Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hallowed Spiritkeeper


Here's the sketch for Hallowed Spiritkeeper for Magic: The Gathering.  If you're familiar with the card, you see that I flipped the drawing when I went to paint the final.  In this instance, I have no idea why I did that (it's been almost 10 months since I think!) Sometimes I will just get a feeling like I'd like it better if the subject was facing the other way. Other times it is because I drew up another illustration at the same time and both had similar poses or something.

You can check out the final painting HERE.

Oh yeah, and if you're in the market for collecting Magic originals, well the painting (NOT the sketch) is currently up on eBay right now. Go have a look HERE!

And just so this post isn't left with only one sketch, here's a bonus drawing. This one for Siege Dragon (also not for sale).


Monday, September 29, 2014

Hey Sweden!

Guess who is coming to Stockholm in October! That's right, 80's hair metal shredsters: Dangerous Toys! And they're going to be playing all of ABBA's greatest hits!

All right, I have no clue what Dangerous Toys are up to right now - I made that shit up. However, what I'm NOT kidding about is that there is a Magic Grand Prix in Stockholm October 24-26 and the visiting artist will be me and fellow acrylic-slinger Jesper Ejsing.

We'll be there signing cards, selling prints, selling artist proofs, doin' sketches - all that stuff. And oh yeah, Jesper and I teamed up to do a dual-artist playmat exclusive just for GP Stockholm that you won't want to miss. If you want one of those kick-ass playmats, better book your trip to Stockholm post haste! (I'll post the artwork for the playmat in upcoming days here).

Finally, check out my sweet sketch of everything that Sweden is known for: gummy red candies shaped vaguely like fish, meatballs, stylized viking helmets, their own flag, and bikini teams (even though the Swedish Bikini Team is an American invention). Finally, if you look closely, you can see that this platinum-haired lass is totally atheist.

Just kidding Swedes, I already dig your country and I'm sure I'll think it kicks even more ass after I have visited it in about 3 weeks. One thing though, when you come up to say hello to me and Jesper, male sure you wear your bikinis.

Friday, June 20, 2014

More Teaser Art!

I've been away for what seems like most of the last two months. Well, it "seems" that way because it has been. I was back out at Wizards of the Coast for three weeks in May doing conceptual design work for an upcoming Magic:The Gathering set. Then I came home for a few days and went back out the door on vacation.

But now I am back and pushing full force on these little stocky creatures and characters for the upcoming game: SOULSPARK.

As of right now I am working predominantly on the colors because I am mostly done with the drawing part. I still go back and retool details here and there as I see fit but I can consider the drawing part finished.

The drawing part did prove to be quite a challenge though. Not in amount of drawing that had to be done - but fitting the subject matter into the right style.  Each piece had to hit just the right note on many levels.

One factor I had to contend with was fitting them into a roughly playing card shaped dimension (a stocky vertical rectangle). Thus the restraint on their silhouettes not straying too far from the core. That meant that wild flourishing "action" poses or weapons that projected way outside the central area had to be held in check for the most part.

Obviously, the exaggerrated proportions was really the key factor in the look of these. For the humanoid characters especially, I had to get just the right amount of stockiness on different parts of their bodies for them to not look like fat dwarves. The first 12 or so drawings I did actually weren't QUITE on the mark with this and I only saw it after I hit my groove later on down the line. I subsequently went back and retooled many of those first drawings to bring them up to date so to speak. Even more difficult was fitting animals into this style!

There is also a tone for the artwork that had to be reached. It's something hard to describe in words - it's more of an "I'll know if it's right when I see it" kind of thing but essentially I wanted these to be cool and kick ass, but with some humor and whimsy, too - a smaller target area than you might think. Many times I erased and redrew monsters that were too dark and not that note of playful-cool that I wanted. Likewise I redrew many pieces that veered too far into "silly" territory.

As I went along in the drawing phase and came upon all these tricky hurdles, I had to smile to myself that these were all my own parameters for the look and feel.  All the extra hours of redrawing and erasing and redrawing and struggling through were of my own making! Which of course is why I loved doing it, why I love the results, and why I think that my enthusiasm will show in the final product and help make the game successful.

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Another reminder that I will have a table in the GenCon Artshow this August. SoulSpark's release date has been pushed a couple months into October but I am hoping to have some promotional material available in Indianapolis for the show. I'll of course have an array of other items of interest: original artwork, prints, artist proofs, art books, etc. Hope to see you there!




Friday, April 4, 2014

Time To Start Teasing!


Haven't posted much on either of my blogs as of late. That's due to mostly lack of time but also lack of sharable content. At least, content that is pertinent to the now and the few-months-from-now.

That is because I have stumbled into a fantastic and fantastically fun project that is a bit of an adventure. And though still in essence a fantasy game, it is most definitely unlike anything I have done in my career so far.

It is extremely exciting on many levels. Besides being outside my comfort zone of my usual array of TCG art and RPG manual covers, I have a tremendous amount of creative freedom - plus, I will retain rights to the artwork. The work done for this game will certainly be a career highlight - and possibly, if the game proves popular, will become a major part of my life for quite some time.

Vague enough? Yeah, I'll leak out more about the game in greater and greater detail the further along we move. But besides the drawings at the top here (of which they are but 3 of some 75 or so - eventually full-color), I'll dish out a few other tidbits: I'm working with a company in Denmark. My art director and liaison to the Danes is fellow acrylic-using goblin-painter Jesper Ejsing. And finally, the game is set for a late Summer or early Fall release so expect lots of promotional stuff at my GenCon Art Show booth in August. You didn't know I was going to be at GenCon this year? That's right - I'm back! August 14-17, baby!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pssst!…..Check it out!


About 4 years ago I worked on a bunch of concepts for a project I shall not (yet) disclose. As far as I have ever seen, the project never reached a final phase and was shelved early on in the creative process. Never-the-less, the company involved might get a bit ruffled and cause me financial distress should I blab about it openly so I'm going to remain annoyingly vague about what it was I was doing these drawings for.  I have since lost my contact information for the art director I worked with - and talking to the legal department I know will most likely get me a disappointing answer. So I shall remain for now like a seedy stolen watch dealer in the shadows of a grimy alley - showing my illegal wares to those interested.

I actually forgot about these drawings until just recently and was pleasantly surprised at how much fun they are still. Which, of course, made it a little more painful that I can't share them. The rarely-present risk-taking bad boy in me convinced the rule-follower that we should pick out a couple of the more vague drawings just to give them life outside of my closed sketchbook.


So here are two of maybe only 25 drawings I did for this. There's probably no way in Hades that you could guess what product these were concepts for - which maybe adds to the excitement.  If you were one of the very few I talked to about this project a little more openly, you best keep your comments to your damn self! The rest of you feel free to enjoy this meager sample and wonder about what was the greater scheme going on here.

You may also feel free to comment on my open innuendo about "showing my illegal wares".

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sketchbooks Through the Ages

A colorful array of all 13 of my sketchbooks from past to present. 
I can't decide which is better: the duct tape binding fix on sketchbook 1 or the masking tape fix on #2.

Obviously I have been drawing a long, long time. But I didn’t start keeping a true sketchbook until I got one as a freshman in college as part of my initial freshman year package of art supply crap. That was Fall of 1991.  Even then, it took me a bit to warm up to the idea of having a book of blank collected pages to scribble, doodle, and draw on when the whim presented itself. In retrospect, I was doing sketchbook stuff for years before college - in the form of drawing all over my pages of notes in high school.  Algebra, Pre-Calc, Social Studies, History, Physics - all those notes were festooned with little drawings and doodles - in some cases there were more drawings on a note page than notes. Funny thing is, my sketchbooks in college represented the same thing - a place for drawings AND class notes.  Though the favor had been tipped irreversibly in favor of drawings - notes pushed to the margin. Literally.


A random spread from sketchbook 1 - circa 1991

So my sketchbook collection (pictured at the top) began in 1991. These are my SKETCHBOOK sketchbooks.  That is to say, I have eight other sketchbooks, larger ones of the same black, hardcover variety but I use them mainly as places for fully realized line drawings that get scanned and go on to become paintings or other finalized illustrations.  They do not include all the really fun mindless doodles, free-drawing, and idea-forging that these here have. Thus, I don’t count them as true sketchbooks. Why do I make this distinction, I have no idea. But I do.

A spread from sketchbook 2 - circa 1993 I think?

On all but two I noted the date I started each sketchbook. I started my latest one on January 2nd of this year - number 13! That’s 12 going on 13 in 22+ years - I guess that makes my average about one sketchbook per 21 months or so. Some artists burn through sketchbooks like crazy - I go through spurts where barely anything gets added for months and then 1/3 of a book gets filled in the span of 3 weeks because I’m working on some large-scoped project or something and I churn out pages of sloppy thumbnails and loose gesture drawings to work out some action pose or what-have-you. That doesn't mean I go a long time without drawing - it most likely means I am applying my drawing and/or creativity elsewhere.

Sci-fi space marine doodles from sketchbook 4 - circa 1995 or '96

A spread from sketchbook 5 - thumbnails for a 
World of Darkness:Hunter book on the right.
Circa 1998

I’ve been referring back through these sketches a lot in the last few years. First when I was collecting content for my book AGGREGATE.  I went over each sketchbook trying to find the most fun drawings out of hundreds and hundreds of pages.  Most recently I have been having to go back through the last four or five rather frequently to seek out random sketches for Magic: The Gathering card art.  Yes, some of the paintings I have done came from relatively small drawings in one of these smaller sketchbooks - essentially up-sized thumbnails that I figured were refined enough to go straight to the paints with. But people inquire about them and are often interested in buying them so I have to go track them down and discern whether they are worth selling.

My obnoxiously geeky sketchbook cover for #4
Looks like a teenager's bedroom door. Except I was 23.

You can see that it didn’t occur to me to decorate the exterior of my sketchbook until book 4.  Book 3 looks like it has a pen-and ink drawing for a cover but actually it is just the first page - the cover did not last very long and thus, that was the first and last time I bought a spiral-bound sketchbook. But since then, it has become part of the ritual for starting a new sketchbook.  I don’t put much time or thought into decorating the cover though - I usually just grab whatever acrylic paint I happen to have an excess amount of and just wing it.  Obviously my favorite is Book4 though. That one I started the Summer before my last semester in college - 1995. It shows the most personailty and show a slice of  that era of my life: a collage of random pop culture magazine pics (White Zombie, Salem’s Lot, Total Recall, Predator2) and a sticker from my friends’ band Wrinklebomb - all lovingly laminated in packaging tape.  Actually, the packaging tape is a good idea - that book’s cover is still holding together nicely!

Some doodlin' from sketchbook 8 (circa 2005) with a tiny little thumbnail for my
Dragons of Eberron book cover on the lower right.

There seems to be at least one Predator in every sketchbook. This one
is in sketchbook 10 (circa 2009-2010) along with some thumbnails for some random painting.

 My favorite aspect of this little collection of my sketchbooks is how they chronicle (through no foresight or planning of my own) definitive moments in my career and life - noteworthy evidence of certain projects, ideas, and certain times.

There are lots of traces of notable college projects in the first 4 sketchbooks, sketches of my parents’s cats, even a random drawing of one of my coworkers when I worked a couple summer months at a movie theater (1993 - the summer Jurassic Park came out!). There are countless inside jokes that I shared amongst my college pals not to mention copious movie-reference sketchs from Aliens to Predator to Tombstone, Star Wars, Geronimo, and Conan (we geeked on movie stuff all but constantly).

A spread from sketchbook 11 (circa 2011) that shows a rough of "Yule Ooze" on the left 
and some thumbnails for Innistrad cards on the right.

During my third sketchbook (sometime in late 1994), my professional illustration career started off with a handful of pages of pen and ink drawings I did specifically as portfolio pieces to show to White Wolf. That sketchbook ends with thumbnails and roughs for my very first job with them for a book called World of Darkness: Outcasts. It also randomly includes a travel journal from when my friends and I went camping in Appalachia for Spring Break.

At some point in my 6th sketchbook was when I started doing work for Wizards of the Coast (2002). At least 2/3 of that sketchbook contains all the concept drawings I did when I worked on creating the world of Eberron (early 2003). It also has a couple pen and ink illustrations I did for centerpieces that my wife and I made for our wedding.

Sketchbook 7 has loads of drawings and roughs for D&D miniatures and sketchbook 8 is when I started working on Magic: the Gathering (2005-2006). Sketchbook 9 marks the time when I started this blog. And, well, you get the idea.

A page of heads n' faces from sketchbook 12 - circa 2012-2013). What, no predators or naked ladies?

In no other way can you look at an illustrator's career and development as intimately as you can when you peruse that artists's sketchbooks. It's like a (insert cliche deep thought metaphor here) - and that's a fact. Here's hoping all you artists out there don't take these little collections of your artistic growth for granted. Save them and keep 'em around - sprinkle some dates in there if you can remember to. They're valuable in a way you might not be able to understand until you're able to look back on 22 years (or more) of them.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Roon of the Hidden Realm


This is the rough for "Roon of the Hidden Realm" for Magic: the Gathering. Many of my drawings that are on the way to being paintings become a patchwork of adjustments and multiple pieces of drawings - stitched together in good ol' photoshop. This is because I tend to "feel" out a drawing as I am drawing it.  I'll start with the main focus which is usually a single figure or two figures - if I can get the feel and action of that to look right, I'll start to build off and around that.

On a drawing like this one for Roon, I'll start in a large sketchbook.  In feeling out the pose and action, I often run out of room to finish the drawing so I'll scan what I have, print that out as a slightly smaller version, then finish the drawing out to roughly the appropriate size ratio with background and everything.

Then BACK to the scanner and back into photoshop where I deliberate placement and proportions, etc.  Sometimes looking at the image on a computer screen helps me see little things that need to be tweaked - I'll adjust the size of a figure in the background or maybe bump the horizon line a tad - rotate a weapon a smidge so it isn't interfering with some other component of the composition - and so on.  In the case of Roon, I did a little of all these things.  I played around with whether I wanted Roon to be bigger or smaller in the frame according to how much of his whacky staff was going to be cropped off at the top and adjusted the building behind him this way and that to get it to feel right in the composition - all in hopes that I can get it all into a good, well-reading balance that makes for a potentially exciting painting.

You can see the final painting HERE on my art blog.

Oh, and the final painting is up for auction on Ebay through January 13th. Feel like owning a nice piece of original Magic artwork? Check it out HERE.