Monday, June 6, 2011

The Jabberwocky: Phase 1-rough concept

Here's the first installment of a quick rundown of my process. This is a personal piece I did for an art show a little while back. The theme was 'Dragons' and my wife Brooke suggested Lewis Carols quirky creature and I decided to add a little terror to the children's poem.
Step one is rough conceptualizing and layout.  Because this is a stand-alone poster, I decide to split the image between the poem itself and the visual and select a long format to accommodate the text. I want the Jabberwocky to be scary, but also a little whimsical and non-senseical. I want it to feel like he is a creature of chaos, like he's part bird, lizard insect and plant all in one. I also want to highlight the bravery of our young protagonist by choosing a composition that shows him plunging into a roiling mass of monster.
At this stage I avoid color so I can just focus on getting a value structure down. Next I'll refine this concept into a sketch.
(1 hour total time)

The Jabberwock: Phase 2-value sketch

Here in step 2 I'm focusing on refining the forms and figuring out the values. I change the face of the Jabberwocky to make it a little more odd than my first idea, giving it round, almost surprised eyes, a block-like head, pig nose and rabbit teeth. I also want his claw to be odd and a little deformed, it helps for me to keep going back to the poem to keep my mind focused on absurdity and strangeness. I want a strong shaft of light  to illuminate the hero and highlight his might vorpal sword which will soon be going snicker-snack!
(2 hours total time)

The Jabberwocky: Phase 3-finished sketch

As you can see my 'finished sketch' is still pretty loose. Because this isn't for a client I don't need to spell everything out for clarification, just notes and ideas for later. I find if i get too tight at this phase, before i start to play with color, the finish will be too stiff and not as much fun to produce. I find if I can keep myself amused and having fun throughout the process, I'm not only happier, but i remain more engaged with the piece and less likely to get fatigued and sloppy. The last thing I want to do is spend all this time getting it to this point just to phone-in the rest and end up wasting a lot of time and energy.
Here I add an absurdly small and sickly bat wing, feathers down it's back and insect-like legs. I also decide to add a jub-jub bird to give so more specificity to the piece.
(5 hours total time)

the Jabberwock: Phase 4-rough color

In this step I add basic color behind my sketch, figuring out how i want the color beats to hit. I'm going with a dark-out-of-light composition with a 4 color split compliment grouping: blue fading to green base with red figure and yellow accents. I try to create a yellow triangle with the boy's hair, gauntlets/sword pommel and cape lining out of which points the blade leading your eye to another triangle of yellow, the creatures two eyes and mouth. I add some yellow eyes to the monsters tail and legs, putting a few more yellow accents to lead the eye up the rest of the image. The secondary red form of the scabbard flowing into the body of the Jabberwocky just gives a little positive space to create depth against the background. It looses some depth of the value sketch, which i don't like, but I plan on re-establish the light shaft and hopefully fix it.
I also finish the text in illustrator, complete with a little dragon made of gold vines, and add a bevel filter and texture in photoshop (I know it's a bit cheesy but oh well)
(7 hours total time)

The Jabberwocky: Phase 5-details and global lighting

Here's just the long rendering process of finishing all the shapes i started. I start by using a large airbrush and filling in areas of light and dark, then, after the light sources are fixed I just go from form to form and add the appropriate lighting. I also add a frimulous bandersnach with a spiral snout under the hero just as little something to add some life the forest. This part is by far the longest and I tend to put on a podcast, and just fall into a groove. Call it 'combing the flea' or 'mowing the lawn' or whatever, either way it's detail-oriented, systematic and can be a little boring if you don't have enough decisions to make, but can also be very therapeutic.
(12 hours total)

The Jabberwocky: Finished!

Here's the final image. I place the text back in, tweek the colors and rework the values a bit then i go galumphing home!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ironhills Scout

I think I'm WAY to excited about the upcoming Hobbit movie. I've recently reread the book, I listen to the audiobook at work, I'm dreaming about Mirkwood....and so the sketch today: One of Dain's soldiers during the battle of five armies. This is a light troop, armed with a simple scale-mail hauberk and cloth. He wields a battle-mattock and a small dagger.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rajah, Effrit of the Wastes

Finaly got my scanner on line! original is 14X17 and was a snap to import.

This is just a little character that poped into my head while on the train. She's a poor caravan girl who made a dieing pact with an Effrit which inhabits her body. She lives in a cave made from desert glass that she created with her flames. She wields weapons scavenged from the corpses of those unlucky enough to encounter her in the remote dunes of the wastes. Her blades are charred black from soot and her clothes are little more than singed rags. Her body is covered in fine scales.

(Pencil, Hi-Lighter, colored pencil, Prisma-color markers, 1.5 hrs)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Tomb of Martin

It's been a while, but rest assured that I have a backlog of sketches that I will post when my new scanner comes online, till then here's a digital sketch to tide you over.

This is an image dedicated to the recently departed and much loved Brian Jaques, who's tales of Martin the Warrior shaped much of my childhood ideals of honor and bravery. Though never written in one of his stories (Martin is said to have died of old age) I decided to show the old champion of Red Wall laying in state, above him a relief of his victory over the wildcat Tzarmina. Where Martin and his greatsword, cast adrift on a tabletop amid the flooded plain of Mossflower, drove the evil tyrant into the cold arms of that which she feared the most: a watery grave. With her death a realm was finally established for all good creatures of the forest. And even though Martin would die, as all living things must, his spirit remains as a guiding light for future generations that live, strive and build upon the dreams he first laid down.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A quick speed painting of an old subject: the little plant creatures know as Saporlings! So cute with it's little bark covered talons and eyeless sockets :D
(Photoshop, 1 hr) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dragon Rider

Another b/w RPG character portrait today.
(Photoshop, 2.5 hrs)

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Histatistition

Another quick one today. Just a little character concept, a sort of steampunk cartographer/historian with a flair for adventure.
(Photoshop, 40 min)

Thursday, March 3, 2011


When it comes to Holmes there can be only one for me (sorry Robert Downey) and that of course is Jeremy Brett. His sharp features, eagle like nose and his cat like grace and eccentricity is what I grew up with and what I will always think of when I picture the legendary detective.
I don't know what it is, I guess it's the death of Brian Jacques, but I've been thinking a lot about the creative heroes of mine who have passed on...I guess to keep to the rule of threes I should do a tribute to Frazetta next.
(Photoshop with that cool guoache brush from the last post, 1.5 hrs.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chops, 'stash and brows

Another brush test. This one has a ton more texture than the brush I used yesterday. If you're intrested the brush was created by Drew Green, here's the link: . Drop me a comment and let me know which you prefer, I'd like to get a little vote on texture/no texture :P
(Photoshop gouache brush, 2.5 hrs)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Icy Eyes

I've neglected the blog for a few days so I thought I'd bring something a little more than a sketch. A color portrait rendered with a new Photoshop brush I've been meaning to try out. Might like a little more texture but it's a good brush for smooth rendering. Did this with no preliminary sketch, a sort of digital alla prima.
(Photoshop, 4 hrs)

Hakkon the Rogue

Ran short on time today so here’s just a quick doodle of a dwarf :P

(Sharpie, Highlighter, colored pencil 40 min.)

Hydraulic Fist

Steampunk Combat Contraption
The Industrial Revolution finally made it possible for the bar maid to also be the bouncer.
(Pilot pen and Photoshop. 2 hrs)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Gristle Dragger

What's lef tof him is hungry!
You know how sometimes you’re just sittin’ there, eating a turkey club and thinkin’ “I wonder what a Zombie that has half of his body blown off by a fireball looks like”…Yeah mondays
(Prismacolor markers, Hi-Lighters and a Sharpie. 1 hr)

Defender of the Warrens

A modest little tribute to Brian Jacques who died on Feb. 5...I'm going to have to do a better piece, maybe of Martin the Warrior, for someone who brought so much adventure to my childhood.
(fine point Prismacolor pen, green highlighter, Photoshop. 2.5 hrs.)

Yior Knotshoulder

Yior Knotsholder is my cousin Matt’s D&D character. I grew up to tales of this raucous dwarf: the sole proprietor of the Pig Swig Tavern, renowned adventurer and legendary drunk. His famous Haymaker and barrel of pickled fish has laid flat high born, aristocratic Ogres and slum dwelling elves of Evermeet alike.
(Fine Point Prismacolor pen, blue high-lighter and Photoshop. 2 hrs.)

Classic Fighter

18 STR. 7 INT. What else do you need to know?

Another D&Desk rendering of a classic fighter. Ready to skip the speech check and smash some skulls!
(WACOM & Photoshop)

Vetran Warrior

A quick black and white render of a warrior brooding over his burned grilled cheese…
(WACOM & Photoshop)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

First Sketch, AVANTI!


       Thought I’d kick off this little sketch experiment with a self portrait. I’m not ego centric at all…  (Fine Point Sharpie, Ball point pen, Prismacolor marker and color pencil)