Friday, February 25, 2011

Warcraft art

I've been lucky enough to find work over the past year making art for the World of Warcraft (WOW) trading card game. It's been fun to work on this franchise, as I really enjoy the designs, colors and action of this world. It was a natural fit for me going from the video game industry to the illustration field where the subject is based on a video game. My natural inclination towards cleanliness and color has finally paid off in getting me work from the world's #1 game franchise.

The trading card game (TCG) field is a huge area for fantasy art. Many of the top illustrators find regular work making art for TCGs. There are tournaments all over the world, and its a great way for companies to expand their creative properties.

Below are a few of the cards I did last year. It's been a learning process for me. Initially I thought I was to make "small art", or basically just a card asset that was less than a full-fledged illustration. What I've come to realize is that the printing is superb quality, the artists top-notch and the expectations lofty. Even though the final product is a couple inches across, you still need to make a great piece of art for possible other promotional purposes. This is great, because you end up with finished work that can be made into prints to sell at conventions. As I have been doing these over the past year I have gradually added more detail, and my latest ones in production are getting close to where I need to be. I look forward to working on WOW for a long time!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Drawing (almost) everyday

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am attempting to be more consistent in my drawing. The goal is to draw everyday. I've been relatively good with this the past few weeks. In my work, I've been doing digital painting as I'm finishing some card art, so its nice to start my day by warming up with some pencil work. I think the trick is to do it first thing before starting the day's main work, because if you leave it until after there is the chance you might be tired or not get around to it.

I've never been the best draftsman. I've been quite inconsistent with my drawing: sometimes wielding great skills and other times drawing terribly. Its not a skill you can just assume proficiency with if you have done some good drawings in the past. I think this has been my main undoing: not keeping it up because I assume I can do it. Drawing is a mental and physical skill; there is brain visualization and hand dexterity working together with brain connections and experience. If you stop, you'll get rusty and you wont draw how you used to... let alone improve!

Anyhow, I'm about a year and a half into being a full-time fantasy illustrator, and I know I need to keep building my drawing skills to both keep my place and move up the ladder in this field. My past career as an all-purpose video game artist was usually frustrating in that these essential skills were needed but not able to be exercised. I did alot of technical work which took the place of the drawing stage like utilizing 3-d models.

In my mind I need to keep working on these 4 things to build necessary drawing skills:
  1. Practice dynamic poses and angles. Draw solidly-felt characters interestingly.
  2. Practice creative conceptual design. Create novel and believable new designs.
  3. Draw from life and from reference. Build the visual vocabulary.
  4. Draw compositions and multi-figured scenes. Develop skills dealing with complexity and simplicity.
As I'm getting warmed up into this routine during the past few weeks, I'm getting comfortable with the mechanical pencil. I'm of the current belief this is the best tool for the things stated above: The fine line forces precision and control. I've also ditched using sketchbooks, and now draw on a pad of paper. The pressure of "messing up" a nice new sketch book and filling every page with something good was debilitating. Now I just tear it off and trash what isn't working.

I've come to the realization that my current impulse is to draw some generic figure on some rocks. These daily drawings aren't meant to take a long time, and there is no planning or experimentation stage, so this is natural. What I have learned is that I need to practice #2 the most, as I've gotten rusty from not doing much concept art in a long time. It probably takes drawing alot and taking an overview of your production like this to accurately gauge where you're at.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Pathfinder half-pager

Paizo publishing recently released their new pathfinder module "Cult of the Ebon Destroyers", which I have 2 half-page illustrations in.

It was part of an art order where I did 4 half-pagers last fall. Thinking I had the time, I packed many figures into each illustration and had quite complex scenes. In retrospect, I didn't quite finish them up to my standards, as there were just too many elements for my rendered style. I learned alot about doing half-pagers from this job; namely that I had better focus the scope of them if I want to get portfolio pieces. On the other hand, I'll need to adopt a looser style if I want to have so many figures. The experience I gained from this job was to just take a minute and realistically visualize how my idea/sketch will translate into a finished piece, factoring in the making of a bunch of images simultaneously on deadline. Working smarter, and not just harder by picking a good camera angle, editing and concise storytelling will be in mind for the next ones.

This one turned out ok... probably because it had the least figures. Its a character blasting a zombie with her holy symbol as a female ghost comes out of the zombie. I had a bit of an issue making a glowing, transparent ghost... transparent glowy things are really common in fantasy art asssignments, and a pet peeve of mine!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

stu-stu-studio! (apologies to Phil)

I've always found it interesting to see photos of artist's studios. Whether its an old black and white shot of an antiques-laded 19th century atelier with 2-story windows or a shot of Frank Frazetta sitting at a modest table in a small room, I'm fascinated by the artists' workspace.

I hear many fellow illustrators have quite modest studios; often an extra room in an apartment or a corner of the living room. Some great artists make do with quite meager surroundings, and its a testament to how much of the creative process is just the artist, their hand and mind. Having said that, I have personally managed to forge a nice studio space over my garage, and it didn't cost me much to furnish the space. Having acquired my equipment over many years, I've managed to find things almost free, whether at used office equipment stores or sales of surplus from libraries and garage sales.

The below image is an overview of the room. I have my computer desk on the left and my drawing area on the right:
  1. Tunes: cds and stereo. I also listen to music and podcasts through the computer
  2. Portable 240volt high-powered heater. I use this to heat the space up quickly in the morning
  3. Standar 120volt heater. Maintains heat once room is comfortable. (did I mention where I live??)
  4. pile of painting clothes.
  5. Mirror to check poses and artwork in reverse.
  6. Rack of partially-finished ideas and sketches to revisit later
  7. Bookcase of reference and art books
  8. Notes and inspiration images.

The drawing area on the right has the following:
  1. Dual color-balanced art lamps.
  2. upright drafting table with drawing clip-board to hold pads of paper.
  3. Supplies caddy: pencils, erasers, tape, etc.
  4. Table to place materials such as paints and palette.
  5. 2 garbage cans: one for garbage, the other for paper to recycle
  6. Storage cabinet for mattes, canvases, etc
  7. Original fantasy paintings by others for inspiration
  8. Prints and clipped art for inspiration
  9. Table for supplies, solvents, etc. Also anatomical cast for reference

Finally to the right is the "finishing" area: the computer area:
  1. Cintiq tablet monitor
  2. Epson Stylus 1400 13x19 printer
  3. Cheapo black and white laser printer
  4. Mustek 11x17 large format scanner
  5. pile of cards for inspiration and reference for what I am currently doing on the computer.
  6. Thermometer
  7. light table/ cutting area for tracing and cutting paper
  8. Curtains to close off light to minimize monitor glare

As you can see I keep alot of inspiration art around me and I have tacked some notes up as reminders to avoid certain personal bad habits:

I realize I have a pretty sweet space compared to most illustrators. Up until a couple years ago I did all my work in a cubicle-office environment, and the work was pretty much the same. While I'm happy I have these resources I still believe 98% of your artistic horsepower originates from the space between your ears.