Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Ghoul of Mistwatch

A few months back I was commissioned by Jon Schindehette at Wizards of The Coast to do an image for Dungeon Magazine. The art order called for a creepy scene of a ghoul character dragging the corpse of a commoner through the streets of a dark medieval town. I was really excited about this project since I have always wanted to delve into the macabre with my work, but for general portfolio purposes always felt this imagery might have been a bit out of gamut for the way i wanted to represent myself. 

I would like to share my steps a bit with this one. I always find it interesting to see how other artists approach each commission. I sometimes find myself wondering, how detailed do other people do their thumbnails? How many thumbnails? was there a color comp? How detailed was the final sketch? 

I know my process is pretty ordinary for approaching a project like this, but for the sake of content and maybe answering some of the questions above for you, here's how I go about it:

I always do thumbnails. I hate thumbnails. I love thumbnails. I find some projects to be really hit or miss for me with thumbnails. Sometimes I can draw tons of thumbnails if i am inspired enough, but most of the time however I have a hard time doing lots of thumbnails. I tend to get stuck with liking my first one best (and usually it's the one that works out best). In this case though I really loved the imagery and could almost instantly come up with a scene from the art description. I think I did about 10 to 15 thumbnails before choosing these three:
The first one shown is actually the first thumbnail I did, and it was actually the one chosen. I usually send three thumbnails for a project depending on what the art director wants. Sometimes more if I can't decide or if they request specifically. These were also toned in photoshop to help emphasize the dramatic lighting.

Final Sketch!
After the thumbnail is chosen I will then shoot all of my reference. I am usually trying to get as specific with my reference as possible. Also with a piece like this, I want to make sure that the lighting is going inform me as much as possible. From all of my reference I create a final sketch that looks something like this:
Lately I've been doing all of my final drawings in charcoal. Vine charcoal on a pre-toned surface to be more specific. I've found that It is really nice for starting off gesturally and tightening down from there. Also, it's much easier to erase mistakes and change things on the fly. A problem I used to have when drawing in pencil was that I would lose the life in the sketch. Charcoal is much more like painting to me. This one also has a bit of photoshop in it to accentuate the highlights.

Color Comp!
Next, usually while i'm waiting for approval on the final sketch. I will do a quick color study in photoshop. I am no digital painter so these tend to be pretty crude, but they do help out a lot.
I find that if I don't do a proper color study before starting a painting I will spend far too much time sitting and thinking about what colors to paint things. This can be annoying and stressful and take up too much time. So I just do helps tons.

Final Painting!
So last but not least it's on to the final painting after the art director gives the thumbs up on the previous steps. 
This painting was done at twice the reproduction size so about 10x15". I always get a good image of my final sketch so that I can then print it out full size on drawing paper and mount it to my painting surface. Often I will mount the paper to untempered masonite from the lumber yard, but since this was smaller I decided to use  Crescent no.115 three-ply hot press watercolor board. After that is mounted with at least three coats of acrylic matte medium, I will tone the whole surface with burnt umber. This automatically gets rid of the white of the paper and give a nice warm ground to paint on top of. You can see the ground color showing through in some spots, particularly between the cobble stones and the barrels on the left.
©2010 Wizards of the Coast
So there's a little look into my processes. Of course it's not always this straightforward, but most of the time it's similar. I have to give a big thank you to Jon for this project. He's a great guy to work with. 
Stay tuned for more soon!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What a lovely face

Hello everyone! Lots of work and additional internet connection issues have kept me from posting for quite a while unfortunately. But now that i've sorted out the issues as well as finished up some of those projects, I can get some more stuff up here for you to see.
When I came to Egypt about 2 months ago I came packed with all of my essential painting materials. In fact it took up more space than most of my clothes. The one issue I have always had here however is painting medium. It is illegal to bring flammable materials such as Liquin on the plane at all. Past years I have experimented with many of the materials available in Cairo art stores, but have had little to no luck of finding a suitable substance that can give me what I am so accustomed to using with Liquin. So this year after much research I decided that I would order a small bottle of Walnut Alkyd Medium from the states. Since it is a nonflammable alternative to Liquin it can be legally shipped anywhere. Though I do not recommend this since it may well have turned out to be the most expensive 8 oz. bottle of walnut alkyd on the planet! but besides the huge taxes and crazy shipping fees, this stuff is really great. I am pleased to have found a suitable medium that I can travel with finally. 

So without furthur ado here's two small studies I did as tests of the alkyd before I went on to more important paintings. They also second as gifts for my good friends Chris and Michelle here who work in the bone magazine at our site and manage the burials. They always let me know when a good skull is out for taking photos. The paintings are of actual burials we have here, and yes, the first one does have hair like that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Sphinx Methinks

Here's another quick study (not of a skull this time!) in watercolor. This is a ram-headed sphinx from Karnak Temple in Luxor. I thought this was a nice change from the typical lady headed sphinxes we're all used to seeing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Far away, but still here

So life is a bit slow and repetitive here in the sandy land of Egypt. You'd think there'd be more to paint here, but actually there's not really. Our house is about 2 hours south of Cairo and half a mile away from any civilization into the desert. Sooo there's the house we live in which you can see some studies of here and here, but otherwise it's desert. Flat empty desert. And not even the romantic rolling dune kind of desert either. So i've been intrigued by this skull. I wish I could bring it home with me, but seeing as it's about 24 inches long and weighing about 15 pounds i don't think it will fit in my luggage....not to mention customs! soo I paint on. 
Here's another quick study from the other day. More interesting things to come I promise!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Skulls, skulls, a wonderful thing

Here's a couple more quick watercolor sketches of the skull. I haven't used watercolors in quite some time. It's a nice change of pace while I wait for approval on some other projects.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

From far off in the land of sand

Hello everyone! it's been a long time since i've been able to post anything since I am currently in Egypt for 10 weeks with my "day" job. I just wanted to pop in and post a quick sketch I did of this Gamoosa (water buffalo) skull we have lying around behind the house. More to come soon!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Hundred!

We're celebrating our 100th post over on the group blog Running with Paintbrushes. Go check out what we've been up to! Here's a little sketch I did to celebrate (maybe a little too much!).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Elf Hunter Drawing

Whew! it's been way too long since i've last posted! Sorry! I've been really busy toiling away on some projects that I can't show right now. 
Here's a drawing I just did for a project i'm working on that I can show. I can't wait to get painting on this one!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Here's my third illustration done for the Dark Sun Creature Catalogue. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out how to draw this four-armed guy and still have it make sense. 


Thursday, August 12, 2010


Here's Installment #2 of my Dark Sun creatures. These little beasties were lots of fun to draw.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

GenCon and A Dark Sun

I just got back from a great weekend at GenCon in Indianapolis! It is one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world. This year was my first time attending, and I really enjoyed it. I met so many great artists and art directors out there. I definitely plan on getting a booth next year to join in all the art show fun! 

The other exciting thing about the weekend was that The Dark Sun Creature Catalogue was revealed much to my surprise. I created some spot illustrations for the book which is my first project for Wizards ever! These illustrations were done back in February, and while I still really love them (being my first real D&D gig and all), it's funny to look back at art you've done six months ago. There are so many things I think I would have done differently(and better) on them now in retrospect....I am my own harshest critic. I still loved creating them, and had a blast working with Mari at Wizards on this project! 

So without further ado! Here is the first image from the set: I will be posting these over the next few days.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Painting and off to GenCon

Here's my newest painting just finished up the other day. I'm heading to GenCon tomorrow for the first time. I've heard it's a good time and I'm really looking forward to hanging out with everyone there.

13"x18" Oil on Panel

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Back from SDCC: New Drawing!

Hey! I just got back the other day from San Diego Comic-Con. I had a blast out there as usual. Tons to see and do...and buy! I met a whole lot of cool people there too. 
After a bunch of good portfolio reviews and positive feedback I'm ready to try and tackle a new painting before Gencon (exactly one week from today!). So of course I won't be sleeping a whole lot in the next few days. What else is new?
Here's the drawing: 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Averna Final Painting

I've been working hard getting ready for San Diego Comic-con these past couple weeks. I'll be there all weekend wandering around. I also hope to make a day trip out to LA to see the Geromé show at the Getty. I can't wait! 
Here's the final for my "Averna" painting. 

13"x18" Oil on masonite

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Averna Drawing

Here's a charcoal and digital drawing for my next painting!
10x14 Charcoal with digital additions

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quick Portrait Study for Averna

I did this little study the other day just for fun. So much fun that I've actually decided to use this as a study for my next painting. I want to try and get a little looser with my's always hard to do on a finished piece.
5x7" Oil on Masonite

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

War Priest Painting Progress

Here's some random shots of my painting I took during the week. They are a bit random because I i kept forgetting to take shots when I got up to walk around. Also they are not accurate to the colors because they are just shot on the easel under the florescent studio lights. 

The quick lay-in stage over my burnt umber ground. Starting to get the smoke in there.
Not too far after the last image, but I'm getting that misty army in the back there also his bag. The smoke is getting a bit more defined too.
Just filled in the face and other skin tones. in the middle of doing his right hand.

Big jump here, didn't take any photos the last day or so because I was too busy trying to finish up. This is how it looked when I left the easel at 6am on friday morning. I tried to color correct a little bit so this one is closer to the true colors.
I still have a bit of work i want to do on it like bump up the brightness in the magic as well as make some of the highlights on his face and gold pop more. I will be finishing it up in the next day or so and post the real final soon. 

War Priest of Thune Final Drawing

Wow! what a whirlwind of a week! So full of inspiration and excitement this years Illustration Master class was yet again an amazing experience that I will take with me and cherish for the rest of my life. I have been fortunate enough  to have attended for the past three years and I am constantly blown away by the week spent with some of my favorite illustrators. Everyone is extremely generous with their knowledge and insight on the industry. It is a true pleasure to get to spend the sleepless hours during this past week drawing, painting, hearing from, and talking to some wonderful people. 
I was hoping that I would be able to post some progress throughout the week, but my desire to work and hang out as much as possible wasn't too conducive to spending time on the computer. So i apologize for keeping everyone in the dark!
As you may recall from my previous post I had set out with a small preliminary sketch to see what the instructors had to say. After a long day of great critiques it was back to drawing board. Most changes were fairly minimal to my satisfaction. 
After spending a couple nerve-racking hours trying to fix my little sketch into something usable, Jeremy Jarvis (Magic© Art Director) came around and asked me how long I spent to make the initial sketch. "about an hour or two," i said nervously. He looked ponderously at me and shook his head. "And how long have you spent screwing around with this one?" he asked. "Err 3 hours or so..." i replied as i craned my neck to look at the clock secretly knowing what he'd say next. "You need to trash this one and start over. It's going to be impossible to fudge this one into working." He told me much to my dismay (though I knew it). So after a deep was back to the drawing board to start fresh and try to get life back into my drawing. But! even though it was a pain to start over again I managed to make an even better drawing than I had to begin with. This is something I could have never done at home in my studio by myself. I would've noodled away on that little drawing far longer than necessary hoping it would pull together, and it probably never would have.

So here's what came out of that as my final drawing: (apologies for the poor image. This is a photo on the easel as I had finished it with just the over head lighting)

After just a couple hours I had this bigger drawing together and Jeremy walked by again. "Nice! now we're talking!" he said "now go paint it!"....I was feeling great now knowing that I was able to turn the image around into something good. Of course as I walked away eager to get to work he called out to me as i left the room, "Don't fuck it up!"....gotta love the pressure. :)

So the moral of the story is: If your drawing is sucking start over...and if you fix your drawing and go to paint it...don't fuck it up!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Off to the IMC!

In just 7 hours i'll be on my way up to Amherst, MA for the IMC! Here is the second preliminary sketch i'll be bringing with me. Now off to bed!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

IMC 2010: The Beginnings

It's that time of year again! This Friday I'll be heading off to Amherst, MA for the annual Illustration Master Class at Amherst college. It is a week-long intensive class filled with painting, critiques, painting demos, lectures, no sleep, waay too much college cafeteria food,....aaand did I mention no sleep? yep it's drawing and painting from 9am-2am everyday. Followed by some good ol' dorm-style hangouts into the wee hours of the morning. And not to mention with some of the absolute best of the best illustrators in the world teaching. I can't wait!

You may remember my posts last year about my IMC painting of the Berserker Lord. This year I want to tackle one of the Magic card descriptions given for the assignment. The description goes like this: 

War Priest of Thune (Magic Card)      
Color: White creature
Location: Battlefield
Action: This is a cleric who isn't content to sit back and heal the wounded — he/she wades into combat, using his/her own protective magic to make him/her a more powerful sacred warrior. Show a male or female, olive-skinned human cleric in full battle armor. Maybe the armor is plate with leather covering strapped over it. We want a glamor shot of him/her, confronting the camera, heavy mace in hand, as a smog rolls away from him/her unnaturally, as if receding from his/her presence.
Focus: The battle cleric
Mood: A holy badass
Notes: No real-world symbols, please.

So here's a bit of my process so far: 
First a bunch of scaled thumbnails. These are printed onto a sheet and are the same exact size the card art would be printed. I tend to be pretty loose with these. More thinking about composition than character design or details.

Next, after some good feedback from all around, I took my top three thumbnails into photoshop and did some little color/composition studies. they look like this:
I decided that I liked the bottom two color roughs because of their movement. But, after some further feedback I decided that my color rough of #1 was a bit different from it's thumbnail and actually looked quite different from what I was going for. Also the two bottom roughs are getting to be a bit too exaggerated and stylized for a Magic style cleric. Too World of Warcraft, and too action oriented for a character that should be a little bit more reserved. So back to the drawing board I went, and decided to work up a better version of my #1 rough. This is more of the feeling and look i was intending in my thumbnail stage. 
6.25"x8" Charcoal
I am also working up a charcoal version of my second color rough because I still really like the movement in it (i'll just tone down the WoW). We'll see what the instructors say on Saturday about them! 

Check back for more updates through the week!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Illustration: Flight

Here's another new painting that I recently finished. It is for a young adult fantasy cover project. The theme was "flight."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Muse" Finish

Well it's been a busy month of May with some new paintings (the other coming soon!), moving to a new apartment/studio, and training for a half marathon! All flopped on top of my regular 9-5. 
This painting was due just the other day for the latest Artorder challenge.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Discover A Muse

Here's a drawing for an upcoming painting that I am doing for the current challenge over at ArtOrder. It's for the "discovering a muse" challenge that's due on June 1st.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Friday!

Well it's Friday again. So to celebrate, here's a sketch of some kind of Man-cat with a strange looking axe. Whoohoo!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New Drawing "Flight"

Here's a charcoal drawing I finished up recently for my next painting. It's for a mock young adult fantasy cover project. Should be a fun one!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some Dragon-Bird Thing

I've got some new things in the works. Just started a new project at the ol' Running with paintbrushes blog. So since I don't have anything big to show right now, here's a sketch of some dragon-bird thing that may be making an appearance in my next painting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Witch of Fallows Heath

Well as usual it's been waaaay too long since i've added anything on here. Sheesh! Where does the time go? I just finished up this little painting as part of our project at the collective blog Running with Paintbrushes. It was a bit of a departure from my usual routine. I started the image with a loose charcoal drawing using very little reference. I mounted a printed version of the drawing as usual and then proceeded my painting without much reference. I did make a little color study in photoshop, and had a general photo for the lighting and the bird. So it was fun to go at this one without much of the tedious reference work and planning (though I do enjoy that part sometimes too). 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rust At Last!

So it's taken me ages to finally get back to work on this, but some more important projects had to be put first. Now I'm glad to say that I've finished my "Rust" piece and i'm fairly happy with it.
I wanted to do an image that was basically black and white (over a Burnt Umber ground that was also mixed into the greys) with one other bright color. This was inspired by a few paintings I saw at the Delaware Art Museum by Howard Pyle from his pirate series. 
In case you missed the original project this was for, we had to create an image based on a quote. The quote went like this: "A Sword, a spade, and a thought should never be allowed to rust" - James Stephens

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Witch Sketch

Just finished a quick sketch for our recent challenge over at Running with Paintbrushes . Since I have been hard at work on some paintings for Wizards of the Coast, and was unable to turn in my "Rust" painting on time, we thought we'd try a little lighter assignment. The task was to do a drawing of a witch however we wanted...pretty simple eh? It was a nice quick break from painting. I decided to use charcoal because it's been forever since I last used it, and I will say that I had a great time working with it! It feels so much more fluid than pencil! I might have to mess around with it more often. Anyways, here's my quick drawing...perhaps i'll paint it!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tower of Ureth and "Rust"

I've added this new painting to my website. It's called Tower of Ureth Hal.

Also new drawings are up for the latest "Rust" project over at the collective blog Running with Paintbrushes. Check it out!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Up and Running!

We've got a new project started finally on the collective blog Running with Paintbrushes. Go check it out! 
I've got a few exciting projects going on for Wizards of the Coast. Unfortunately I can't share any of it till they are released...but don't worry I've got new things on the way here soon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Waterhouse Montreal

This weekend a few artist friends and I decided to take a trip up to Montreal to check out the John William Waterhouse exhibit at the Musee Des Beaux-Arts De Montreal. It is the only North American show of his work. I had been told a month or two ago about this show from one of my art school professors, Dennis Nolan, and he said it was one of the top 5 art exhibits he'd ever seen...and I definitely agree. I would even up his statement by saying it's one of the top 3 art exhibits i've ever seen. 
We managed to to drive up from Manhattan (about 7 hours) saturday and spent the entire day in the museum on sunday. I would recommend this show to anyone who can make it up to Montreal. It ends on Feb. 7 2010.

Below are a few quick sketches I did during my visit. I am both greatly inspired and humbled by Waterhouse's paintings

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Figure Drawing

Sorry not many updates lately! The holiday season is always a slow one for me illustration-wise. Anyhow, I recently managed to get back to the Society of Illustrators for some figure drawing. It has been months since i've done any figure drawing and boy was it painful! least in the beginning. I'm going to try and get back there on a more regular basis. Here's a few of the more successful ones from my figure sketchbook.