Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Figure Drawing, pt. 14

For one reason or another, we don't get a lot of male models. This was true back in Asheville, and has been true even in NYC. Or, at least at the SI. So when we do get a good male model, it's a refreshing change.

L: 2.5x4" brush pen

We've now had the model below twice. Great physique--muscular without being all 'roid-raged, and the dreads are pretty fun to draw, too. Just the sort of thing a fantasy artist needs to practice...although fantasy artists do have a certain unfortunate reputation for making 'roid rage the standard physique for their mutton-eating barbarians. Then again, I can't recall the last time I had to paint a mullet-wearing barbarian, so it must be a subset of the genre. You can imagine that the Venn diagram between men who will model, and men who spend significant effort working out has a pretty small overlap. I think it's a problem with the "men who will model" side of the equation. I'm not sure what it is, but I've been told repeatedly that there are simply fewer male models. This sounds like a perfect supply/demand issue that requires exploitation, resulting in a higher per-hour rate. So, male readers, that part-time job awaits you. Especially if you work out.

L: 3x5" R: 5x5" pencil

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Last Enemy

Originally begun as a sketch on the back of some white-backed Magic cards, I had a little time between assignments, so quickly jumped from sketch to painting before the idea got queued in my 5-year waiting pool. There are many images still in that pool who think it was a little unfair. After doing a couple of value studies, I opted for one in which the Reaper wore a white robe. Basically, I'm kinda tired of dark-clad Reapers. I mean, are dark robes the standard-issue uniform? I don't think so. After all, in China and Japan the color of mourning is white. Surely Death dresses in a culturally relevant manner wherever he might go? More than anything, I just liked how it looked, and when making art that is a pretty good reason to do something.

11x14" Acrylic and oils on paper over masonite

Death, personified, is a very interesting thing in its own right. Appearing in many world cultures over the course of history, he takes on many forms. Sometimes he's even a she. Sometimes he wears white, sometimes rides a pale horse, sometimes a dark buffalo, and often wields a scythe. He's a common fixture in world religions, and rather than title this image something simple like "The Grim Reaper," I've gone for one of the Biblical titles for him, "The Last Enemy," which strikes me as a good character summation of what all these personifications are trying to embody; it also has a sort of final-boss videogame chic to it. Purchase details are available here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

World of Warcraft Prints, Proofs

At long last, we illustrators have received permission from Blizzard to make available World of Warcraft prints through our websites. These have been available in-person for about 2 years now, but now you all have access to them, finally. I have 3 such that I've made available.

Along with them, I received a couple of new WoW artist proofs, which have also been added with sketch options on them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Xbox 360: Duel of the Planeswalkers

I generally haven't made note of digital releases of illustrations I've done in the Magic: the Gathering Online PC game, since its release schedule tends to mirror the paper game: when a set releases in physical product, it's available digitally, and both games are really the same.

However, the recent release of Duel of the Planeswalkers is different enough to warrant a mention. For starters, it's an Xbox 360 title, and as I tend to prefer consoles to PC gaming, that's already a good thing. Secondly, it's available via the Xbox Live Marketplace (800 points), so don't go run to your local game store looking for it. Most importantly however, this much simpler release of Magic: the Gathering (because that's still what it is) is being described as a really good way to learn what this "cardboard crack" phenomenon is all about. Granted, a good friend who plays--possessed of patience and good verbal skills--is always the best way to learn to play any game, but if you don't have such friends, you lack a means to learn. This apparently is the way to go, as it has a robust single-player experience. It doesn't throw thousands of cards at you and leave you confused, rather it seems to go the route of pre-constructed themed decks, with other unlockables, so is good for easing yourself in, with an apparently well-done tutorial.

So, check it out. As for the relevance to yours truly, the game reprints a number of cards from various releases, and I believe two of my illustrations appear in the game, some classic ones at that. Giant Spider (originally published in Portal [1997], reprinted a few times since) and the perennial favorite Soul Warden (originally printed in Exodus[1998], reprinted many times since) feature in the game. Expansions are promised, but I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up with them for future notices.

Is it weird to refer to such illustrations as "classics?" I mean, each is over a decade old now, after all. In modern terms, that's positively ancient. I swear, I'm not a day over 60!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Experiment Lab: Results

On and off for a week or so, I had a webcam running while working. Years ago I did the webcam thing. The webcam was different but also not very great quality, and I had it on a tripod over my left shoulder in my older and larger studio. This was probably about 2000 or so. Rather than a live feed, it was an auto-refreshing page that would display a new frame every 15 seconds or so. Oh, how the internet has advanced.

I used Ustream.tv this time, a great free service that live broadcasts your webcam feed. You can also record your broadcasts straight to their server, which is nice. Back in the day, I made a few time-elapsed videos of some paintings, with even a little narration on top. When I took a job for a year at Nexon, Inc. that all stopped.

Basically, the live camera feed I'd call a failed experiment. For it to be worthwhile (for both of us!) to try again would require: A webcam with 640x480 resolution or greater--the cam I used was 320x240. At that larger size, a faster internet connection would probably be necessary. Such a cam would probably have a better picture overall, and with 4 times the pixels, you could actually see some detail. Secondly, a different studio setup besides the guerilla art studio I've used since '05 now, something where I could have the camera on my left side again, so my arm wouldn't block the view.

However, I also did a few experiments before the painting, doing greyscale studies live using Webcammax, a free program (which puts a banner on top until you buy it) that worked really well, capturing a configurable portion of your screen, live. The quality is nice and it doesn't slow down my system very much. That experiment was a success.

However, if I wanted to use the second option to show some of my digital preliminary work and such, there's still the issue of where to post the feed in a way that you'd know about it, since I spend more time doing traditional over digital work. All things to keep thinking about. In the meantime, I did record two greyscale studies, and so I'll post them here. I used the value study shown in the second.

The first one I did playing around with a free online flash-based paint program called Sumo Paint, which is pretty cool on a basic level. The second was done in Painter IX and Photoshop.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Star Wars: Padme Escapes

An all-Star Wars week of updates! Having worked on a few Star Wars RPG projects, as mentioned in posts below, I got the itch to do something a little less...spot illustration-y. Spot illustrations are what they are--small, often minimal background, typically character shots or simple narratives. They don't really lend themselves well to more involved paintings. So around the end of last year I started playing around with some ideas for doing a non-commissioned Star Wars piece. Uncommissioned works tend to be done in and around paying jobs, or during a break between the end of one job and the start of another. I worked on it and finished it right around the time of New York Comic-Con in February. I had an easel behind my 1/2 table, which isn't much for displaying larger works, and so half the day I'd toss up this Star Wars painting, the other half of the day I'd put up my Batman and Rorschach pieces.

Having some time to sit with it throughout the weekend, by the end of the show I decided it wasn't done, despite being signed and with a nice layer of Galkyd over it to seal it. So some time after the con I did some digital playing around with the scan I had. Basically all the foreground environment I was unsatisfied with. So I re-imagined it and got back to work, then shelved it, then took it out and continued, then shelved it...until finally I finished it again.

16x24" Oils on paper over masonite

Perhaps just here is where you might expect me to post a scan of the image before re-working it. Well, if I still thought it was worth showing, I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of repainting it! Let it suffice to say that all the foreground rock, sand, the dead battle droid and his gun, the clone trooper in the foreground, and even the sand and rock-wall under and behind Padme were all repainted. Before, that trooper and droid weren't there, there was no desert foliage, and rather than rock, those shapes were entirely sand dune. If you happened to see me at NY Comic-Con, you got to see it the old way. If you'd like to see a zoomed-in version, I'd direct you to the painting's page.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Star Wars RPG: The Clone Wars Campaign Guide

A not-so-spanking new release, January's The Clone Wars Campaign Guide was the first of 3 Star Wars RPG sourcebooks I've illustrated in the past year. In fact, I was working on these illustrations exactly one year ago to the day. I believe I was doing the sketches this time last year while living briefly in Roselle Park, NJ, before our move into Manhattan. The spot illustrations can be found on pages 43 and 191, both featuring exclusively imperial droids. Here is one of them, 4.5" x 9.5" oils on treated watercolor paper. As with the Legacy Era artwork in the following post, the art reproduced dark and also cannot yet be made available for sale.

Star Wars RPG: Legacy Era Campaign Guide

I'm sort of catching up here a bit. Over the past year I did a few illustrations for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, my first in a few years. The Legacy Era Campagin Guide released in March.

One illustration of mine was included in this book, a spot illustration reproduced on page 131. As mentioned in this older post, the repro came out really dark and dulled in color, despite having mailed in the artwork. While that post was in the context of D&D books, I was unsure if the Star Wars line would suffer the same fate (both being Wizards publications). It did. I've since taken measures to try to mitigate this in future products.

I can't make any of these Star Wars originals or their sketches available for sale quite yet, however--Lucasfilm reserves first refusal on them and I'm awaiting that.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Experiment Lab: Live Studio Cam

This experiment is over. The feed widget has been removed.

As I mentioned, I've been playing with starting up a sometimes-webcam feed again. The webcam I have isn't the greatest--if it proves worthwhile I'll definitely upgrade. I also have a hard time placing it anywhere where the field of view is helpful. In its current position you will see a lot of arm, but it also offers the best view of the art. As for the art, I decided to take the Reaper sketch from a couple weeks back and make a painting out of it. I've englarged the drawing and am working 11x14" paper over masonite. I'll be starting in Acrylics (not typical) and then moving into oils. While I'm working on it, I'll leave the feed on this post. When it is done, I'll replace the feed with links to certains parts which I record--for instance, I've already screencaptured two videos where I worked live on greyscale studies in Painter already. I'll have this running at least part of each workday. You'll notice breaks where nothings happens. This could mean lunch, or coffee time (about 3pm usually), or that I'm responding to email or working something out digitally, going over references, etc.. When I'm absolutely done for awhile, I'll turn it off. If it's on, I intend to be at painting.

I wouldn't expect this to be a regular feature--some clients forbid this kind of exhibitionism when working on their projects, and I respect their wishes. But when that's not the case, perhaps I can do this.

And please remember the slogan: "It's Like Watching Paint Dry!"® Be amazed at the slowness, beguiled by the long periods of time where it looks like nothing is happening despite constant brushing over, and enchanted by the very large arm!

For the most part I'll leave the sound off. You have your own playlists to listen to. Plus, you don't really want to hear me cursing under my breath if things get hairy. Actually I don't do that, but you never know.