Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Skullduggers Concept Art Revamp

Beware the Skullduggers, a group of diminutive animated bones who use the scrap gear and weapons of fallen fighters as they tunnel and mine to excavate more of an equipment horde as well as bones of the dead to stock their own ranks with. 

They can range from a lone goblin-sized miner to a swarm of calamity miscreants all the way up to a legion of undead ready to murder the heroes and townspeople and collect all their possessions to repurpose for their own use.

Well––at least that's the idea of what they are. In fact, they are a re-design of an old drawing I 'unearthed' when scanning pencil drawings for my Patreon.

Back in the earliest of the 2000's, I was toying with the idea of creating a table-top game (like Warhammer) with simpler rules for movement, army creation, etc.

While struggling to design those elegant game mechanics (which never materialized) I only ever drew a few of the types of creatures one could populate their fighting forces with.

To the right is that old drawing of a single Skulldugger (I envisioned these were the minion pawns that could respawn.

As a just-for-fun exercise, I thought it would be fun to redraw and redesign and older concept piece of mine like this (Plotmasters style). I hope to do this with a few of the other drawings I've found when scanning things for Patreon.

I penciled the mining Skulldugger first, but then decided that the concept art should reflect the idea that these are a throng of minions rather than one unique character.

So, on other sheets of copy paper I drew one with a lantern (inspired from a character in Hellboy: Wake the Devil) and a glimpse of one in armor. These were scanned and assembled and then given a quick color splash to help me see the forms easier.

I printed out the above layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Using my Huion lightpad I was able to see through the surface of the bristol to the printout below and use it as a guide to ink from. I used Copic Multiliner SP pens.

It was important to to overwhelm the inks with too much texture, so I tried to limit it to their gear where I needed a material or rust to be obvious and also to help break up the space between the larger open areas in their designs.

There is a tanget I regret in the armored one's eye socket and the rust spot on the front one's pick axe---it looks like a continuation of the opening...but I knew I could improve upon it with color.

The first step after scanning in the inks for digital coloring is called color flatting/ It's basically a professional version of coloring inside the lines.

I'd roughly established a color scheme for the front Skulldugger when doing the pencils/layouts, and opted to keep that look and expand on it only a bit to fill in the other two characters. 

These little minions should be dusty, dirty, and corroded––so I liked going with a cohesive muted palette. At this stage I also established color holds (areas where I wanted the lineart to be a color other than black) on the lantern openings and the miner's candle flame.

Here again are the final colors. They were rendered using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop and a stock textured brush. 

I have no immediate plans for what to do with these guys, but between my Draw The Extinct creatures, Discovering Dragons, and a few more like this––I seem to have a nice bestiary for fantasy gaming...

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Rusty Iron Swamp Dragon

Earlier this month on my Twitch Stream, we did the #DiscoveringDragons Community-Draw-Along! It's a fun event where I welcome all skill levels to push their pencils (or whatever tools they use to make art). Usually it takes place on the first friday of the month, but due to ECCC, it got pushed back (as did this blogpost--sorry)

I worked on my piece live on my Twitch stream while viewers worked at home and then on the following Monday we shared our finished pieces.

Here is my finished colored Dragon. And below are my steps to create it as well as the community submissions.

For #DiscoveringDragons, I post two or three prompt words for everyone to make into a dragon. It's a nice framework for artists of any skill level to focus some time on an 'assignment' to shake the rust off or get the pencil moving again––all while also being loose enough that there's plenty of room for individual expression and interpretation.

This month the prompt was three words: Rust, Iron, & Swamp

I opened several tabs of google image searches of Rusted Iron, and Alligators (because without a swampy background I thought getting the anatomy cues of an Alligator would telegraph the environment)

I started on copy paper figuring out the overall body shape and how to make it both an alligator, while also looking like a mythicar creature and not just a big alligator. In pencil I focused detail only on the head and arm before scanning it into Photoshop to block in the shapes and forms for the rest.

With a big digital brush I painted in how I wanted to rpeat that scale pattern as well as color notes for where I wanted the back ridges/spines and draped swamp-muck. Last minute a blocked in some wings and a burping gassy alligator skull and crossbones. 

I printed out the above design and taped that onto the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. Using a lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol as I inked the dragon. I used Copic Multiliner 0.7 pen to ink the art.

The inking on this piece was mostly about that scale pattern and getting it to bend around the form and to taper off and fade out where I needed. I was unable to finish the inks on-stream, but returned to them the next day off-stream.

Right after the inks were finished, I scanned them so I could start the coloring process to try and save the form of the piece. After prepping the digital inks, I established color holds (areas where I want the inks to be a color other than black––on the overall lines (to a dark brown) and a pale green on the gas breath effect

Then it was time to start the color flatting process––basically professional coloring-in-the-lines. Some of this is just to make it easy to re-isolate various parts when doing later painting & rendering. I went with a bluer-grey to get away from alligator and still imply 'iron'. I did start splotching in some of the rust effects here, so this image is a half step past the flatting stage.

For the final colors I did most of the highlights, shading, and texture with the dodge and burn tools and a stock photoshop texture brush. I like the glowing gassy mouth, and the idea of the rust, but I kept going back and forth between how much is too much and how much is not enough. Below you can again see the final Dragon...

But, as this is a community event, I wanted to share all the other entries posted in the Discord. 





Jonathan Towry


Nate Pride





Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Magic the Gathering: Mabel Card Process (Bloomburrow)

Last year I was asked by Wizards of the Coast to do some Magic the Gathering card art for their upcoming animal set Bloomburrow (https://magic.wizards.com/en/products/bloomburrow). I played a lot of MtG back in the mid/late 90's, so it was an honor and thrill to become a part of the fraternity of MtG illustrators.

The first card of mine that has been revealed is Mabel, Heir to Cragflame. She is this set's protagonist in the story. She is a mother of three mouselings and heir to a storied sword, the Cragflame. The set will be released in early August, and since Wizards of the Coast has already revealed my version of this card, I can share the artwork and process for creating it.

The process started with the brief from my art director asking for Mabel in her bedroom gearing up to protect her children. WotC provided me with an enormous PDF with reference for the mice and their clothing and architecture for Bloomburrow, as well as reference for Mabel's specific character design.

I started with a rough version of Mabel on copy paper, and then refined the drawing on a different sheet of copy paper using a lightpad to work off of the original. When I had a version of Mabel I liked, I did the same thing with the mouse-bedroom background, starting with a rougher version and then working to a tighter one on a light pad. I didn't need to draw anything where I already knew Mabel was going to be, which is why there is a void on both background pencils.

The pencil roughs were assembled and combined digitally in Photoshop. At this stage, I also like to do a preliminary digital color blocking, to make sure I have the color and value tangents worked out, and also to show my art director at WotC so they are on the same page as I am (no one likes surprises in the later stages of a commissioned art piece). This is the stage where I can also easily make adjustments moving a character or resizing something (this is the post-edit correction of enlarging the blade of the Cragflame sword).

With the pencils/layouts approved by my art director, I moved on to inks. I printed the digital composite out and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion Lightpad, I was able to see through the surface of the bristol to use the printout as a guide as I inked with Copic Multiliner SP pens. The art director for this card requested not to have any large or dense areas of black, so I kept the linework fairly open and was restrained with the amount of texture.

The inks were then scanned back into Photoshop where I could start the coloring process. This stage. called flatting' is the professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. Just flat color is placed in to establish everything's base colors. the art director also liked when my linework was softer in my Mouse Guard work, and wanted everything to have a dark brown color hold (ink lines colored to be something other than black). I also established other color holds on Mabel's eyes and on the blade of the Cragflame sword.

Here are the final rendered colors for the art (sans card borders). I did the light and shadow and texture by using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop with a stock textured brush.

When Bloomburrow is released in August, I'll have prints and possibly playmats of Mabel available for sale.

The original inked artwork is up for sale by auction the the Facebook group: MtG Art Market: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mtgartmarket

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Recent Toned Commissions

 Here are some Toned Commissions from the end of last year.

A Gryphon

Jei from Usagi Yojimbo


Frog from Chrono Trigger

Usagi Yojimbo in Samurai Armor

A Mouse playing a lute

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