Gates of Neverdeath
Acrylics. Approx 34" x 31"
Original artwork for sale.
Copyright Wizards of the Coast.
I enjoy being challenged by a piece of work. Fresh hurdles offer the opportunity to grow and improve as an artist. The Gates of Neverdeath was just such a work; whilst the subject matter allowed me to paint one of my favourite subjects (Zombies!) it was the size and multiple requirements that were trickier.
The image needed to function as an adventure cover in a vertical format, but also be usable for marketing purposes in a horizontal format. Similarly it required lots of additional space where different trade dress could be placed, or the painting cropped in multiple different ways. This all meant that what would normally be an 8.5" x 11" cover, which I would work up at 200% actual size ( 17" x 22"), became a 34" x 31" painting which barely fitted on my drawing board.
I spent quite some time working on thumbnail sketches before I was happy enough to work up my ideas into a finished graphite line sketch.
Note the guidelines which demarcate the cover area and mark room for the variety of potential trade dress.
I then worked up a loose digital value study. This guides me during the painting, and helps the Art Director (in this case the lovely Keven Smith) make sense of all those lines!
Having a clear scheme in place for the lighting, values and palette made tackling a large piece like this a lot easier. Like most of my paintings I worked from back to front. Below you can see a fuzzy photo of the work in progress.
The Necromancer has been completed and I am working my way onto the foreground elements. You can see part of my process, whereby I lay down layers of wash, before adding more opaque elements to tighten up the shadows and highlights.
After the painting was completed I sent through a scanned, uncropped, copy of the final, but I also included a mock-up of how I saw the cover working.
It is interesting to compare this with the final editorial decision, and crop, that adorned the printed product.
It was great to work on such an epic piece, containing such fun elements, but it did also serve to remind me how following the discipline of my processes made the whole painting much easier to work on.