Thursday 28 January 2010

Facebook Page

I have just set up a fan page on Facebook. I hope some of you will stop by there and take a look.

My Facebook fan page.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Dwarf Rune Dice – Walkthrough

I was recently commissioned by Q-Workshop to produce a design for their new Dwarf Runes dice set. The picture will go on the backboard to which is affixed the dice blister pack.

I was given a lot of freedom to come up with a design, and I decided upon a carved stone relief of a stylised Dwarf head, inlaid with metals and gems.

Whilst the entire image will be visible, the lower part will be partially obscured by the plastic blister and dice, so I made sure that the focus is on the upper part of the image. The focus will be achieved a number of ways; through the natural pull of the eyes, the level of detail in the helmet and the lighting.

I decided to take the opportunity to create a walkthough. Pausing throughout the painting process I took a series of digital photogrphs with the painting taped to the board. I have adjusted these so that the levels are consistent throughout, but I've not otherwise colour adjusted them. However you can see that they are not very divergent from the final scanned version.

Stage 1: Using masking fluid I blocked out the elements that will either be inlaid metal or gems. I then applied a base colour wash to the whole page. This helps ‘fix’ the graphite in place, and gets rid of that intense white of the unpainted page.

Stage 2: The base wash was deliberately loose to help create some texture, but as this is stonework I will need a lot more. Using an old toothbrush I splattered the image with darker shades of paint. It looks quite obtrusive at this point, but I know it is going to get knocked back when I really start painting the piece, and will ultimately be quite subtle in the mix.

Stage 3: Using a large brush I work over the whole picture loosely picking out the form, whilst also bringing in colour variation. You can see where the masked areas still look quite white, as the rubber solution of the masking fluid partially repels the paint.

Stage 4: 2 hours 45 mins. I start putting down the darkest values, and in the process pick out and define the form. I keep some variation in the colour of the shadow, and despite the detail I try not to make the end result look too much like an inked line drawing.

Stage 5: Having worked in the darker values I now wanted to firm up the mid range. It was also looking a touch too green, so using a nice mid grey I built up a more opaque layer. As I went along I took the opportunity to soften and lose some of the edges I had created in the previous stage.

Stage 6: 4 hours. I reintroduce and/or expand upon some of the other colours that were in the picture. I want the stone to look old and weathered. These other colours help give the impression of lichen growth and staining. I also soften the edges of the cast shows with some of the golden brown.

Stage 7: I don’t want the picture to appear completely monochromatic, and I also like to have some interest going on in the shadows as well. To address those issues I introduce some indigo/purple into the shadowed areas. It suddenly gets a lot more interesting as this colour interacts with the underlying green shade in the stonework.

Stage 8: The highlights are brought in. I avoid white at this stage, as I want to tie the strongest highlights in with the metal work. As I want the metal to pop I don’t want too much visual conflict from the stone. The brush marks are deliberately varied and energetic. A lot of this painting has been about texture, and I am not neglecting that at this stage.

Stage 10: The masks are removed!

Stage 11: 7 hours. The metal and gem details are painted and the strongest highlights are put on. I give the whole piece a final once over tightening the odd line, and amending values as necessary, though this process has been ongoing during all the previous stages anyway.

Stage 12: The painting is scanned, and then adjusted to match the original painting for levels and colour. Finally I do some slight dodging to intensify the highlights and saturate the gems for further intensity.

I call it finished and send it off for approval.

Stage 13: 8 hours. It was felt that a bit more colour was needed, so I did a digital paint over to introduce more gold onto the carving. It certainly reads more strongly now, and is duly fully approved with the following comment: Great! It’s awesome;)

At the drawing board. Note the reference, including print outs of my original line drawing and a value study.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Fantasy Art Now 2

Ilex Press have just recently published Fantasy Art Now 2, a fantasy art compilation, or in their words;

The sequel to the best-selling Fantasy Art Now, this volume catches up with some of the most talented and inspiring artists from around the world. Showcasing the latest, cutting-edge fantasy artwork and design, this book also provides insights from the artists into how their work is created. A stunning showcase of images from leading fantasy artists, this essential collection is a must have whether you are a fantasy artist, or simply a fan of the genre.

I was very happy to have several pieces of art included in the volume, and it is available via their web site

 or any major book seller, including Amazon.

Sunday 17 January 2010

World of Warcraft: A Selection.

I have begun to make some progress towards updating the 'cards' section of my website.  Part of the process has been to check which images are now in print, and that I can share publically.

Doing so can be an enjoyable journey as it takes me back through my body of work. Always a useful exercise, as it helps contextualise my work for me, and (hopefully) reveals a sense of progression.

Here is a selection of World of Warcraft cards that I unearthed:

Bladehands Spigotgulp

Emmi Sprinklestrike

Illiyana Moonblaze

Swift Frostsaber

Flint Shadowmore

Life-Staff of the Web Lair

Friday 15 January 2010

Monk in the Underdark

The Underdark has been getting a lot of coverage over at the Wizards website recently, what with the new supplement imminent, and other supporting artwork appearing in accompanying publications. I am happy to say that I have contributed to the wave of Underdark artwork that is appearing.

I created a chapter start, double-page spread, for the Players Handbook 3:

Original art work approx 52 x 42 cm. Acrylic. For sale: £1500.

I always enjoy fight scenes with multiple figures, so I relished the chance of showing this Monk so effortlessly taking on the Kuo-Toa. Though typically I like to throw in a cliffhanger moment, and I think the Aboleth rearing over the Psionic in the background qualifies as such...

The slanting light obviously helps with providing focus on the key figures, but I also tried to employ contrast between the saturation levels of the figures and their environment.

Details of the PHB3 can be found here

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Website Updated

No doubt spurred on by entering a New Year, and I hope it's a good one for all of you, I have been updating my website.

The Covers Gallery

has a lot of new work, including several covers for Dungeons & Dragons, amongst which are visits to the Dark Sun setting and infamous Tomb of Horrors.

The Interiors Gallery

now includes a good number of double page 'chapter starts' for Dungeons & Dragons. These large illustrations have really allowed me to splash out on some epic pieces, and been great fun to do.

I am looking forward to updating the Cards section next and being able to reveal lots more goodies, for all galleries, which are still hidden under NDA's.

Monday 11 January 2010

Ninja Mountain #47


I had the enjoyable experience of participating in the latest Ninja Mountain podcast. It was my first time being involved with the critique format; a number of artists submitted their work for us to cast our critical eyes over, and give some sort of feedback.

The range of images varied greatly stylistically, media and content-wise. I believe this led to an interesting discussion, probably also highlighting our own predelictions and interests as artists.

Here's where you can find the podcast:

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Dark Sun - Digital Tweak.

I hope you all had a good Holiday and have a great 2010. December was very hectic month for me, I had some very cool DnD cover projects that I was working on (though of course I wont be able to share any details for a little while), and as a consequence I let other things slide. Sadly this blog was one of them, so I thought I would start off the year with a new entry.

Last Year I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on  the cover for a forthcoming Dark Sun supplement; Marauders of the Dune Sea.
It was great to be able to revisit such an iconic setting, and one that has had some notable artists work on it. I also got to paint another Thri-Keen ( my last rendition of one received a Chesley award nomination - so it was nice to do another one).

This was my final submission.

The rider and steed have such complex silhouettes, that I felt they could hold a lot of the focus and interest in themselves. I emphasised their forms further by colour/value contrast and strong rim lighting.

The same time as I was painting this cover Wayne Reynolds was working on the Campaign Setting. Typically when both our pieces were set side-by-side we had done slightly different takes on the Sun and it was decided to go with a darker rendition of the Sun. This meant a revision was in order.

I always find the prospect of going back to a 'finished' traditional painting daunting. Sometimes it can be hard to achieve exactly the same palette, or match the marks and feels of an area. The latter can be especially true with  a background, where the forgreound figures might have been masked off and broad brushstrokes applied. There can also be the psychological block that even when changes are made they may still need further amendment, and I can also have the desire to leave a piece as I intended.

Whatever the reasons I now find it far easier, both for speed and flexibilty, to make tweaks at the 'Final' stage digitally. I can set up layers in PS and play with different amendments. These are also then easy to alter if I didn't quite hit the nail square on with the first pass.

Here is how this piece looked after it's digital tweaks.

The clone tool is one of my favourites tools, as with it I can keep a lot of the marks and texture that appear through using acrylics.