Monday, November 28, 2011

Vine Growth

I created this piece for a recent Dungeons & Dragons release called Heroes of the Feywild. It was drawn and painted in Photoshop, with a little blending done in Painter. The little fellows being attacked and trapped by vines are spriggans, which are creatures found in Cornish folklore. Traditionally, spriggans are small, grotesque fairies that haunt remote places like ruins, barrows and standing stones. As you can see, the D&D take on these creatures doesn't stray far from tradition. they're still little and still grotesque (which makes them fun to draw!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Warcraft: Dwarf Warlock and Air Totem

Here are two paintings from the recently released Throne of the Tides set for the Warcraft Trading Card Game. The first depicts a dwarf warlock named Hunrik Blackiron (I love the names they come up with for these characters) fiddling with dark magical energy beneath the waves. The second shows an air totem (an item from the game). While a character card contains features that will almost always be of immediate interest (faces, armor, etc.), cards depicting simple items like this totem present a different challenge. When possible, I like to go for atmosphere in a piece like this and I was very pleased with light and mood I was able to achieve in this one.

Both images were painted in Adobe Photoshop and I've included my initial color rough for Hunrik so you can see where the piece started. I actually worked into the rough a little before saving it so you can a few areas where I had begun to flesh out details.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dreamblade Gnome

I'm busy working on assignments under non-disclosure agreements at the moment so it's back to the past for today's entry: a Gnome miniature design for Dreamblade. The assignment called for a mean-spirited "garden" gnome wielding some over-sized tools. It was a kick tackling a variation of such a popular, iconic character. As you can see, I provided front, back and side views for the miniature sculptors (that is, sculptors of miniature figures, although perhaps the sculptors themselves were tiny). I also included a side view without the arm, so the sculptor could see the beard and face in profile.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

H. P. Lovecraft podcast

This weekend I joined Matt, Dave and Jason of the Bookhouse Boys podcast on their special Halloween episode for a discussion of H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, other Lovecraft (and Lovecraft inspired) works and horror in general. We had a great time! Please download the podcast and hear what we had to say (but if you haven't read much Lovecraft, be aware that there are "spoilers" in the episode):

The picture you see above is a drawing I did several years ago for a Lovecraft edition of Graphic Classics. It was inspired by a trip to Angkor in Cambodia. Many of the ruins there are covered in dense, beautiful relief sculpture and since that sort of thing plays a role in some of HPL's stories, I decided to work elements of the Cthulhu Mythos into a relief. I don't think I've ever had more fun working on a drawing!

Graphic Classics comics can be found at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sir Oakley...

... or as I like to think of him, Sir Rides-An-Armored-Horse.

This is another piece from Madness at Gardmore Abbey. The horse armor (also called barding) is based on a blurry photograph I took of some horse armor on display in the Tower of London. The art director was kind enough to allow me to break the picture border in a few places, one of those techniques that's easily abused but when used wisely (as I like to think I've done here) can add a bit of motion or energy to a piece. In this case, I think allowing the horse's head to break the left side of the picture box reinforced a sense of forward motion.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Red Dragon

This is another piece from the D&D Adventure, Madness at Gardmore Abbey. It depicts a red dragon who dwells beneath the Abbey. The dragon has jewels embedded in it's neck/chest. Apparently, he's been lying around on some treasure.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alien Beholder

I painted this translucent fellow for the recently released D&D adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. The assignment called for an "alien" beholder so I drew inspiration from the old Mars Attacks trading cards to make this beholder into a nice, green "alien". It was a lot of fun!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mordenkainen's Spots

As most of you probably know, spot illustrations are those little images you see in books, magazines, etc. that tend to have their own uniquely defined shape or represent a figure, object, etc,. with no background. They tend to be surrounded by text and the also tend to be simple (or at least to appear simple). However, they present their own unique set of challenges. When less is present in a piece, what's there needs to be well-executed and eye-pleasing. If you're illustrating an object and nota scene, that object needs to be shown in a relatively characteristic view because it's not just being drawn or painted, it's being displayed for the viewer. The spot becomes the equivalent of a photo in a catalog or an object in a store window. So, how do you make a sword, a lantern or a group of paint pots interesting, especially without a background (which can make lighting tricky)? There are plenty of solutions. here's what I came up with for Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium...

As you can see, decoration and embellishment tend to be important. In each case, I didn't just paint a sword, lantern or paint pot. I decorated them with heads, dragons, spikes, and so on. The paint pots provided the advantage of multiple objects within the spot so I could create an arrangement instead of just illustrating one object. The sword needed to be on fire so I had to create a background to set off the flames and provide some atmosphere without adding any detail that would draw attention away from the sword itself. The lantern is a simple shape but I made it a more complex silhouette by adding ornamental details.

Like the lantern, I hope that was illuminating (insert groans here). The next time you see a spot illustration, please take a close look at it and consider the choices the artist has made to make it interesting. Spots aren't always as simple as they appear at first glance!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium

I realize things have been quiet in this space for a while. Life and work have been busy and I'm afraid the blog suffered the consequences. However, I have a bunch of work to post in the coming weeks so please check in frequently.

Wizards of the Coast recently released a D&D book called Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium. I did a number of illustrations for it, many of them spots of magical items, but there were a couple of more fully realized compositions as well. First among them, this scene of a dwarf smith forging a magical blade and an elf casting a runic spell over it. Working out the lighting and the low point of view in this one was a great challenge!

I'll be posting more from this book over the next few days.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Playing Koi

Please pardon the pun in the title, I couldn't resist.

The signing at Galactic Force went well yesterday. thank you to everyone who showed up. I enjoyed meeting all of you!

Today, I was thinking about how certain subjects end up coming up more than once in assignments. Considering what I do, this is to be expected with things like skeletons, spiders, horses, armor, etc. but sometimes the subject matter is not so directly linked to fantasy and it can be fun, even refreshing, when that happens. The two pieces above were done a few years ago. The painting was a weapon painted for Dungeons & Dragons but the more interesting aspect of the piece (for me) was the koi in the background and the challenge of incorporating it into the picture with the weapon.

The second piece was a miniature design for Dreamblade titled Crypt Koi. It was intended to be on the creepy side and the art director and I wanted it's mouth open. However, for production reasons, the sculpture couldn't have a gaping, open mouth so we needed to fill it and settled on a grotesque, organ-like ball for the job. Nice, eh?

So, now you've seen the entire range of my artistic experience drawing and painting koi!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ice Yai

Here's the last of the yai. This fellow is a little more whimsical than the others, from his blue skin and icy beard to his martial arts stance. I hope everyone has enjoyed this series of oni pictures. I certainly had fun creating them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fire Yai

Today's oni/yai is the fire Yai. Unlike the previous two, this one is male but he still has a third eye. I had a good time playing with his armor, proportions and facial expression.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wind Yai

Here's another of the oni/yai paintings I did for Paizo Publishing's Jade Regent: The Brinewall Legacy, along with the preliminary drawing (done in Photoshop). Like the first one, this oni is female but she's less on the creepy side and a bit more burly and barbaric.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Water Yai

This piece was one of four different yai (a type of Oni) I painted for Paizo Publishing's book Jade Regent: The Brinewall Legacy. Oni are creatures from Japanese mythology, often similar to ogres, trolls or demons in western mythology. Each of the four yai I painted is associated with something elemental (water, fire, wind, etc.). I tried to give each a unique visual flavor while also making them appear loosely related to one another. It's a challenge to adapt the often flat, graphic style of ancient Japanese art to a more contemporary, western style of illustration but it was a lot of fun. The features of Japanese mythological beings have a bold character that's blast to draw.

I'll be posting another Yai tomorrow so please come back for more!

Galactic Force signing

I will be signing at Galactic Force's 4th Anniversary event on Saturday, September 10th. Please come out and say hello! I'll be there all afternoon and perhaps into the evening.

Galactic Force Toys and games is located at 1121 Belmont Ave. in Chicago.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fantastic Worlds Art Show

The artist's reception for the Fantastic Worlds Art Show at the Kenosha Public Museum was held Friday night and I had a great time attending. I encourage anyone who can get to the show to see it. It includes 3 of my paintings and I'm honored to have my work hanging on the same walls as fantastic art luminaries like Jeff Easley, Scott Gustafson, Donato Giancola, John Jude Palencar, Steve Rude, Dave Seeley, Jeff Miracola and many others. Walking the show was inspiring and talking to some of the artists in attendance was too. If you like fantastic art, don't miss this opportunity to see some in person! I can't wait to go back and see it again.

The show runs through November 13th and you can find more information, including directions, at the Kenosha Public Museum's site:

While you're in town, grab a meal at nearby Frank's Diner, the oldest continuously operating lunch cart diner in the United States. I had breakfast there (it's their specialty) and it was delicious. The diner has even been featured on the Food Network's popular Diners, Drive-ins and Dives TV show.

Goblin Rogue

Here's another painting from the Twilight of the Dragons set for the World of Warcraft trading card game. This piece depicts a goblin rogue named Azizi Daggerflick (I love the crazy names they give characters in this game). I'm posting my preliminary drawing and a color rough as well as the final painting.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Con sketch: Sweetums

Wizard World Chicago was a resounding success! Thank you to everyone who took the time to stop by my table, say hello and look at my art. It was great to see old friends and meet new people.

I did quite a few sketch commissions at the con and a few people intend to scan them and send them to me so when that happens, I'll share more of them here. Meanwhile, here's a quick brush and ink sketch I did for Sarah Kramer (I hope I have your name right, Sarah), who has an entire sketchbook she's filling with muppet sketches by different artists. It's a great idea and I was more than happy to draw a muppet.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bat-Mite and Batgirl

Since I will be at Wizard World Chicago this weekend, here's something a little different: ink drawings of comic book characters!

The first two drawings are of Bat-Mite, an impish character that's been appearing in Batman comics on and off since the early '60s. I've always liked the character and did the first drawing while at the Summit City Comic Con earlier this summer. The second drawing is much closer to the original character design which, if I'm not mistaken, was drawn by Batman artist Dick Sprang.

Rounding off this trio of bat-drawings is Batgirl, a character I've liked since Yvonne Craig charmed me on the old Batman TV show when I was a kid.

All 3 drawings are for sale and I'll be doing more of them at the con this weekend so if you're interested in purchasing a drawing, checking out some original art or just saying "hi", please stop by my table (#3501) at Wizard World Chicago, in Artist's Alley.

If you're interested in purchasing or commissioning a drawing, you can contact me at:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wizard World Chicago

Just a friendly reminder: If you're in the Rosemont, IL area this weekend, why not go to Wizard World? I'll be in the Artist's Alley section at table 3501, doing drawings, signing, selling prints and artwork and happily chatting with anyone who cares to stop by. Please pay me a visit! The convention runs all weekend, from Friday the 12th through Sunday the 14th. e-ch.html

Holy Blaze

I've been a busy lad lately, thus the lag time between posts. However, I'll be posting quite a bit of art in the next few weeks so please "stay tuned". First up: a digital painting and some process images from a Warcraft card that appears in the recently released Twilight of the Dragons set. This piece depicts a gnome priest drawing upon holy magic. The entire picture was created in Photoshop and Painter, including the preliminary drawing, which I'll call Step 1. Due to the holy nature of the spell, I thought it would be appropriate to have the gnome's eyes closed, as if she's peacefully looking within to get in touch with the holy power she's summoning.

Step 2: I blocked in basic colors, using a hard round brush in Photoshop at varying opacities. At this stage, i wanted to establish the basic color scheme and values. I intentionally made the rocks very dull, muted colors to emphasize the colors in the gnome and to provide a semi-neutral backdrop for the radiant light that would emanate from the priest's staff.

Step 3: This is basically step 2 with a yellow glow added on a layer to further establish the light source. If I remember correctly, that layer was set to Linear Dodge mode.

Step 4: I begin pushing lights and darks in both the figure and the background, slowly adding detail, beginning to define the shapes of the rocks, etc. At this stage i want to get a firm handle on my value range for the picture. Again, I worked primarily with a hard round brush in Photoshop, set to various levels of opacity and flow.

Step 5: On two separate layers, I added concentric circles of varying golden yellow value and roughed in rays of lights.

Step 6: I worked up texture and detail throughout the piece, particularly in the gnome, refining her until she seemed complete. I added small strokes to the circles of light surrounding the staff. further defined the rocks and the background and even muted the color of the sky and the purple mountain in the distance a bit. Most of this was done in Photoshop but I took the piece into Painter occasionally to use that program's blenders and add bits of texture.

The Final: The rays of light have been refined and small touches of light have been added. The values were adjusted a little more and the piece was finished!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Here's another illustration for a recent issue of Dragon magazine. Chevalier is another word for knight.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Banderhobb Filch

This illustration was done for the recently released Dungeon #191. It depicts a frog-like creature called a Banderhobb stealing through a village at night with a small body in a sack (it's up to the viewer to decide just what kind of body). There's nothing I like better than painting the grotesque so illustrating this creature was fun. There's a special joy for an artist in adding expression to a type of face (in this case, a frog's) that is usually rather expressionless.

I've included a detail shot to provide a better idea of what a digital painting like this looks like "up close".

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cupid of Hate

Doesn't that title express a lovely sentiment?

This is a miniature design I did for the Dreamblade miniatures game. I was asked to create a devilish little version of Cupid and I was given the chance to get a bit "cartoony" with it. Those chances don't come along often enough for me so I jumped at the opportunity, especially because the subject was very reminiscent of an old Harvey Comics character I remember fondly, Hot Stuff, the L'il Devil. My version is more realistic than Hot Stuff but definitely intended as an homage to that character.

The vertical "pole" you see running up from the bottom of the drawing represents a post. In Dreamblade, this hateful little fellow would be able to fly so when produced, the final plastic miniature would be mounted on a clear post.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Storm Warden

This D&D character is a Storm Warden. The illustration was painted a few years ago and appeared in a book called Primal Power. If you're a D&D fan, you can read more about Storm Wardens in this article:

I was particularly pleased with this painting, in part because the striking lightning breaks up the shape of the vignette nicely. I also thought the muted (for my palette anyway) colors worked well and I was able to capture the differences in texture between metal, cloth, fur and flesh. That can be a difficult challenge!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


This is another illustration from the recently released D&D supplement: Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale. It depicts a few adventurers encountering a black dragon (Shadowmire) ina swamp. Glowing "swamp lights" illuminate the scene.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This digital illustration from the recently released D&D supplement, Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale shows a collection of creatures called felldrakes (in fantasy settings, drakes are reptilian creatures related to dragons). Each of these drakes had it's own size, color and characteristics and it was my job to collect them all into a cohesive illustration. Hopefully, I've managed to do that here.

Borrowing a compositional technique from the old masters, I made sure to put the heads of the drakes at different levels. This keeps the eye moving around the picture, as do the curves of tails and horns. The sizes and colors of these drakes were predetermined so I tried to turn those traits to my advantage, using the blue of the largest drake to frame the orange drake, the orange to frame the green drake in the foreground, etc. It was a real challenge but I was happy with the results and all those scales were fun to paint!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dreamblade: 4-Armed Sentry

This is another miniature design turnaround I did for the Dreamblade miniatures game a few years ago. It's a 4-armed Sentry/warrior with a distinctly ancient southeast asian vibe.