Wednesday, January 05, 2011

World of Warcraft: Art and the Artifact Illustration

This week, behold the Belt of the Singing Blade!

The advent of the card game has introduced what has been called "Artifact Art," stemming from its introduction in Magic: the Gathering. Artifact art illustrates equipment, basically. A card represents an item: a weapon, some bit of armor, a charm, maybe a pair of boots (seriously) and your job as an illustrator is to portray said item. In the past, these have sometimes been seen by some artists as a Quick Buck, since you could paint a knife on a plain table and call it a day, versus some crazy multi-figure battle scene, which would pay you roughly the same money. After some time, the way to do these has shifted somewhat. Sometimes you're still asked to just paint a pair of boots, but sometimes you'll be asked to go ahead and paint someone wearing the boots, but focus on the boots. That means no big heroic shots--maybe paint someone running in the boots, but crop the composition mid-shin or a little above the knees. This takes more work, is a little less ridiculous-looking that just a pair of boots with dramatic lighting, but now can often just be kinda...blah.

Thankfully, I haven't been asked to do too much Artifact Art. Still, you can't easily escape it. So a year ago I was asked to do a couple of item portrayals for the World of Warcraft card game. I wasn't told that they had released like 6 months ago, and I was getting antsy just to put them on my website. Oh well, I'll put them up now!

This card was released in some special Badge of Justice Redemption program, or so I've Googled. I don't know what this means, but it's something like saving up some special redemption coupons and then sending them in to get ultra-rare lootz. I am familiar with this sort of thing from my youth, when my brother and I cut out the Robot Points from our Transformers toy packaging and sent away to receive a not-available-in-stores model, whose quality was, in reality, not fit for store shelves. Not so, this card!

Back to illustration. Here, I used the narrow band of light effect to dunk the rest of the detailed armor into shadow, so that you kinda look at her belt. But you know there's more going on--there's an arm holding a sword, a shield, and so on. Naturally, I had little intent on just painting a belt/waist area and calling it a day. The pay is nice, but it would kind of be an artistic hole in which to sink my efforts--rendered like this, it might do service on the card, but it's not something I'm likely to ever show anywhere else again because it's just...a belt. Had that been it, I might've just turned down the commission.

Rather, I did quite a bit more. Here's the full painted image.

As you can see, I never intended the art to just be about the belt. Now by doing this it probably took twice as long to paint, but I have an image that will actually hang on my website, one I can look at and think more's a belt....

As it turns out, when I cropped the image and sent it in, the Art Director asked me to pump up the light/dark even further, to make it idiot-proof that this card is about a belt. That's fine--having a piece of art on my end that I was pleased with, it was easy to monkey with the image digitally and not feel abused. My art director could have his belt as he wanted it, I would have the real deal. Win, and win.

(Update 2/22/2011): I actually went in and repainted large portions of this after originally blogging this image. I completely repainted the background, lightening the image. Since her armor is dark, it creates a nice spiky silhouette that I thought would be better served with a lighter background. Additionally, I think the lighting on her face interfered with some of the charm of the original drawing. So, I repainted her face, staying truer to the drawing. This version has replaced the original image.

Original art details and a link to the original drawing can be found here.