Sunday, 18 October 2009

Iron Dragon: Sketch Process

I have created cover illustrations for three different sets of DnD miniature's, one of which included a new Dragon design - the Iron Dragon.

Iron Dragon sketch #1
After brainstorming ideas through the creation of quick thumbnails the next step is to create a more fully realised sketch. The approach I adopted was designed to clearly show some of his distinguishing characteristics; his head and tail.

Iron Dragon sketch #2

I had deliberately adopted a slightly different approach by showing him partly from behind. I liked the idea of conveying the sense of creeping up and surprising the beastie, but it was felt that more direct engagement was probably needed to really grab the viewer.

Iron Dragon sketch #3
As you can see I first twisted the head (sketch #2), then more of the body (sketch #3), but by now the pose had become awkward and the orginal concept was trying too hard to be forced into a different direction.

Iron Dragon sketch #4
Instead I started from scratch. It was important that the image worked, and a cover is certainly not the sort of piece to settle for weak compromise on. However you can see in #4 that I have yet to fully realise the background as I wanted to make sure this was closer to the mark before polishing the image up too much.

Iron Dragon sketch #5
A minor tweak of a foreleg, full realisation of the background and we are good to go. It is unusual to have so many sketch revisions (if any at all) before going into the final painting, but when dealing with an important image I am happy to put all the effort in that is required for a strong piece.

Iron Dragon cover painting.
I think the final image worked well on the box cover, and the original painting has also found a good home in the hands of an art collector. Job done.


  1. Awesome work man! You shoulda taken more process pics though D:. Would love to see a total step by step

  2. Thanks Dave, much appreciated.

    Hmm. Yes, I really should do a proper walkthrough one day, but working traditionally it is that much more bothersome than pressing save ;)

  3. This is a really interesting look at your process! I always appreciate seeing that more skilled and experienced artists than myself still have to struggle sometimes to come up with a good idea or composition. Thanks for sharing! :)

    The final painting is beautiful, and I think you conveyed the sense that the dragon's scales are like iron very well. They're somewhat reflective, though not so much that they look slick and pristine, and they even show a bit of wear and rust. Awesome!

  4. Hi Cacodaemonia,

    Glad to hear you found this interesting. I have been trying to find examples about my process that are good to share.

    I am also very pleased that you picked up on the 'iron' aspect of the Dragon's scales. I wanted to show some rust and wear to help with the metallic feel. thanks :)

  5. Hey ralph,

    I like the compostitional element of the rocks in the foreground at the top. Makes it feel like your in the cave itself rather than just a casual observer...

  6. Russ, yeah I thought they made a nice framing device. An old trick, but that's because it works :)


  7. Thanks for sharing this Ralph. As it has been suggested, I hope some day you could make a complete step by step of an illustration. But hey, I know time is merciless!

    Out of curiousity, do you have any preference about the size when you're sketching? I mean, A4, A3?

  8. Hi Forjador,

    I can see that I am going to have to do a proper walkthrough, and soon! :)

    The size I sketch is based upon the final print size, I usually work at 150% actual size, except for card art which I favour doing arund A4 size.

  9. These are amazing drawings. May I ask how long each individual sketch takes you?

  10. Thanks Jen - each initial sketch was about a day - revisions considerably less.


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