Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

My hair doesn't slick back like I wanted it to. So my pirate looked pretty weird.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Book Cover: At the Queen's Command

I found this online today: At the Queen's Command, by Michael A. Stackpole was recently released by Night Shade Books. The cover illustration is mine, done early in the summer.

The idea was to replicate a John Trumbull painting depicting the French and Indian wars. The horses of the English were to be replaced by wingless dragons, and the French were using both Native Americans and zombies. Art Director (and fantastic illustrator ) Dave Palumbo gave me a couple paintings as reference, including this one:

It was daunting to say the least. I knew I would have to tackle as many figures as I could but still do something within the deadline. Plus, there were a certain number of characters I had to include. I did a quick sketch to show Dave my idea and where I was planning to put the characters. The rest of the figures were to be filled in if I had time.

Admittedly, it was a quick sketch. I decided to replace the dead horse with a stone wall and eliminate a few of the riders behind the main character. I tried to imagine myself as an 18th century painter in designing the dragon. I thought that since the horses in the Trumbull painting looked a little thin and unimpressive, I would tone down the dragon a little. I figured an 18th century painter would be working from stories and maybe quick sketches, drawing dragons that looked more like medieval depictions of the creatures. To my surprise, the sketch was approved to go to final on the first round.

I got to work, and two weeks later, I sent the final to Dave.

But he had some concerns. To a certain extent, I had misunderstood the concept and look they were going for. They wanted a more fierce looking dragon, since it was to be the focal point of the cover. Also, I gave them a color intensity that might have existed in a new John Trumbull painting and they wanted a more "aged" appearance. This was Friday evening. I was leaving for a trip to Utah early the following week.

I raced back to the studio and got some paints and a piece of illustration board. I took the original sketch and transferred the dragon sketch to the new surface. I drew a more, in Dave's words, "bad-ass" dragon over the previous design and started painting, using the same color palette as the painting.

The following morning, I went back to the studio and photographed the new dragon head. In Photoshop, I took the new dragon and pasted it into the original painting. I had to use a few color matching techniques, but it worked pretty well. Finally, I used a few color layers and adjusted the levels to get it more yellowed and darkened. The result is what you see on the final product:

I hate using the computer. I really do. But in this case, it definitely made the piece better. More exciting, more moody. So kudos to Dave Palumbo. I just need to make sure I understand the goals of the project a little better right from the start, so I don't need to scramble at the end.

Click any of the images above for a better view. Here's a detail:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

One of the gang, sorta ...

Dan Dos Santos called me a couple weeks ago to invite me to "visitor day" at an artist's retreat in Western Massachusetts (almost the farthest you can get from Boston in the state). In addition to Dan, many more industry greats spent a week in an old barn working side-by-side. Thursday night was when guys like me could come by and intrude.

Turns out it was also their group photo night. As they were taking the picture, Lars Grant-West invited me to stand with them. I felt a little weird, seeing as I had only been there a few hours.

But there I am, top row on the right, in the midst of some of the greats.

Top row: Winona Nelson, Anthony Palumbo, Scott Brundage, Justin Gerard, Jordu Schell, Randy Gallegos, Chris Moeller, me, Dave Seeley
Bottom Row: Lars Grant-West, Michael Whelan, Dan Dos Santos, Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo

Many thanks to the artists who were there, and thanks to Randy Gallegos who posted the photo to his blog. Randy Gallegos' blog

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

College sketchbook

By the end of my senior year in college, I started being pretty diligent about keeping a sketchbook. Since then I haven't really done a good job at that task because I started doing, you know, real work. Less time to lounge around and do little sketches during the non-art classes.

But here are some interesting excerpts from my '05 sketchbook.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dragons and Dinosaurs

What can I say? I knew what I liked from an early age ...

To see some of those dinosaurs and other monsters, here's my portfolio from 1989.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Alternative Art

Every piece requires a series of sketches. I usually provide 2 or 3 options to a client, and they can choose their favorite. Sometimes when I'm really stumped, I'll just do one sketch and hope for either approval or some constructive criticism.

For Affa Guardhound, I provided two ideas. The first would have been easier to do, but the one that was chosen made for a more exciting piece. It illustrates the function of the card better as well.

Plague Stinger was a similar story. I provided three options. The first is a downward shot and would show the setting from above. The second is an extreme upward view, with the insect horror attacking the viewer. The final idea (my favorite) was the one chosen to move to final.