Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mayor/Alpha sketches

Below are the sketches I submitted for Mayor of Avabruck and Howlpack Alpha. You can see that in the sketches for the mayor, I was going for a more peaceful, relaxed, intimate scene. The assignment required that I include the mayor studying a map in front of a big window (or with the window somewhere in the room behind him). The trick would be to get the lighting right. I had a general idea, but I ended up taking very, very complete photo reference.
The success of the piece hinged on the detail and subtlety of the lighting, something that in hindsight I could have done better. At the time, I was also still trying out the Zorn palette (cadmium red, yellow ochre, black and white), which didn't make the job any easier. However, I did have fun designing the mayor. To this day I still dig his outfit, regardless of what others think. I think its Gothic-derivative, but not colonial. Plus, he has a cool collar to ward off vampires (even though he should have been worried about werewolves, apparently).

I did a ton of thumbnails for Howlpack Alpha, but only came up with one idea that seemed to work for me. The werewolf needed to be jumping through the window, glass shattering around him and if possible, to include a full moon. This is the only way I figured out how to do that:
The sketches were approved, but the art director told me to keep the anatomy of the werewolf in line with the other werewolves of the Innistrad world. I reworked the sketch and submitted this:
This was approved but the art director requested that I make his fur mottled. This is very, very hard to do with paints. Mottled fur is meant to hide a creature's form in the wild; just like camouflage. The painter's motive, however, is to create form. So not only do you have to figure out where the light and shadow are falling, but you also have to change that pattern if you are painting a spot of dark fur. It's hard to see on the final but I was happy with what I achieved.

Now, the broken window. The trick with glass is that it's transparent from certain angles and translucent or opaque from others. Since the light is coming from below, any edge of glass that points in that direction would produce a highlight. But if the face of the glass is pointed at the viewer, you can see through it. What if the face of glass points toward the light? How does the moon affect the glass? For each shard of glass, I had to answer those questions.

Again, the lighting effects could have been more subtle and the whole piece could have been moodier. However, I'm really happy with the broken glass. It took a lot of planning and was an absolute pain in the rear, but if I ever have to do broken glass again ( please God, no), I will be referring back to Howlpack Alpha.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Innistrad Prerelease

It's that time of the year again: the new expansion set of Magic: The Gathering is coming out. Called Innistrad, it's the game's take on Gothic horror. The Mana Core will be hosting a Prerelease event in Providence, RI, and I will be there signing cards.

Coincidentally, I illustrated the promo card that will be given out at the event. It's a double-sided card in which the Mayor of Avabruck (below) turns into Howlpack Alpha (bottom). This is breaking the mold in the world of Magic, so it will be interesting to see how players deal with the new cards.

There are many things I did right with these illustrations. But, as always, there are things that I definitely could have improved upon. Maybe I'll cover those things in a future art-related post.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Homer usually lives with my fiancee, but because her apartment is on the first floor and might flood during Hurricane Irene, he's staying with me for the remainder of the weekend. Needless to say, I'm not getting a whole lot of painting done. I'm trying to make sure he can't get into anything he shouldn't. Plus, he's miserable, so I'm trying not to ignore him completely.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tools of the trade: Mirrors

Almost all artists occasionally back up from their work to look at the piece from a distance. You can more easily see the painting as a whole, making judgments on value, composition and the overall success of the piece. I use this technique frequently.

But anyone who has seen me work knows I also use mirrors. Instead of backing up from the piece all the time, I use a hand mirror to view the work at double-arm distance. In addition, the mirror also flips the piece, making any mistakes instantly visible. You can see if the composition is falling off one corner, if a piece of architecture is asymmetrical, or if the impact of the color needs fixing.

Usually, I have been looking at the painting for a long time, so to see its flipped version makes my mistakes immediately clear. Since I work alone, it's the only way I have found to get fresh eyes on the piece without consulting other artists.

For example, here's my 2008 painting, Red.

Everything looks normal. But view it flipped:

Pretty different, but everything looks correct, including her face and anatomy. After a few moments, this flipped image starts to feel normal. If that happens, I know that I'm on the right track.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Almost that time ...

Spectrum 18 is just a few months from publication, so over at their website they are offering a preview of some of the pages.

You'll notice one of my pieces is in good company. It's nestled comfortably below Bob Eggleton and to the right of Petar Meseldzija; surrounded by legends.

And its almost time to start thinking about Spectrum 19 entries already!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Keeping the ball rolling ...

To keep the momentum building on my blog, I thought I'd share some old news that I neglected to mention weeks ago. My friend John Tomac, illustrator, designer and former high school and college teammate, had an illustration printed in the July issue of Runner's World magazine. RW Art Director Kory Kennedy (formerly of Rolling Stone) works with some pretty big names in the industry, so getting into Runner's World is a huge deal.

But not only did John get an illustration in the magazine, it was a full-page piece (a page ahead of Lance Armstrong's article ... fitting), narrating his own story of running and survival. Please click on the image to read the entire thing:

There is also a short video online featuring John's process.

And if you are inspired to do so, please donate to his cause.