It started, as usual, with thumbnails. There were a few good candidates among these:
From there, I worked up 3 pencil drawings and produced greyscale value studies, which I then submitted to the Art Director for approval. However, after drawing #6, I didn't think it had the same punch as the thumbnail, and didn't have enough punch on its own to warrant making a greyscale study. I think I started it but abandoned it. Here, then are the two options I gave the AD:
In the assignment, the figure was supposed to have pupil-less glowing eyes, a regularly utilized cliche that usually shows that some trance-like state has been induced during the casting of magic. I've done it a few times, and generally am averse to it these days. You see it in the 2nd, unused study. In the original conception of the 1st study above, you'll notice the figure simply has no eyes. It was a little on the freaky side, and I told the AD that I was not wedded to the idea if he didn't care for it (in the event that he chose it). I didn't have a preference at the time between the two and would've been happy had either been chosen. All things being equal, the larger face usually carries the day--#1 was chosen and I was told to trust my gut on the eyes thing.
So I set off to do the final piece, which we'll see cover next week. If all goes well I'll have the original painting on display at GenCon.