Sunday, June 30, 2013

Shadow Dancer prestige class

This was was of those oddball classes that didn't really have a niche in classic fantasy, and was pretty open to interpret however I wanted. Sure, the classic Paizo level of detail was there in the art order, The dagger, the studded leather armor, the scroll cases, the sword, and the cloak, but the pose and body language were up to me, and with this particular class, I knew it was going to need to look agile and fast, so I wanted to show her in a kind of dance pose, spinning and flourishing her cloak at the same time, in a kind of dramatic entrance (or exit). It's a wonderfully interesting class to draw, full of implied ability and personal style.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Arcane Trickster prestige class

This one was fun. The idea of a cat burglar style of thief, who uses magic to facilitate the vandalism and pilfering, is just plain awesome. It may not be traditional heroic fantasy storytelling, but I sure can appreciate a little practical realism in gaming every once in a while.
And a note on the actual production of the art, when doing a contract for Paizo, they have a unique style of commissioning important character art. Almost every little piece of equipment on her was in the original text description included in the art order. Seriously. Down to the runes on her cloak.
This is not the usual way of commissioning character art. Most of the big companies have to commission so many characters, and so much art in general, that the little details are something they leave in the hands of the artist. But not Paizo. They give us a million little details, and challenge us to cram them all into the art. Personally I kind of love the style it creates.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pathfinder Corebook prestige classes

A few years ago, I bought a copy of the Pathfinder alpha book. It was a printed, published book of a kind of "work in progress" game, meant to be tried and picked apart by fans and rules lawyers. It was actually a pretty impressive book as it was, but it was made very clear by the publisher that it was intended to be replaced by the real thing sometime later.
This was an unusual approach to game publishing, to say the least. But it worked. Really well. Soon people were picking up thousands and thousands of copies of the play test book, and no one seemed to care that it was going to be completely overridden by the fully tested and filled out version of the game only a year later.
My gaming group was very happy with the alpha Pathfinder. So much so, that we had completely stopped playing anything else by the time the full book was even half way finished. Which is a good thing, because when Paizo asked me if I wanted to be in the full book, I said hell yes.
The art director first asked me if I could do character work that was a little more "Graphic". You see, they needed someone to do the prestige class images, and Wayne Reynolds had done all the art for the basic classes, and whoever they found to do the new work, it couldn't be so different that it visually clashed with Waynes art. And his work is completely different from my usual stuff, probably more so at that time then today. But because I wanted to be in the book, and found it an interesting challenge to slant my work more in that direction, I said yes and got to work almost immediately.
I really wasn't sure I could do it at first, but as soon as the sketches started to take shape, I became more and more confident that it would work. The style of drawing, of pulling out shapes and rendering them cleanly, in an almost comic book style, was a fun and unexpected evolution for my abilities, and something I still benefit from today on every image I create today. And as the original sketches were so much fun, I will be posting them all here, one at a time over the coming days.
Here first is the Duelist, a strong, agile musketeer style class.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Fall of the Gray Veil

This was a piece for Dungeon Magazine done late last year, and I am reasonably sure it was published in February in the E-zine.
It was a bit unusual, obviously for the subject matter, as fantasy art rarely affords the chance to render someone of a less then super heroic physique, much less one of somewhat morbid proportions.
But it was also unusal due to the nature of the article it was illustrating. The storyline of the adventure involved a certain odd magical effect, in that the area in which it took place, was enshrouded in some kind of curse that took the color out of everything. Yes, it sounds basically like an episode of the twilight zone, or a certain tobey maguire movie from 1998.
Regardless of the inspiration, the art for the article was commissioned with the odd request of being full color, but needing also to look perfectly as good in black and white. Simple right? No real adjustment necessary right? Good art looks good in color or not, no matter what, right? I seem to be using a lot of presumptive question marks as though I'm going to lead up to a point that completely discards all the previous statements right? You guessed it!
Simply put, full color art can look just fine in grayscale. It just doesnt always. And its a hell of a thing to finish a painting in full color, and turn it black and white only to realize all the vivid color clothing and armor, is all in the same tonal range, so instead of a well realized image, you now have a muddy gray mess.
So, as a little insurance policy, I painted the image in a range of very low color saturation, so the tones were very easy to keep track of in relation to color. Which, to be honest, the image lends itself to rather easily, since the subject matter is basically a giant walking truckload of dead flesh, and a vampire. These are not colorful things at the best of times, so it was an easy balancing act in the end.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spectrum 20 winning entry

So every year I hear from a lot of the other artists in the business around the time Spectrum is taking entries. You see, its a book that has a juried entry. It's like the biggest, baddest fantasy art contest in the world (in a good way) and we're all trying to compile our best work from the past year.

So naturally, almost anyone who creates art for a living wants to be featured in the book. And boy has it become a challenge, tens of thousands of entries, and all judged by some of the biggest names in fantasy art, which change every year. So it's a changing set of tastes, and a different field of competitors every year, and a higher and higher standard and deeper pool of talent as well.

This is the image I managed, somehow, to get included in the book this year. I wanted to post it here again so I could show the initial sketch, and the final image side by side. Mind you, this is the final pencil drawing, there were quite a few sketches and thumbnails which led to this point, and even a failed final drawing or two which just didn't make the cut. I would love to show all of those to you as well, but most of them have long since met a gruesome end.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More Shaintar characters

The Shaintar Orc, Assassin, and Troglodyte. I've often done pencil fantasy art with a more comic book approach to proportion, shape, costume and detail. It's a simple, and easily exagerated way to illustrate fantasy characters. After all, these creatures are all imaginary anyway right?
But with this book, I really wanted to take a different approach and keep things as realistic as possible. Yes, they are wearing some fairly impractical armor, and in some cases, wielding some damn oversized weaponry, but with enough realism in the same image that I think it balances out a lot better.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

More Shaintar character art

This was an interesting fellow to create. Hobgoblins in Shaintar are an fallen, mutated version of the basic Orc player race, not the more common D&D species of the same name. But I wanted to play on the traditional interpretations and really find the middle ground while keeping it scary and dangerous looking.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Shaintar character art

From the Shaintar: Legends Arise player's guide book, this is one of my favorite pieces I created for the book. A Troll in Shaintar is a twisted, monstrous tank. And that is just the kind of thing I can really enjoy drawing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shadow Spiral

The final piece from my NPC Codex set of art, is a Gnome Wizard Shadowdancer. The pink streak in the hair was also in the basic description, and certainly gives him a unique flair. The staff was my own design, as is the rest of the armor and gear. He is one of the more unusual characters I created for the book, but it's hard to go wrong with a Shadowdancer character, no matter where his other interests may lie, just having an excuse to do dark leather armor and a fluid, high action pose is enough to give him some great personality, and throw in some unique gear, and you have one interesting little fellow.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 1 review

Dragon Age is a pretty big name in video game rpgs these days. I've never had a chance to work for Bioware, but I've been a fan of their games since Baldur's Gate. They did some great work with the Forgotten Realms setting, and when they started doing original properties, it turned out they had an incredible talent for world building themselves.

This book is as true a testament to that fact as you will find. It is a world guide, a visual encyclopedia and an art book all wrapped up in one beautiful package. Showcasing a great variety of the concept art that went into the games creation, it has an impressive collection of creature designs, and landscape art which illustrate the world of Thedas in all it's gritty detail.

The cultures, the people of the world and its history are all packed in to it's 182 pages with exhaustive complexity, and of course, accompanying art of the high standard which Bioware is known for.

The wonderful chapter openers and religious illustrations are of particular note, as they have a believably medieval, and graphic symbolism that gives the world a unique yet relatable flavor all its own. But the main feature of the book is its environment and character art. Done by many artists in many styles, it achieves a great variety in approach, but all directed with such a singular vision. This is one book that shows the kind of large scale planning and detail required to produce an original franchise and the visual bible they are often built around.

The featured artists contributing to this book include:
Joy Ang
Marc Holmes
Ben Huen
Fran Gaulin
Jae Keum
Sung Kim
Steve Klit
Casper Konefal
Matt Rhodes
Tom Rhodes
Ramil Sunga
Nick Thornborrow


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gundra firescale

Another one from the NPC Codex, and yet another male dwarf sorcerer! Of course, this one is a little different. He's a little more built for combat then even Hardek Hammerspell. Full scale armor, Dragon aspect (hence the claws and scaled hands) and he even breaths fire on occasion. or has some seriously colorful halitosis.
This is probably the easiest out of the NPC Codex set of images, for some reason he just came together pretty easily, from the design in the sketch, to the color in the final, it was just an easy character for me to visualize, and that translated into a fun piece of art to create. He's also my personal favorite of the bunch.

Hardek Hammerspell

Yet another one from the NPC codex, this guy is a Dwarf Sorcerer. It's always interesting to do costume design for a dwarven magic user. All the flowing robes and potions usually associated with the class just doesn't work quite as neatly with the gruff, stoic personality of dwarves.
So I made him a bit more martial and capable then your average sorcerer, and equally ready for either some serious book reading, or some serious barbecuing. Is he kind of burning off his own eyebrows here? obviously not. It's magic fire after all. And besides, its not like those suckers couldn't use a little trimming anyway.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shaintar Cleric

The fourth and last of the Archetypes, this is the Shaintar Cleric.
Again, I wanted to step away from the classic, and rather then go for the meek, robed holy man with a book and a smile, I went with more of a battle priest, but also a woman, and a Joan of Arc vibe.
She stands in front of a an old church in the center of town, contemplating some mystery of her faith. Or possibly she just smells somthing awful, its hard to say.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shaintar Mage

Here is number three from my Shaintar Archetypes.
This time around we have the spellcaster, wielding a staff in a defensive posture as she is about to cast a spell. I wanted to get away from the classics here, and rather then show the old tired Gandalf clone, I made the character into a young woman, stern and capable, and standing in front of a university of arcane teachings. The building is almost church like in structure, to show the reverence its halls contain for ancient knowledge.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Shaintar Fighter

This is the second of my Shaintar character archetypes series, and features the fighter. He's a little world weary, which is reinforcing the more realistic angle I was trying for with this project. After all, after years of roaming around the world as a mercenary, killing and marching, marching and killing, life is a brutal place for a professional soldier. I also gave him a rather mixed assortment of gear and clothing, to show that he has travelled far and mixed and matched available armor.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shaintar Rogue

As part of the Shaintar project, I created four separate images for each iconic rpg class. The Rogue, Fighter, Cleric, and Mage. They were all a lot of fun to conceive, and I tried to do something different for each of the backgrounds, putting the characters in an environment that seemed to reinforce their chosen profession.
This is the image for the Rogue, which shows him silently crossing a river at night by boat, to avoid any night sentries. The knife hes holding is a little on the hammy side (is he going to jump out of the boat and backstab a fish?) but it seemed like the easiest way to show his nefarious intent.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Downfall character designs

These are a few of the cocnepts that I came up with for the original funding campaign, that have since made their way into the story of the first book.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Elindria the enchantress

This is another one from the NPC Codex. The only girl in the bunch, she is an Elf Sorceress.
She is probably the most arch typical of the characters I did for the book, which is why I wanted to show her as a bit more rugged and less whimsical. For example, I even gave her pants and a sword! but in the end, I couldn't resist the urge to give her a cartoonishly large bust. I guess I can only do so much before my years of training in traditionalist fantasy art take over.
Also, the color use on this one was a bigger challenge then usual. As with all my Paizo character work, I try to use Wayne Reynolds Iconic characters as a kind of springboard for style, and visual brand, as there are few games in the genre so defined by one artists specific look as Pathfinder. But in this case, one of the basic iconics done by Wayne is a female sorceress, so I wanted to make this one as distinct as possible, but still include some subtle cues to make her similar. Which sounds completely contradictory right? well, therein lies the challenge. So I made her a lot more rugged where Wayne's character was more womanly (AKA, less clothing) and I gave her blues and greens, where the iconic sorceress is dressed in an orange-red color.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Downfall promotional pieces

a couple of Downfall promotional pieces done in a more cover art style. Probably going into the book as chapter cover art.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Another character from the NPC Codex, this one is a Halfling Rogue Shadowdancer. This guy was a fun design, cool helmet, duel swords, dark grey outfit, but it's always a tricky balance when doing a character in dark colored armor, as to how dark everything gets before you start to lose details. So I tend to keep my color range pretty conservative, painting in pretty much all the detail anyway, in more of a medium range, and then darkening things down afterwards so I lose as little detail as possible.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Diablo III: Book of Cain Review

Published by Insight Editions in December of 2011, this obviously isn't a new product. It isn't even technically an art book, it's really more of a promotional product for Diablo III, that just happens to contain a lot of art. And what art it is. A collection of modern masters, plying their trade in pencil rather then paint, and done on a parchment colored paper, with textured edges for that extra feel of aging, and impeccable graphic work and layout, this is a rich history book for a world from a video game franchise, oozing flavor from every page. But with a presentation and art of this caliber, it is so much more impressive then just a video game book, and deserves recognition alongside some of finest collectors art books today.

Contributing artists include:
James Gurney
Mark Gibbons
John Howe
Joseph Lacroix
Alan Lee
Victor Lee
Iain McCaig
Petar Meseldzija
Jean-Baptiste Monge
Adrian Smith

It can be found on amazon here and I can't recomend it highly enough to anyone who appreciates pencil based fantasy art, or anything at all in the dark fantasy genre of art, this is one hell of an art book (see what I did there? Hah!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Downfall graphic novel world design

I really enjoy the gritty atmosphere this kind of world allows, and rendering the ruins of cities and cracked and broken details has been a ton of fun. We're drawing a lot of inspiration for this setting from the classics of the genre, but I'm getting to design everything from the ground up within the style that we've set for the book. It's the kind of production work I've done a few times, but never for this kind of world or in this kind of illustration style, so its been a real journey of discovery.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brother Night

 This was one of the characters I was assigned for the NPC Codex, a Pathfinder roleplaying game book. The book itself was a pretty mammoth undertaking (for Paizo anyway, not me, I only had to do 6 characters for it), and the huge number of characters included is impressive, but the quality of the art in the book is even more outstanding. Not every image is perfect mind you, but overall, it sets a high standard for a book with hundreds of full body character images. It's like a bestiary for NPC's, and not somthing I've seen on this scale before.

Also, it was a cool project to be a part of, because the characters were all unique, interesting, and unusual. So often fantasy art is a matter of creating a variation on a well worn archetype, and these characters are definitely not archetypes. I will be posting my work for this book over the oming days here, and first off is the orc shadow dancer bard assassin. I'm not sure what the official classes ended up in the final product by the way, I'm just listing the character backgrounds as they were given to me, so you can identify why I drew them as I did. They may have changed throughout production to something else entirely, this orc may be published as, say, a duel knife wielding janitor in the final printed book.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Downfall graphic novel promo issue

Before launching our kickstarter for the Downfall project last year, we put together a little 10 page promo issue to test the waters and really show people the comic we wanted to make, albeit in a very small slice of the world. But it was enough fun to create and such a departure from my usual work, that I thought I would put it on here and talk a bit about the process.

The first page was easy. I'm an illustrator after all, and doing a full page, establishing shot is the kind of thing I've been doing for years. So this was the first piece I worked on, and easily the fastest from start to completion. I knew it needed to really encompass the world and its themes, but still read easily. So this is where I decided to do the classic post apocalyptic wasteland, broken buildings and scattered signs of a civilization long gone.

The second page was a little trickier, as I had to show the character close up, and set the scene, and show the alien in just a few panels. The alien by the way was a fun creature to design, and I will be getting to draw them quite a few more times throughout the rest of the story.