Friday, August 11, 2017

Hearthstone: Unchained Magic

Here's one more painting from my work on Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne. This one was tricky and it went through a bit more development than usual so perhaps I'll post some process images later. Meanwhile, this is the end result: an undead dragon (known as a frost wyrm in the game)!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hearthstone: Needy Hunter

I confess: I love painting gnomes and little people. It's among my favorite things to do so creating this illustration for Hearthstone: Knights of the Frozen Throne was a real treat.  The title changed from the original art description to the final work, as it often does on collectible card assignments. The original title for this one was "Underpowered Rogue" and, as you can see, this angry little fellow isn't armed with much. He might make up for that with enthusiasm...

I've included my preliminary sketch below.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Hearthstone: Vryghoul

This is my painting for Vryghoul, a card in the new Hearthstone expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne. I've included my preliminary sketch with the painting. I had a blast painting this zombie-like character and I'm grateful for art director Jeremy Cranford's very helpful suggestions.

Meaningless aside that might interest someone: I often listen to audiobooks as I work and I was listening to Stephen King's Different Seasons while painting this picture. The book and subject matter went together well.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hearthstone: Corpse Raiser

Here's another new Hearthstone illustration, painted for the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion.

I've included step-by-step process images below, beginning with my preliminary drawing.

Steps 1 and 2:
Sometimes the process for creating an image is pretty straightforward but there are times when a painting goes through a considerable transformation from start to finish. That was the case with this one. As usual, I began with a drawing, pictured below. I knew I would be dealing with complex lighting on this piece so my next step was to focus on value and I began building the picture in gray tones. Since I was painting a necromancer casting a corpse-raising spell, I wanted the piece to be dark and moody.

Step 3: After establishing some of the value structure, I began applying color on layers (I should mention that all of this work was painted digitally, in Photoshop).

Step 4: The drawing was superimposed over the painting and I started working out some more details, separating forms, etc.

Step 5: More details were added. Forms were refined and I continued pushing value and contrast.

Step 6: The figure was more or less completed and the values established. However, my initial plan of creating a dark, moody piece with a focus on the necromantic spell had gone a bit awry. The picture was too dark for it's intended purpose (card images are small and usually need more contrast) and I was gently reminded by art director Jeremy Cranford that this image wasn't for a spell card so there should be more focus on the character than the spell. That sound advice led to...

Step 7: In which, working on layers (including some Screen and Lighten layers), I seriously re-worked the values and adjusted the lighting to make it a brighter scene. The hands bursting up in the background had become a compositional distraction so landscape elements were painted over them. I was asked to add some spell energy coming from the necromancer's hands so that changed the lighting too. I tried to subtly work more color into the piece and push the focus upward, to the character's face and hands. This stage led to the final art, which you can see at the top of this post.

It was quite a journey, more involved than usual, but I was happy with the final results and, as always, when painting, I learned a few things along the way.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Hearthstone: Cobalt Scalebane

This is my illustration for the card Cobalt Scalebane, part of the new Hearthstone expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne. I've included the drawing as well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Gnawer of Rocks

I've been waiting to show this for a while. It's the cover to a book I spent most of last year illustrating, titled Gnawer of Rocks. The book will be released in October and is published by Inhabit Media (you can pre-order it on Amazon now, just follow the link above). I see it as sort of a hybrid between a picture book and a graphic novel. The story is told sequentially, in panels and splash pages, but is painted and presented in a format similar to the picture book I illustrated for Inhabit Media a couple of years ago, On the Shoulder of a Giant. Like that book, this one is based on an Inuit myth, although this story is considerably darker. It concerns some children who wander into the lair of an ogress.

This was a challenging project for me but a rewarding experience and I'm hopeful that it will go over well. The story Louise Flaherty, who co-founded Inhabit Media, wrote the book. I found the story fascinating!

I'll be posting more from this project soon but for now, I hope you enjoy the cover art.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hide and Seek process

Here's a glimpse into my process on the painting I posted yesterday:

I began with a line drawing, which can be seen in my previous post. Working in Photoshop, with the line drawing visible in an alpha channel (set to 50% black), I began establishing values in gray, using a soft round brush. Sometimes working out the basic lighting without color is easier because I can just focus on considerations like form and lighting. At this stage, I don't push the contrast as much because some of that work will be done in color.

Next, I began "glazing" color over the grayscale painting, applying it on layers. I used a combination of Color layers and Overlay layers at this stage. The latter can help brighten and enrich colors.

In the next stage, still using only one or two basic brushes, I begin pushing the lighting and contrast a bit more, adjusting the color scheme and adding a few additional details. I stayed with a pretty broad approach, trying to focus on the whole without getting too immersed in details. Getting the image to read well was most important at that stage.

Finally, I added detail and texture, using a combination of basic soft and hard round brushes that come with Photoshop and a few custom brushes I've designed or picked up from other artists. Edges were softened or further defined, forms were further developed and the details were gradually added. I did most of this work on one or two layers at most, flattening the image often as I worked. I find working this way rather than building the images on dozens of layers is closer to the experience of painting with real materials and, more importantly, it forces me to be decisive.

That said, layers can certainly be used to advantage. The colored smoke from the hookah was the final touch and that was painted in a single, light tone on a separate layer. I then selected the painted smoke on that layer and applied the color on a separate, Color layer. Once I was happy with it, that too was flattened down onto the final art.

Thanks for reading. I hope this post provided a bit of useful insight.