Wish I had a better scan to show here
First off, let me state openly: the 4th Edition 1.5-page chapter headers are an illustrator's dream: having a major line like D&D institute a few large pieces like these is a major turn-around from the constant small 1/4-page color illustrations the books had been using increasingly. Let me also state, for those who might be a little turned off by the art in this book: I was surprised as anyone to see how crazy-dark the images reproduced seemingly across-the-board. I don't know what went wrong as I even sent my original paintings in to be photographed, but hopefully this blog post helps show what the art was meant to look like...apart from cross-monitor differences and stuff.... I know my own scans certainly captured the art much better.
While Keith's is a romantic straight-ahead portrait of character, my assignment was much more narrative. I was to show that character rushing away from some huge energy vortex in the distance, and a bunch of animals fleeing it as well. Fair enough. The details were left to me, and I intended to include as many references to Keith's painting as I could. So, the landscape would be recognizeable (although floating landmasses needed to be added), the figure recognizeable--though I intended to age him some--and the palette still muted and overall grayed-out. With that in mind, the digital thumbnails followed.
L image was concept 4 and the R was number 6, but these were my finalists
Next up was reference hunting and drawing. Here the character started to take some shape. I made a few distinct changes, but not many, as I wanted the character to definitely be the same guy. At this point, the first thing that would go would be his shield. After a few years of adventuring, certainly his shield would've been battered to uselessness. So I replaced it. But, with so unique a shield as he had, certainly he'd also make a visit to the same shield-maker for its replacement, so I gave my shield another face-design.
As with the other two illustrations I submitted sketches for, I skated by with no changes required (a rarity for most projects), and so set to work on the painting. I worked a bit larger than usual--all 3 paintings were done at 14x18". This is a standard size for original art, but is wider than the printed art, so I designed it to work in the printed frame, but included a bit more on the sides to fill the standard 14x18" size.
Before beginning, I ran it by an artist friend who gave a couple of small pointers. One of them was to raise the deer into a higher leap, which I changed before beginning the final. I also adjusted the anatomy on the horse and rider, and the angle of his lean.
I never titled the piece properly. Usually, I'd title it the title of the chapter, but since this chapter was creatively titled, "Magic," I feel like the painting might need a little more. Suggestions welcome.