Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Court of Green Scales

The Court of Green Scales
Acrylics, Approx 14.5" x20.5"
Original artwork for sale.

Every now and then I create what I think of as a 'transitionary' painting. This is a piece that seems to sum up where you have come from and where you are going artistically. A culmination and expansion...  I think of 'The Court of Green Scales' as just such a piece.

It began with the art brief. The commission was a for a full page interior illustration for a Dungeons & Dragons supplement, and this was the summary:
"The Court of Green Scales. In a secluded valley, we see a Green Dragon in deep consultation with a kobold wyrmpriest (see the Monster Manual for reference for both creatures). Surrounding the dragon and the wyrmpriest are a collection of kobolds of the Green Scale tribe, including a pair of dragonshield warriors (see Monster Manual for reference)."

I loved the fact that it gave me enough information to convey the salient details and mood of the image, without being prescriptive in the detail. It showed that that the art director ( Mari Kolkowsky) had faith in my abilities to create the narrative and drama.

I wanted to emphasis the inequalities in the relationship between the Kobolds and Dragon, it might be a mutually beneficial arrangement, but it was clear who was boss. Thinking along those lines, and with the necessity for Dragons to have a treasure hoard, the notion of tribute seemed a logical step forward. The Wyrmpriest might be asking for/offering something but to come empty handed would seem foolish.

I played with that that idea further in the composition. The undercut hillside helps provide the sense of an underclass level, and has an almost throne like function. This is cut through by the two strong verticals of the waterfall and tree, allowing the sinuos s-shape of the Dragon  to have a nice contrast.

The Line Sketch.

I feel that I managed to include a lot of elements which are a culmination of my craft; the storytelling, composition and detail. This was carried through into the painting through the dynamic red/green palette and value range. Where the transition takes place is in the rendering. This was the first large painting wherein I used a lot of gel mediums, in particular the 'Liquitex Gloss Heavy'. This gel gives a more buttery consistency to the paint and increases drying time. It allows for a smoother blending, and softer mark making.

Consequently I felt I managed to introduce greater contrast between tightly defined areas and looser ones. Which in turn keeps the focus more where I want it. I also played around a lot more strongly with 'lost edges' than I had previously. This is best demonstrated with the Kobold guard on the bottom right and his merging with the shadows.

I liked the qualities this addition to my tools allowed, subsequently  exploring and refining it. This painting however is held in affection for being one more stepping stone on the neverending path of self improvement.


  1. Its a beautiful piece and I totally got what you were expressing in 2 seconds flat so mission accomplished I'd say!! I also really like how the colours work together which I find instantly pleasing to my eye before I have even started looking at the details. Great work Ralph, don't ever stop!!

  2. Thanks a lot, much appreciated.



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