Monday, November 29, 2010

New cover progress...

I'm starting to finish a cover for a startup RPG company that I've had on the back-burner for awhile. Over the past few months, I designed their main characters in preparation for making them a cover. Since this young company has no existing art, I chose to do this first so that when it came time to doing the cover, we would have very specific looking characters which would allude to the content in the product and avoid looking generic. RPG characters and covers are usually quite detailed to the delight of the fans.

The concept for this game revolves around a fantasy world where people from the "real" world are captured and brought into this other universe. The emotions of these captured ones become a power source in the fantasy world. My sketches for the cover revolved around the bad guy drawing power from a boy and confronting the heroes. The usual problem arises of depicting everyone clearly, even though some are facing away. Its just as important to show the party of heroes as the main area of action, so we can see the eventual player choices that you may have once you play the game.

The thumbnail I chose is the 2 inch tall quick sketch above. I've decided on a set of stairs to separate the characters out, and tilted the scene for that all important "excitement". I want to have a teleportation portal/door in the background that acts as a light source, and I have indicated some basic actions for the figures.

After a photo shoot, I begin constructing the figures as rounded "dummies" or mannequins. Since I shot my reference in my friend's small apartment, there is camera lens distortion on the figures, with parts closer enlarged unnaturally. Drawing the bodies of the figures out this way is helpful in translating the photo information to something that works in your made-up 3-d space. The discipline of this also allows for the armor and details to be drawn on top more easily.

Above is the final drawing, after some changes to poses and positions. At this point the figures are about half referenced, as my changes had to be drawn without new photos at hand. This isn't much of an issue once the bodies are covered up with their gear. The main bad guy is drawn without reference, and I just took a quick shot of my own hand in the mirror to add the realism you need for a hand. Currently, the boy is pretty weak, and I'll try to refine him to the point that you don't question him being done without a reference photo.

A quick indication of some tones and this is off to the client and ready for a color study...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Illuxcon 2010, the big "RESET"

I'm now officially now back from Illuxcon 2010, which just took place in Pennsylvania this past weekend. Personally, this convention is a giant "RESET" button; the event serves to refocus, re-energize and reward my efforts at my goal in becoming a successful fantasy illustrator. If I was getting sidetracked or lazy, this event puts a stop to bad habits and introduces me to new techniques, friends and opportunities.

Illuxcon 2010 was even more fulfilling than the 2009 version. The highlights of my experience fall into 3 categories: socialization, appreciation and motivation. I met with old friends and made new ones. I am motivated by seeing the great artwork, and realization that the attainment of similar results is within reach. I appreciate others, their processes, and was appreciated myself in turn.

Not too many tradeshow photos made it onto my camera this year. It was basically the same set-up as last year so I didn't record the room much.

The first artist I made my way to at the show was Ralph Horsley. Listening to him for the past few months on the Ninja mountain Podcast talking intelligently with his British accent I was expecting Richard Attenborough with a paintbrush. I have immense appreciation for his effortlessly crafted and minutely-detailed scenes of mayhem. At the start of the show I figured him an elder statesman of the genre, but by the end of Illuxcon, he was buying me drinks at the hotel bar as we enjoyed deep discussion on our art and a burgeoning friendship.

I was infatuated by the Hildebrandt's work years ago, and it was a real thrill to meet Greg and his partner, Jean. I started my convention with an hour's chat with Greg which was quite interesting. at 71 years old, he still gets up early everyday and paints 7 days a week. His personal energy is truly amazing and points to a roadmap of longetivity and success. Here is Greg working on a dragon painting...

Travelling to the USA, you just have to embrace the food. American cuisine can be truly wonderful if you are a connoisseur of various meat products. I watch alot of "Diners Drive-ins and Dives" on food network, and its a mission to find that sort of stuff when I go. This breakfast consisted of:
A Bacon, of course
B Token healthy stuff
C Fried applesauce
D Reconstituted sausage product
E Breakfast onions
F Breakfast cake
G Corned beef hash
H Finale of biscuit and sausage gravy

One of the great things about Illuxcon is discovering artists I've never heard of who I end up adoring. Patrick Jones' works immediately struck a chord with me with their old-master's craft. He is a rare illustrator who intentionally mutes the contrast in his work and pursues a soft, unified and painterly quality for the purpose of the longevity of the aesthetic object.

On the last day I reaquainted myself with Todd Lockwood. He went through my portfolio thoroughly and we discussed the topic of thumbnails. To repay him for the generosity of his time I helped him pack his wares up. I didn't know what I was getting into at the time, and the way we reinforced his packing box, it should last a few hundred more conventions.

Most artists understand the purpose of the thumbnail, but Todd's demonstration and his thinking behind it gave me a new outlook on the process. Perhaps a later blog post will go into more depth on what I learned...

The socialization at Illuxcon is one of the best things about it. Its basically the size of a big wedding, and the artists are your family. You are always an arm's length away from someone you want to talk to and someone who can enrich your passion for art.
A hotel bar in the middle of nowhere needs the action brought to it in the form of a $30 fooseball table and some tape. It was fun until the stink-bomb incident.

I booked a table at the Friday night showcase event, basically a mini-show within the show for up and comers. At the last minute I made some prints to sell and give away, and gathered some art that would fit in my luggage. This was a great experience, being on the artist side of the table and talking to fans, buyers and friends. It was a real thrill to have the tables turned for a brief moment with Donato, Greg Hildebrandt and others appreciating my work.

My friends Laura and Chris chatting with Donato: the man.

I finished off my trip with a "Chicago style" hot dog at the airport. I was really hoping for sausage gravy on it, but no luck...

Illuxcon is over and I'm back at my lonely house in the woods. I have new motivation based on new knowledge and confidence.

Time to paint.