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


  1. Hm! I noticed this piece on your site yesterday!
    Definitely kickass. Your previous monk picture was also very good - it seems you used a similar blue for both monks. That's an interesting consistency. ;)

    It's a very complex piece and you managed the composition very well. The focus is on the monk, all the spears point to her more or less, her enemies are falling towards the viewer creating a sense of depth and space, the tilt adds dynamism and the eye has a lot to wander around on with all the figures in the background and the psionic in danger.

    I also like how the straight sharp lines of the monk's clothes hint about her power and dynamics of the movement. It contrasts well with the rounder and clumsy looking Kuo-Toa.

    The straight light rays also enhance the feeling of speed - it's a similar effect as japanese manga uses. (straight lines for a background to symbolize rushing air during very fast movement).

    Anyway, no need for me to give a "critique" really :D I'm simply typing stuff off the top of my head, trying to list the reasons why this could serve as an example of kickass composition. ;)
    Thank you for sharing such big jpegs with us! I'm always a bit disappointed to see my favourite artists post a new painting, but in such a small resolution that I can't make out much of it.

    Rock on, Mr.Horsley!

  2. Hi Ralph
    Bugger it! I'm going to try and give some critique here cos 1) I'm probably the last person who should do so; and 2) Ninja mountain people can't have all the fun =D
    Of course we've have come to respect the great work in all your paintings past and this piece too: loverly rendering, dynamic pose and really appropriate palette choices.
    However I have a couple of things to add to this piece:
    1) I notice perhaps an overuse/oversaturation of white highlighting on the monk figure to really separate it from the background and make it pop. However, I feel the contrasting shadows are not deep/dark enough for that value of highlight and the colours on the figure would also start to wash out and desaturate with that strong and direct a light.
    2)There are some interesting compositional 'thingies' happening in the painting. There is an obvious drive to push a lot of straight lines toward the centre figure, yet what I'm seeing is a line across the canvas formed by the row of stone plinths that effectively cuts the canvas in half and another vertical line made by the figure's leg, the rock behind her and the area of dark under the foreground rocks. It kind of cuts the picture into four quarters with the figure in the centre and maybe this makes the figure feel blocked in on all sides and a bit static on the page... which is weird, because it is such a dynamic pose.
    If it were me (ahem) I would lose the rocky outcrop in the foreground and maybe put her jumping off another one of those stone plinths from in the background (perhaps at an odd angle as a counterpoint to the strong topleft-to bottomright diagonal of the picture)- maybe this would give her some space to move into. I would also move her forward slightly to move her off centre and also separate her from the waterfall behind her.
    So there you go: my thoughts (complete rubbish probably, but I will argue that you guys started it!) I know it's not really fair when I haven't sent you guys anything to tear to shreds, but I will! Or just check out my blog or DeviantArt and leave a particularly caustic comment.
    PS I love the really nice hierarchy between the monk and the psionic guy in posture, tone and colour saturation, with the red to link them- great stuff.
    Please don't hunt me down and kill me immediately: Tommi

  3. Jan, Thanks for the comment. It was fun reading through it as you listed a lot of the decisions I had made in composing the image :)I'm pleased that the large image size is useful- I can get frustrated the same way as yourself,

  4. Tommi,I am glad you have enjoyed thinking about how you would have approached the same composition. A couple of things to throw into the mix - this piece is for a chapter start, which spreads across two pages. The guttering will fall about 1/3 of the way in from the left and there will be a title bar extending into the image from the top left hand side.

    Incidentally if you want to join in with the Ninja Mountain critiqueing then that is the intention of the Ninja Mountain Scrolls site

  5. Aaah that explains soo much about the composition- I wondered why it was almost square, which is such a difficult proportion to work with! It shows up all misdemeanors. Is there a link to the trade image?
    I was just having a bash at critique ;p so , you know, if I didn't love the image, I wouldn't bother :) Thanks for sharing Mr Ralph Horsley

  6. Hi Tommi,

    Yes,the layout constraints does bring in more things to consider. Sadly I don't have the iamge with trade dress on, but if you look in any of the 4e DnD books you can see what I mean.

    Thank for the comments, and I'm very pleased you have enjoyed looking at, and analyzing, my painting.


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