Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ambush! - A Walkthrough

©Wizards of the Coast.
Original acrylic painting approx 22" x 22".
For Sale.

Around Christmas I was commissioned to work on a large interior illustration for Dragon magazine. The publication date was due April/May, however unfortunately the article was pulled at the last moment and this accompanying illustration with it. Happily the Art Director, Jon Schindehette, helped secure the necessary permission for me to share my work publically anyway.

The topic for this piece was full of drama; a pair of Thri-Kreen stop at a waterhole to refill their canteens, and ease their parched throats, when a Water Drake leaps from it's hiding place to satiate it's own hunger.

The sinuous Water Drake leant itself very nicely as a strong compositional tool. It's length encircles it's victim, whilst all the lines of force, including head and tail, point to the targetted Thri-Kreen.*

Whilst painting the picture I took  a large number of photos and I have whittled these down to a selection that reveal my process. In this case a very methodical front to back, element by element approach. This is my norm, but sometimes I can lay down broader areas of colour in order to aid the colour/value balance. This time I had a very clear image in my head, and it unfolded as I anticipated -  which I wish it always did.

*It was fun to revisit the Thri-Kreen , of whom I had previously created a Chesley nominated illustration. A printout of which can be seen on the top right of the drwaing board.

1.The background colour is laid down.

2. The shading and values are refined.

3. Hard at it.

4. Leading the background values through onto the rear figure.

5. The skin tones completion defines the rear figures value range.

6. Bringing in the blue and starting on the foreground Thri-Kreen.

7. Liking the red/blue juxtaposition.

8. Skin and values defined.

9. Figure about complete.

10. The workspace - with notation of clutter reference materials.

11. Developing the water, cast shadow, and foliage.

12. Nailing the Drake's palette and head.

13. Brought that over the whole body.

14. Drake's highlights added and the base for the dripping water started.

15. Lots of droplets!

16. The apprentice gives his input - yum, snacks.


  1. You are wearing an apron while working? how extremely girly of you.
    This is a fantastic Illustration Ralph, The action of the beats is superp. I am really amazed that you work so isolated within th epainting. it seems that you finish every element one at a time and then move on fro the back and forth. I am all over the place blocking in colors all around even ontop of my maskings to see where I am going.
    I hope we get a chance to meet one day and share experiences in acrylic.
    Your workspace looks like the home of a mentally disturped...I know what they look like. got a space like that myself.


  2. Thanks a LOT for sharing! This is extraordinary work. And your cute little guy looks a lot like you!

  3. Great series of pics and even greater painting, Ralph. Love all the textures going on in there.

  4. Wonderful walk-through, Ralph! Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. I really dig these walk throughs Rslph, great work, really amazing detailing and colouring.
    Ta for posting, have to make me a Ralph folder on my pute.

  6. thank you for sharing the process of an amazing painting, can't wait for more :)
    i have one question though, how do you make it digital?

  7. Jesper: I adopted the apron after I finally got fed up with ALL my clothes having paint on them, plus I developed a bad habit of wiping my brush on my jeans - now the apron gets it!

    This piece was more methodical than most - with my painting element by lement, but it is my general approach. Just can't seem to paint more loosely!

    I believe we'll both be at Illuxcon - so I hope we can chat then. Oh, and I still want your wizard in boat sketch ;)

  8. Anne: Thnaks - Leo is very cute, but I am sure he gets any good looks from his Mum ;)

    Steve: Thanks a lot - and yeah I've been trying to get more texture in my work.

    Patrick: thanks a lot - appreciated.

    Atom: Pleased to know these step-by-steps are of interest.

    Oren: thanks.I scan my paintings in on a flat bed scanner, then make any level/saturateion/ect tweaks in Photoshop.



    P.S. I am not really trying to post anonymously, but Blogger is playing up again!

  9. I seriously tought your work was digital. The colors are very vivid and most scanners don't get them looking that nice.

  10. its great to see your workflow Ralph, more of these would be great from time to time. I love looking into other artists workspace so thanks for that to.

  11. Love your work Mr. Horsely, I'm a huge Dark Sun fan. Too bad this didn't make it into the magazine. How much does a piece like that sell for?

  12. Fantastic! Someone should make an article submission that uses that image.

  13. Kael : I have a decent scanner, and tweak the image in PS to get it looking like the original.

    dogfacedboyuk2: Glad these are of interest. i do mean to do more, but it is a case of making sure I photograph everything as I go along.

    Raddu76: Thanks a lot. Thia image will get used, just in a different issue. I would sell this original for about $1500.

    Alphastream : thanks, and I'm sure it'll get used :)




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