as black in medieval Europe (unless it was black wool from a black sheep) were expensive to make, so was generally reserved for richer people. This of course changed later in time (i.e. Victorian era) due to technological changes, and broader trade routes. This goes for richer purples and some blues as well.

Just because it’s historically accurate, does not make it a good artistic decision

Finally, when making an illustration for a book cover, you want an image that tells you a bit about its genre, maybe something about its characters, the mood of the story – basically a teaser on what the reader can expect from the book. Sometimes there will be minor historical inaccuracies, sometimes there are artistic and design decisions. Your job, if it’s for a cover, is to create an image that grabs the reader and makes them want to turn over the book to read the blurb. Work with your client, explain to them why you want to include something that may not be historically accurate, show them how something does not work from an artistic perspective, let them understand your thinking.

And if the client decides they want something a particular way and you disagree, then accept it and move on. If your client is happy, and you’ve worked to the best of your ability, then you’ve done your job.

Spirit of the Sword Book 2 - same characters, some differences in status. The tiles historically were terracotta, but the book had some of the tiles as a more purple colour. His armour is metallic green, again more of a fantasy element than a historical one - but the armour is still based on reality.

Again, same characters and same world, this time introducing more magic to the fold.

This is the fourth book, with a character from a different part of the world/ alternate world, and a dragon! Still the costume is based on more late Renaissance, early 1700s

The last book that I've done in the series, with an Elven princess. The costume is still based on Ancient Greek and Roman costumes. I looked up a tonne of references for tents and biers, and then went a little fantasy

Cover art Walkthrough - Sword's Call

This is an old post, I'll be adding some of the informational posts back to my blog!

Thumbnail sketch

I did about 6 thumbnails, but am considering the possibility of recycling the poses for futures covers in the series or other paintings, so I’m keeping them to myself for now. I did a couple of scrappy pencil sketches as well which I discarded as I didn’t like them.

Sketch Thumbnail

Sketch Thumbnail

 

Sketch

I gathered lots of reference photos and drew up the sketch. I had trees, faces, castles, rocks, wolves, swords, armour…

Trees are evil, I ended up simplifying some parts and detailing others. I worked closely with references, but there were a lot of random guesses Anyone who saw me photographing random trees in my pjs (I was in the back yard!) would have seriously wondered what I was doing.

Detailed sketch

Colour tests

I did up a few different colour studies and allowed the client to choose

Colour sample 1 - a really warm orange palette

Colour sample 1 - a really warm orange palette

Colour sample 2 - Still warms, but more forest tones

Colour sample 2 - Still warms, but more forest tones

This is what we went with - pink was a big focus

This is what we went with - pink was a big focus

A cooler toned sample

A cooler toned sample

Final image

And yes, all those trees and rocks will likely end up covered with text. Also, yes the characters are set far back, but you have to plan for text, and printing bleed.

Sword's Call - The final image 

 

Layout work added at a later stage

Originally I was only contracted to do the illustration so and I had no layout information. I had to make educated guesses as to the text treatment given I only had the title and the Author's name, and a rough cut of the blurb. Designing without full details like series icons/ text, bylines, the type of text the client wants and the likes can be interesting. Mostly when I don't have direction, or it's limited, I try and keep the top and bottom of the illustration fairly 'dead' zones so that the client has a few different choices (as well as the back half fairly devoid of illustration). Also the more things going on on the cover, the less space you have for text - which is pretty important when you're trying to sell a book. This was one of my first covers so there are things I'd probably do a bit different, but you can only apply that knowledge to the next piece! 

Design work was done in collaboration with the author (the author wanted Celtic inspired fonts), with the two Icons provided by another designer.

The Ebook version

The wraparound cover

A mock-up done

A mock-up done

The Audio book rendering 

The Audio book rendering 

Two more books were done for this series, I'll be posting walkthroughs in the future. 

Love's Call - Book 2

Love's Call - Book 2

Book 3 - Rogue's call

Book 3 - Rogue's call

 

If you want to work with me on a project, please contact me for a custom quote

GW2 Fanart - Male Mesmer character commission

In late December I got pretty sick with a nasty virus that turned into bronchitis. I also pulled a muscle in my neck, but I had a commission I'd promised to have finished for a birthday present late January. It was a fellow Guild Wars 2 player, commissioning a portrait of her partner's mesmer character who is based on Nolan North.

I got given some screen shots, plus a list of the armour that was important and his sword, Bolt. The brief was pretty straight forward and although the original spec was to have him with the sword hovering above his hand, we decided that holding it lower meant more of the sword could be seen.

Male character1/2 body portrait of a male mesmer with the sword Bolt

Male character1/2 body portrait of a male mesmer with the sword Bolt

If you'd like a painting of your game character or RPG character, details can be found on my commission page

RPG Portraits - a round up

Over the years I've done a lot of character portrait art. It took a back seat over the last few years as I focused on book cover art, but I've recently decided to make it a focus again. So here are some of my previous portraits - face only to give you an idea of what I do

A Voodoo Witch OC - 'witch of the wilds' for the Dragon Age RPG

A Voodoo Witch OC - 'witch of the wilds' for the Dragon Age RPG

Elthas - a sellsword mercenary who is Viking inspired (despite being clean shaven)

Elthas - a sellsword mercenary who is Viking inspired (despite being clean shaven)

A double portrait of two male characters

A double portrait of two male characters

Vika - a paladin character/ holy warrior

Vika - a paladin character/ holy warrior

Kether Creed - An arbalest character

Kether Creed - An arbalest character

An Archeological Bard

An Archeological Bard

Foxglove - a half elf ranger character

Foxglove - a half elf ranger character

Lunzie - and alchemist/ steampunk like character

Lunzie - and alchemist/ steampunk like character

Alessandra Van Sekel - my GW2 Mesmer character

Alessandra Van Sekel - my GW2 Mesmer character

Zayva - Personal loose portrait - fantasy medieval woman

Zayva - Personal loose portrait - fantasy medieval woman

Gaulen - this was a portrait done for Xulima games

Gaulen - this was a portrait done for Xulima games

Lorenth - A GW2 Seraph inspired warrior character I have yet to create in game. Again, this is looser in style

Lorenth - A GW2 Seraph inspired warrior character I have yet to create in game. Again, this is looser in style

You can have your own character done (yes I do World of Warcraft characters too) for $80USD - check out the details here on my commissions page

Sword & the Elf Princess book cover

Hi all

Hopefully everyone is getting ready for a nice holiday break as the year winds up and another one gets ready to begin. My Etsy shop while still up, I will not be posting anything out until the new year. The post office is manic and I don't have time.

I thought I'd share some new art and maybe some process behind the art for my latest cover, The Sword and the Elf Princess. This is number 5 of the books I've painted for Frances Smith, though this is a series of short stories set in the same universe.

Some thumbnail sketches with a final showing where the text would go, because this was already fairly well established. The brief was an elf maiden with silver hair and Michael's brother kissing or touching faces, or something fairly romantic. One of the challenges is that one of the main characters from the previous books has white hair, is not an elf, but I needed to try and make them look different enough.

Some thumbnail sketches with a final showing where the text would go, because this was already fairly well established. The brief was an elf maiden with silver hair and Michael's brother kissing or touching faces, or something fairly romantic. One of the challenges is that one of the main characters from the previous books has white hair, is not an elf, but I needed to try and make them look different enough.

The lineart, including some changes the client requested like moving the biers, and adding a cloak. We decided on putting her hair down even though in an Ancient Roman setting this would have been a bit taboo! Not even a head scarf! Makes sense where it is in the story, plus fantasy! She's an elf!

The lineart, including some changes the client requested like moving the biers, and adding a cloak. We decided on putting her hair down even though in an Ancient Roman setting this would have been a bit taboo! Not even a head scarf! Makes sense where it is in the story, plus fantasy! She's an elf!

The colour sample we ended up going with, though the client wanted a bit more warmth in the characters as was shown in another concept

The colour sample we ended up going with, though the client wanted a bit more warmth in the characters as was shown in another concept

The final cover

The final cover

And with the text added!

And with the text added!

New website, new sale process, commission updates

Over the past year I have been very quiet. I've been going through a massive round of art block and have been fairly unhappy with the work I've produced. I'm not saying that I'm not doing quality work for clients, but from a professional standpoint I've been feeling like I've hit a wall. Ideas a there, motivation is quite limited. It doesn't help that the day job has been extremely stressful and my health put a lot of things on the back burner.

It's the double edge of being a part time artist. Sometimes your life outside of the art completely takes over. I work in IT/ computing. I've moved roles several times and am now re-learning things as I delve back into pure programming - just using different languages/ frameworks and technology stacks. With learning anything new, you go through periods of feeling as though you've forgotten everything you ever learnt, and wondering if you will ever get good at it. 

I'm in that stage now. 

Some days are better than others. But having a chronic illness on top of the day job has meant I've had to learn to be a lot kinder, take more time out for rest, and try not to beat myself up for not producing work. Migraines have been forcing me to stay off the PC while at home... but trialling some different medication and so far things have been going ok.

Shop news

I've been moving artwork designs into RedBubble. Shipping is becoming very expensive from Australia, and really, really slow (plus I have 1, sometimes 2 windows a week I can do shipping). I've gone from under 2 weeks delivery for international parcels, to 3 weeks minimum... and I have zero control over it. Also, no tracking. And on top of that, parcels now cost about $24 AUD minimum. Small prints I can send flat as documents for under $8, but they still take three weeks - and to be quite frank, I'm getting tired of wondering if a parcel is lost, or if it's just got stuck in customs. I'm likely going to shut down Etsy and move all my digital stamps here to my shop (digital stamps are cheaper here anyway) and then figure out some grab bags of prints and ACEOs. I have a lot of originals floating around which I might put up here (contact me if you ever are interested in owning an original painting). If you want to buy prints from me, I'm not going to say no, but print fulfilment is a bit easier for me to manage.

Commissions are still OPEN. Commissions are generally fairly structured so tend to use a different part of my artistic brain. I can break them up into scheduled work, I don't need to rely on my own 'muse', it's generally drawing to spec - it's a collaborative process between me and the you as the client. There's research and boundaries and getting to bring someone else's characters to life. In fact I'll be releasing a new commission fairly soon, hopefully before the end of the year. 

I've attached a screenshot of some rough examples of prices for character commissions. I'd focused on book covers for the last few years which I love, but I miss doing character portraits. I moved away from them because for a while all I seemed to get were male commissions, or people asking for characters that were not in my realm of interest - I make no apologies for liking to paint pretty people. You want someone to paint a grandmother or a butch female fighter, I'm probably not the right artist. I love diversity and strong characters, but I also like to paint the type of art I like to paint. I want to dip my toes into GW2 characters and even World of Warcraft. I am trying to get into playing World of Warcraft, I play the odd DnD game, but I am a daily GW2 gamer :D

Further info and examples on my Commissions page - this is a teaser

Further info and examples on my Commissions page - this is a teaser

I also do do traditional commissions... but shipping will be likely around $30 - I am not taking responsibility for missing paintings that are untraceable and uninsured. I used to, and was lucky only one painting every went missing and eventually turned up. I used to absorb the cost, but not any more unfortunately.

Been debating about offering some quick and cheap sketches - this was a doodle done just for fun

Been debating about offering some quick and cheap sketches - this was a doodle done just for fun

Finishing up some old digital sketches started years ago - no prints as it's a really small painting

Finishing up some old digital sketches started years ago - no prints as it's a really small painting

And this gal is available over at Portrait Adoption if you want her to represent your character!

And this gal is available over at Portrait Adoption if you want her to represent your character!