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!