Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Fightback! -Dragon #392 Cover.


Acrylic, Approx 26" x 23"
©Wizards of the Coast
Original artwork for sale. £1500.

I had the great pleasure of working on the lastest Dragon magazine cover. A piece which had lots of fun elements to work with, but which also presented a challenge with the composition.

One of the key aspects I enjoy about illustration is the storytelling, and this brief had a compelling narrative. An Elf, battered and beaten, is cornered by a fearsome War Troll, when a Dwarf Cleric intervenes by throwing up a defensive ring of  obsidian spikes, then fighting back with her earth's grasp power. Oh, and of course this needed to work in two formats, the full one above, and a second cropped version for use internally, as below.
The cropped value study.

I decided to emphasise the cornered predicament of our heroes by using the Troll as the framing device, and also to elevate our point of view. Looking down upon someone helps make them appear more vulnerable. Whilst placing the Troll in the foreground like this gives him that imposing mass and big silhouette.

The Trolls body and sword provide a neat triangular window through which to see our protagonists. I combined this with stronger 'spot' lighting upon them to really make the beleagured heroes our focus. The white Elf shield also aids in letting the Dwarf head stand out clearly. Important as she is the source of the action with her spell going off.

The earth's grasp presented the biggest challenge. An illustration is a 'frozen moment', yet the spell required some clarification, and a sense of movement. The Dwarf seizes a handful of dirt, throws it into the air, where it transforms into a grasping stone hand that grabs, and starts to crush, the Troll's face. The trailing dust cloud allowed me to cover both those bases. Plus the swirling 's-shape' is given energy by breaking the frame set up by the Troll, and is further emphasised by the contrasting, saturated, red of it's magical effect.

Initially this might give the impression of a final stand, but really it is just the start of the Fightback!


  1. Love it. The way you established deapth by keeping the elf and dwarf almost as glazed in white is masterfull. Do you have a version 2 third way trhough, where you have blocked in the colors and has started to detail out some of it? I would love to see that.
    I am a big fan of your technic. It seems etreemely skillful. But you might be strugleing along as the rest of us, ofcause. But it looks really easy for you.

  2. Hi Jesper, thanks for your comment. Values and focus are an area I am giving a lot of attention at present.

    Sadly I don't have any in-progress shots for this piece.

    Oh, and of course I struggle along, and am envious of your own work, which appears equally effortless to me!

  3. Great dynamic piece there Ralph.I really love your art style and you always push the envelope with crazy shapes, compositions and angles.They always work too! You must have played around with the composition a bit before you nailed this baby down.

  4. Hi Atom, thanks for your comment - it is always good to hear from you.

    Oddly enough this one came to me quite quickly. Sometimes I get a clear visual image in my head, then it is jurt a case of refining the details. It is sweet when that happens, and this was one of those (rare) occasions :D


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