Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This is a private commission I just finished. It’s a variation on the same theme as a previous piece, Waterfall Dragons. The painting had to have three women, a dog, and a dragon. The client wanted a dwarvish version, though. There is also a hint of a story going on here. The female dwarf at the top of the stairs is holding an multicolored dragon egg. Maybe the eggs are being transported, and the females are the only ones who are allowed to handle the eggs. Hence the dragon rider is also female. The dogs stand near the rest of the eggs in a golden dragon shaped nest. At least that’s how I understand it, and the story hasn’t actually been written fully as far as I know, but its fun to think that I could be molding the story with a picture, instead of the other way around.
I also drew inspiration from Tolkien’s dwarves in The Lord of the Rings. In particular, what we learn about their relation to the natural world in the the dialogue between Gimli and Legolas in the Glittering Caves. In this part of the story, Gimli is overcome by the natural beauty of the caves, and fantasizes about making them a realm like Moria or The Lonely Mountain. Legolas’ response is first that he would rather be in a forest, and that it’s a probably a good thing that dwarves are unaware of the place because they would destroy its natural beauty by mining it in their greed for precious metals and gems. Gimli’s corrects the elf, explaining that dwarves look on the rocks and the caves of the earth in the same way elves appreciate forests and things that grow. The appreciate the value of nature in itself, and not from the wealth and resources that can be extracted from it. The dwarves would no more spoil the natural beauty of the cave than the elves would cut down an entire forest for its wood.
I wanted to show this by making the the cavern a place where glittering gems and veins of gold are undisturbed while the dwarves go about their task of forging armor for the dragon. I couldn’t resist painting a forge if I was going to do a piece about dwarves either.
It’s oils on panel, 28” x 44”. It’ll be on display at my booth at Illuxcon in Altoona, Pa next week.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gruesome Deformity

This one is called Gruesome Deformity. As you might guess, my wife was of course extremely pleased to pose for this one. It shows a woman looking at her reflection in the water of her washing basin. She’s horrified to find that her once beautiful face has deformed buy some spell or curse. The challenge was that viewer would see her face as she does, in a reflection in water, rather than straight away or in a mirror.

Not all the light that hits the surface of the water is going to be reflected back at the viewer, especially at such a steep angle. Reflections are stronger at shallow angles. This means there would be a limited range of values to work with in rendering the face. Also, only the highly lit areas of the face are going to reflect clearly. Dark areas would have very faint at best. Therefore, the light illuminating her face had to be a strong edge light that would show the form of her face, as well as bring out the texture of her diseased skin.

The sketch still doesn’t look quite right. It’s not reading as water. Maybe used motor oil, but not water. When shooting the photo reference, we used a dark metal pot because it gave us a stronger reflection. It's not looking like the white porcelain washing basin appropriate for her decor. I still needed a dark background for contrast because, again, only the strongly lit areas are being reflected. So I put the washing basin in shadow in the finish. It took a little more fudging of the values it a little bit, but I think its convincing enough in the end.

It’s oils on paper on MDF. 9” x 12”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Manor Gargoyle

This one's called Manor Gargoyle. It's oils on paper mounted to board, 12" x 16".
When I was gathering the images for this post, I thought to myself, "Why didnt I go with the first sketch?" You can see it below. Here's my thinking as far as I can remember: I wanted the gargoyle to appear as both a living (or merely animated) creature, and a stone sculpture at the same time. The pose is important in communicating this. So I opted for a symmetrical, static pose you see in the finished piece. Only the head deviates from the forward facing position, turning to the viewer. I felt this communicated the balance better than the first sketch, which go could either way, a lifeless sculpture, or a looming demon. But not both. At least that's how I saw it at the time. I'm not sure if I would agree now, but I'm happy with the piece anyway.

The first sketch

Maybe I just think about that crap too much and I should just make it cool. I don't know.

Another reason I chose what I chose is because there was more sky in it to paint, which gave me a chance to rip off one of my favorite painters, Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893). I looked to his work not only because of the great mood and atmosphere of his night scenes, but also his the variety of color he uses. I thought I might be painting a lot of night scenes in this set, and didn't want all of them to end up blue.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cobbled Wings

The full Innistrad spoiler is up so I can start showing the rest of the work I've had to sit on for a while. This one is called Cobbled Wings. Think of this guy as a gothic horror version of Leonardo Da Vinci. The necro-alchemist here has made a flying apparatus, and we see him as he has just jumped from the balcony of his laboratory to test his creation. The wings are made of pilfered bones and flesh, metal, and are controlled by wires and pulleys.

When I can, I try to show sketches to other artists to see if an image is reading properly. Usually its my wife Gina, who is also an artist and pulls no punches. Often there are problems or potential improvements with an image that I won't see while working on it. In this one, the sketch is pretty much unchanged except for one thing. There is more of a tilt in the figure and wings, giving it a stronger sense of movement. This change was a suggestion by fellow artist John Stanko. I was pretty happy with the sketch initially, but I think the change made it even better. There's always room for improvement, and another pair of eyes can be invaluable.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

More Innistrad!

This image was revealed on the WotC website yesterday, so I can show it now. I dont know anything about the card, but the art depicts some of Innistrad's vampires feasting on some poor sap. I enjoyed composing a picture where the many figures are interacting with each other in close confines. I also liked the chance to depict the well heeled vampires in all their animal viciousness.

The development of the composition, from thumbnail to comprehensive drawing.
©Wizards of the Coast

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reaper from the Abyss

This is the second piece revealed from the upcoming Innistrad set for Magic:The Gathering. I'm not really the go to guy for big bad ass demons, so I was pleased to get asked to do this one. I have to say I rather enjoyed painting all the scars on his torso and arms. It's oils on paper mounted to board, 12" x 18".

The thumbnail from my sketchbook

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fantastic Worlds Exihibtion

I'm pleased to announce that three of my paintings, Dernhelm, Skyward Eye Prophets, and Knotvine Paladin will be featured with the work of over 25 awesome artists. The show runs from August 13 through November 13th at the Kenosha Public Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Creepy Doll

This one is called Creepy Doll, and it's my first image from the upcoming Innistrad block. The block isn't due out until September, so it's a pleasantly unusual circumstance to be able to show anything from the block this early. Like Force of Will , which I wrote about a couple posts ago, WotC purchased the original art (I'm a big fan of this trend). It was be given to a fan at the Magic panel at San Diego Comic-Con about a month or so ago. You can read about it here.

I enjoyed getting the details right on this one. A feeling of authenticity was important, but without referencing any specific historic dolls too much. Virtually all the 17th century dolls I found looked were odd looking, almost grotesque. Alot of them had really small heads in comparison to their bodies, or strange grins. I felt, however, that the the piece wouldn't work if the dolls looked too weird. The uneasiness should come from the contrast between the cuteness of the child's toy and the evil and cruelty of its actions.
It's 12" x 16" , oils on paper mounted to MDF.

A digital color study

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

More WoW!-Obsidian Drakonid

Here's another piece I did for the new Twilight of the Dragons set for the World of Warcraft TCG. It's oils on paper mounted to MDF, 11" x 14".
The tail was crowding the already tight composition, and I felt I needed to knock it back a bit. Although I usually try to make the changes in paint, I was up against the deadline, so I did them digitally.

The original image is on the left, the image with the modifications on the right.

An alternate sketch idea

Sunday, July 31, 2011

GenCon and Force of Will Alternate Art

Later this week I’ll be in Indianapolis for GenCon. Last year was my first year there, and this year I’m back for more- with more space for more art, along with prints, artist proofs, play mat drawings.. all that good stuff.

Speaking of GenCon, Wizards will be holding it’s 2011 Legacy Championship there on Saturday. The winner of the tournament will be given an over sized alternate-art card of a well known card. This year, I was asked to paint it. Hence, my version of Force of Will. It's oils on paper on MDF, 12"x 16".

Sketchbook Thumbnails

Figure Study

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Brel Blazebeard

This one's called Brel Blazebeard. Its oils on paper mounted to MDF, 11" x 14". The image was just released on Tuesday with the Twilight of the Dragons set for the World of Warcraft trading card game. Illustrating for Warcraft is a lot of fun, but is also a challenge, at least for me, in that they are very specific about the physical proportions of the different types of inhabitants of the game. Bodies are thicker, with large barrel chests and powerful hands. I've found that in many of the illustrations I've done for them so far it serves me well to do a anatomy study beforehand. Then it is easier to add on the fantastic armor and other costuming on top. This way, I know that the proportions are correct, and I still have the movement and gesture of the pose. These studies aren't pretty, but they help me out a great deal.

From this I do another pencil sketch. I could just refine the digital sketch, but I still feel more comfortable with a pencil than a stylus. So this study is printed out and used as a guide for the more refined sketch by means of a light box. The paper I do most of my drawings with is just Staples all purpose copy paper. It's acid free, and thin enough to use with a light box, but not too translucent like tracing paper. I love the surface of it as well. Very smooth with just enough tooth for me. I starting using this paper after I heard from Tom Kidd that he uses it for all his great sketches.
This pencil sketch is then scanned in and further refinements can be made in Photoshop. I'd probably save time if I did everything digitally, but I still haven't made the total leap yet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beehive House

A Beehive House on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. I could have drawn all day at this site, but there was a lot more to see, and it was starting to rain as I finished this one up.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Druidic Satchel

Here's the third card I illustrated for Magic 2012. Basically a satchel bag with a funny green man face in it. I originally had the eyes glowing, as seen in the digital color study below, but that changed to glowing magic leaking out of the bag. It's oils on paper mounted to MDF, 8" x 10".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Here's another piece for the upcoming Magic 2012 set. It's called Skinshifter, and depicts a mage with the power to transform himself into animal or plant. This ability is eluded to in the covering of ivy and the forms in his staff. His eyes are that of a bird of prey, as if you are seeing him just as he is beginning to take another form. It's oils on paper, mounted to MDF, 12" x 16".

One of my initial ideas was to make him an old man, kind of a Merlin type. The tone of it wasn't right for the card, so I made him a bit younger. I also removed the ivy mantle to make his head stand out a bit more, particularly when the image is reduced to card size.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dungrove Elder

I was pleasantly surprised that I'd be able to show this one this early. Dungrove Elder is one of the first cards spoiled for the upcoming Magic 2012 core set. I always enjoy any chance to paint trees. It's oils on paper mounted to MDF, 12" x 16".

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pestilent Souleater

As if being a "souleater" was bad enough, this guy's pestilent as well. This is the fifth and final card I've got in the New Phyrexia set. The design of this creature, just as the pliers headed guys in the last post, were given to me by WotC. My job is to show it in its environment doing something, preferably pestilent in this case. Hence, more slime.

The sketch. Unlike most pieces that require a lot of adjusting, composition changes, and redrawing, this one pretty much came out in one try.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gremlin Mine

Another one for New Phyrexia. The creatures in the background have set a mine for some unfortunate passer-by. They've made the mine out of the metal bodies of the fallen comrades. I based its design on a naval mine. It's oils on paper mounted on MDF, 9" x 12".

Friday, April 29, 2011

Noxious Revival

Being that the entire New Phyrexia set has been revealed on the WotC site, I can start showing the rest of the stuff I've been sitting on for a while. I got the chance to paint a lot of gross creatures, which I'm suprised about because I never thought it was my strong suit, but I tried to have fun with it. And translucent, gelatinous slime is actually really fun to paint.
This one is called Noxious Revival. It's oils on paper, mounted to MDF, 9" x 12" . Here's the sketch.

An alternate idea. I didnt go with it because I felt it wouldn't translate as well when the image is reduced to the card size