Fantasy Art

Friday, March 31, 2017

7th Sea, Pirate Roleplaying Game Illustrations 2

I did this front-piece for the book after seeing a similar thing by N.C. Wyeth for Robinson Crusoe.
Nobody illustrated pirate stories better than N.C. Wyeth so I looked at a lot of his work before starting on this project.
Here's the N.C. Wyeth piece that inspired my piece.  There will be someone telling me that I copied but I have no such misgivings.  I suppose it depends on what aspect of the image you're focused on.  It's a different ship, different water, different ribbon, different font, different colors, but if  'ship-and-ribbon' make up the totality of original design then one could still say it's a copy from a certain point of view.

If I seem defensive it's for good reason.  The business of fantasy illustration is filled with copiers and ten times as many accusers and a hundred times as many people who can't tell the difference and just go along with what the last guy said.  This can put a good many of us on the defensive in any case and then I go and do a project like this which skirts the line a little closer than usual as I'll show you over the next few days.
Like I said in my video I was very pressed for time and not feeling well at all.  Because of this I decided to let some of my artistic heroes give me a leg up for once.
 I've spent thousands of dollars over the years on fantasy art books, art instruction books and art reference photography books.  Some of those books are my prize possessions, many were a waste of money.  None of them could be said to have paid for themselves until now.
Now all these things are going to earn their keep and help me out a little in ways like this.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

7th Sea, Pirate Roleplaying Game Illustrations

Something I did some work on recently was illustrations for a fantasy role-playing game called Mongoni Island a 7th Sea Adventure.  7th Sea is a pirate themed game.
For the next couple weeks I'll be sharing art from the book along with some insights into my methods and inspirations.  I hope you will enjoy it.

This was the painting used for the front cover.  a similar drawing was also used for an interior illustration.

Here is a little video I made for my Patreon page that explains what I was doing and how I came to be involved.  One really cool thing about the video is that you get to see me almost faint towards the end.  Actually you probably couldn't tell but there's a long pause in my speech and I look a little confused and repeat myself.  I'd been really sick and never knew how physically demanding it is to make a video.


If you'd like to support my Patreon page for a mere dollar (and who wouldn't?) you can do so here:

Gilead's Patreon Site

You will have access to many more videos and to art that no one other than my patrons can see, plus sneak peeks at projects such as this one before the rest of the public can see them.

You could also buy this painting and many others for half price.
This Painting is Oil on board 20" X 24" $200. to the public $100. to my Patreon supporters.  Plus shipping.

Here's a link to the book.  It's digital only for the moment.  Plans for a hard copy are in the works.

The Book

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Door Behind the Bookcase

I couldn't tell you why it was our job to clean out the house when Mrs. Swenson died. She wasn't a friendly neighbor and had never invited any of us inside in all the years we'd lived next door. She was just a mean, pale, old shut-in who lived with her elderly mother. "It can be so ...draining caring for someone like that" people said. Whatever that meant.

I don't recall when the elder Mrs. Swenson died but I guessed she must have done. We'd never actually seen her.

The relatives had come and gone, grabbing whatever they wanted to keep and dashing off like they couldn't put the place behind 'em fast enough.

When I say WE had to clean the place up what that really meant was ME. My dad had a job, my mom was always busy, my brother and sister were older and had important things to do, so stuff like that always fell to me. I aint complainin' honestly just sayin' why it was I happened to be all alone in some stranger's house when happened.

Someone had given us a key and asked us to get rid of whatever remained in the house so it could be put on the market. Like I say I don't know why that was our business other than it being something no one else wanted to do. They'd said "Help yerself to anything you want" maybe that was our payment. Well I didn't want anything but to put the job behind me. The place smelled like old lady and it gave me the creeps. So I carried several truckloads of old furniture to the thrift store. (It was probably worth a fortune if I'd known)

And then I found it.
There was a door at the back of the house hidden behind a massive, heavy bookcase. It took some investigation to determine that indeed there was space for a small room at the back of the building with no entry or exit aside from this one sealed up door.
Who does such a thing?
Why exactly was it that the relatives didn't want this job? I had a sudden suspicion that the answer was on the other side of this door and I wasn't sure I wanted to know.
There was a tightness in my chest and I could feel my heart beating rapidly. It was the thrill of mystery and possibility combined with the dreadful suggestion of danger. There could be treasure! There could be corpses. There could be dark secrets or maybe nothing at all.
I dragged the heavy bookcase away from the wall. The deep impression in the carpet said it hadn't been moved in years.

The key in the lock turned reluctantly then snapped with heart stopping suddenness and the door creaked open to reveal ... a room... just an old lady's room, with lacy curtains and porcelain nick-naks.
... and the elder Mrs. Swenson rocking gently in her chair and smiling at me.
"Come in dear?" she said, "I haven't eaten in such a long time."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Skinny Dipping

This was kind of a funny model who worked for us quite a lot for a while.  Your first impression of her is that she's twelve years old and you don't want to see her naked.  then you find out she's in her mid twenties, but you still don't want to see her because she still looks twelve.  Then when she's undressed she actually looks a little older, but not a lot.
 Your next impression is "For cripes sake woman will you please sit still?!"  She shakes and drifts all around.  But once you do get a drawing done it actually looks kind of nice and you think maybe she's OK after all.
In this sketch you can barely see that she was holding a broomstick, but not really using it to any advantage.  In fact she's trying to balance on her right foot and the stick is throwing her off so she wavered all over the place and it was extremely annoying.  Points for trying a challenging pose, but it's no good if you can't hold still.

Then I decided to use the unbalanced posture to my advantage.  I got rid of the stick and put her arms out to her sides like she was trying to hold her balance.  I wondered where to put her that this would make sense.  She could be walking along the top of a wall or a big tree branch, but I liked the idea of a slippery stream where she's going skinny dipping.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Barbarian King

There's probably a distinction between arrogance and honest self certainty but I'm not always sure that I can tell what it is.  Some people are inordinately full of themselves and some people are just plain superior to the rest of us for real.  I'm fairly sure Conan the Barbarian would be called arrogant by some people and would be confused by the accusation.  He wasn't arrogant he was superior.
As Americans we often confuse the right to be treated equally with the idea that nobody's any better than us in any way.  But that's a little like saying to a tall guy "Don't go walking in here acting all tall!"  The dude's either tall or he's not.
 Now be you Conan or a professional athlete, politician, or intellectual, if you're abusive you're going down.  There's 350 million of us, nobody's that superior.

Here was a throne-like chair and a thoroughly capable looking and thoroughly arrogant looking dude sitting on it.  So I decided he must be a king.  A barbarian king.

If he's a king then the chair wasn't quite throne-like enough so I added embellishments.  This is what I love about charcoal, it's forgiving enough to allow changes like this on the same sheet of paper.  Now his face looks less cocky and more glowering like King Conan or some other heroic fantasy figure.
While the first figure was nude the second one is at least borderline pornographic due to the paraphernalia.   Nonetheless I kind of wish I'd left it that way, it made him seem even more disdainful.

I can't decide if the helmet was a good choice or a bad one.  It's a cool helmet and I like the slight jaunty tilt to it, but I feel it takes it back in a less serious direction somehow.
What do you think?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Barbarian Queen 5

Here at last is the final painting and the client loved it so I'm happy.
But every time I look at it I see things I'd like to do a little better.  It's possible I'll always feel that way about all of my work, but some paintings kind of beg me to come back and do it over while some do not.  This one calls me back so one of these days we'll re-visit this story.
I do love the blue color.
I love the indistinct background that leaves the viewer filling in the missing information.
I don't love the lizard anymore although I did at the time.
And although the model really does have shoulders just like those portrayed here, I'd like to dial that down a little.  Paintings are visual and if something looks wrong visually it's wrong no matter how accurate it really is.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Barbarian Queen 4

The board was bigger than the paper so it was not until the drawing was transferred that I could start filling in the remainder of the background.  Not that it has or needs to have a lot of detail.  I wanted vertical lines behind her to suggest a tall space and horizontal lines out front of her to suggest a level surface for her feet to rest upon.
I meant for the two vertical shapes to be pillars, but they could be anything; a doorway, a window, curtains or banners.  I was waffling on what to put in the area to her right.  In one earlier sketch you can see that there was another animal briefly.  I asked a friend of mine what I should put there; a burly barbarian guard, a demon, dragon?  She said "a planter with palm branches."
"A Planter?!!!  With Palm Branches?!!!"  So I tried it and she was absolutely right it's perfect.

I then glazed over the whole thing with a thin wash of blue acrylic paint.  Once that was dry I achieved many of the white highlights by scraping it with a razor blade.  This gave a nice rough effect for the stone especially.
I did this intending to work over the entire piece in warmer tones of oil paint keeping the blue under-painting for all of the shadow areas.  But someone saw the painting and wanted to buy it just like it was.  I said "no, it isn't finished."  They pulled hundred dollar bills from their pocket so I said "OK" because that's just the kind of artistic integrity I'm known for.
I did however insist that they let me do a little painting on the figure before I sent it off to them because up close it really was a little rough.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Barbarian Queen 3

Now that I like all the elements of the draw and their placement I can rub charcoal on the back of the paper and transfer it to a board for painting on.  This board was fairly smooth and had a couple coats of Kilz primer on it which is as flat a finish as paper.  As always the board is recycled wood.  If you are careful you can do a very nice charcoal drawing on a board prepared this way, but you can't do any erasing.  However mistakes can be painted out with more primer if need be.  Then I spray the board with workable fixative and she's ready to paint.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pear Shapes 2

So lets talk for a moment about what is my favorite subject and almost certainly yours as well: Pear Shapes.  Pear shapes which are basically two circles or ovals mashed together are the foundation of many objects in the world.  Make yourself comfortable drawing and shading this basic shape and you are most of the way towards being able to draw pretty much everything.
The next two images illustrate this point overtly.  The rest of the images illustrate it more subtly. 

I always carry a little sketchbook everywhere I go so that I can doodle any time I'm bored.  But I only get bored if I'm not doodling.  Even if my head is entirely empty and I have no impulse to draw any particular thing I'll often begin with a pear shape.   Pretty soon something else will suggest itself to me and arms and legs and heads will appear. 

Note that as you move towards greater realism this in no way ceases to be true.  On the contrary we find hints of repeating pear shapes in the masses of the arms and legs, tail neck and head.

The centaurs cat body began with a pear shape defining his belly and rib-cage.  The humanoid part is an inverted pear defining his chest and abdomen.

This portrait of myself as Santa Clause began as a pear.  The nose did too.

They don't have to be pretty.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Pear shapes 1

After I've traced the image onto a new paper I tape that up in the window and place yet another clean sheet on top of that.  On this one I only need to roughly trace the girl's but and leg and the shape of the throne.   This gives me a space to design a pet for her.  I know how big I can make him and how to wrap him around the edge of the chair and the girl's leg without covering her up or otherwise conflicting with the image.

I start, as I usually do, with pear shapes.

Drawing with a soft vine charcoal I can scribble out some details, wipe them off and re-scribble until I like what I have.

Once I've got something I like I can place this sketch back in the window and hang my new tracing of the girl in front and trace the monster onto the drawing with her.

And Bob's yer Uncle!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Barbarian Queen 2

Later while working on the drawing at home I made some improvements on the cat, but I still really didn't like it, possibly I'd drawn too many cats around that time and just wanted to mix things up a little.  Also I thought her posture was a little stiff.

 Placing the drawing in the window for a light-box, I'm able to tape a clean paper in front of it and trace the image.  Doing this allows me to shift and rotate the paper around as I see fit and thus altering the posture of the legs etc.  Here I've tilted her to the left so that when I trace her right leg it will angle up a little more than it did in the original sketch.

With the two sketches side by side you can compare the positions of the legs.  Her right leg angles up a little and her left lower leg angles back a little.  It's subtle  but the new one is more dynamic.  It has just that touch of energy and drama that the previous flat footed stance was missing.  This is another instinct acquired from sign painting.  Horizontal and vertical lines are stable and have a quiet dignity.  Diagonal lines feel unstable.  They have a sense of urgency and tension making you feel that something is about to happen.  Neither is right or wrong inherently it just depends on the feeling you're hoping to convey.

Barbarian Queen 1

As you know Gilbert Arizona lies at what was once the westernmost fringe of the Roman empire.  Romans and Celts clashed with Picts from the north and Apaches from the west. Centaurs ravaged the land from central Arizona to the Sea of Texas where the Mississippi river now flows. Goblin hoards poured from the mountains.  Eventually the Romans were driven back to the British Isles, leaving the indigenous people to fend for themselves.
But Gilbert was an ancient place long before that time.  The land is sprinkled with ancient burial mounds known as "fairy mounds" to the locals and said to be gateways to another world.  In fact one such mound was leveled to make room for the very house we're living in now.  Personally I never listen to such childish nonsense as fairy mounds and gateways to magical realms, but I do pack up my drawing kit and go visit those realms as frequently as possible.

On one such visit I had the pleasure of drawing this young lady here.  Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm indulging in a little flight of fantasy here, she really didn't have a cat with her, I just thought she should have one so I drew it in.