This piece for Dragon Magazine #426 was a challenge! The art description called for the character to be "strongly backlit, but we can still pick out the details of his angular elf features, sheathed sword, leather armor". I may have made the whole thing more difficult by going with yellow backlighting, which is about as strong as it gets. However, it was an interesting challenge. In the first version I completed, the character was darker, more of a silhouette with some features visible. Art director Kate Irwin really helped me find a balance between that silhouette and the backlighting that worked to bring out the character but still met the original goals for the piece.
I've included a detail image so you can see some of work that went into this illustration a little better.
Last year, I painted some cards for Cryptozoic Entertainment's new game Hex: Shards of Fate. I've already posted my favorite of the pieces I created for the game. You can see it here: http://www.jimnelsonart.blogspot.com/2013/09/rocket-ranger.html
For several reasons, I needed to keep my approach a little simpler and less detailed on these cards but Hopefully, I was still able to capture a little magic. The dwarves in the game lean toward the cartoony side (which I liked) and toward gray in color. Consequently, I used muted colors and punctuated them with stronger hues where possible. The images went through some color revisions at the end so the large fellow in green is actually wearing a muted red in the final art. I've posted two versions of one of the cards below so you can see how purples and greens were also shifted to red for the final art.
It's a fun challenge to try and simplify what you're doing while still coming up with something that is (hopefully) an effective image!