Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Vinelings Concept Art Revamp

Reap what you sow when you tangle with the Vinelings, a clan of humanoid-vegetation creatures that can control plant life to ensnare their foes, tangle the mobility of unwelcome travelers, and open the soils to rust and compost any war machines attempting to harvest them.

The plant species can vary from Vineling to Vineling, but they always have multiple vine or root-like arms and never show their faces. Wherever they wander, they cast off pollen and drop the seeds that cause them to stand for generations.

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

A few months ago I shared a revamp of the Skullduggers from the same unmade gaming project.

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 to populate the game with.

To the right is that old drawing of a single Vineling (I envisioned these were the soldiers that could respawn.)

As a just-for-fun exercise, I thought it would be fun to redraw and redesign an older concept piece of mine like this (Plotmasters style).

I started the new version digitally keeping the basic forms and ideas, but making them as well as the pose more interesting. I did end up penciling the vine arms, legs and seed-pod staff traditionally on a lightpad overtop of a printout of the digital sketch. 

I wanted the arms to be more vine-like and to loose the grill/scarf (I think the original was inspired by the Black Wizard in Final Fantasy Tactics––a game I never played, but always liked the look of that character.)

I printed out the above layout with the pencil's also scanned in and added. That prinout was taped 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.

This piece was a texture mess––and no good way to make it all make sense in black and white without adding shadows I didn't want in the final color...so I just did my best to control the density.

The original inked artwork is avilable for sale in my online store: https://mouseguard.bigcartel.com/product/vineling-original-art

When the inks were done I scanned them and started the coloring process. That first step is called 'flatting' where the different color areas are all painted in with flat colors..it's a professional version of coloring-inside-the-lines.

The color choices seemed obvious to me looking at the original and so I used similar colors when doing the digital sketch.

I also added a color hold (where I want the black lineart to be a color other than black) to the overall linework and a special glow around the eyes.

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, May 21, 2024

Nadra Illustration

Last year I did an illustration for my friend Thorin who is developing a RPG setting and novel series called 'Nadra'. Thorin is the son of Alice Finch who was responsible for spearheading the Mouse Guard LEGO display and project that celebrated the Mouse Guard 10th anniversary.

Thorin commissioned me to do a piece from a moment in the first book's story that he could also use to make some tee-shirts or prints for the RPG community helping him develop the setting. I opted to make it possibly serve as a book cover, which you can see with mock-up text on the left. Below I'll go through the process of creating the illustration.

Thorin provided me with a lot (and I mean a lot) of reference ideas for each character. In addition to written physical descriptions, he also shared something akin to a mood board for the clothing, hair styles, and weapons for them all (including characters not appearing in this illustration--in case I opted for a different scene from the book).

I'm not known for drawing humans very well, so I did struggle with getting the pencil drawings correct. I looked at some photo reference for faces and drew each character separately. The rocky character had some wiggle room in the visual design (though Thorin did provide me with rock formations and petrified dinosaur scales for guidance)...I do regret how much I inadvertently used the Batman the Animated Series Clayface design. I assembled the drawings, tinted them all differently and did a quick blocking painting for the rocks and sky.

The layout was printed out on copy paper (this piece was 11" x 14", so it took a few sheets taped together) and I taped the printout to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On my Huion lightpad I was able to see through the bristol and use the printout as a guide to ink from.

I used Copic Multiliner SP pens (the 0.7 & 0.3 nibs) to ink everything. I was very caution when inking the faces because if I was just a little bit off, it would ruin the character's expression. I used the finer nib for the faces and the larger nib for more of the costuming and outer contours. 

Even though I knew I'd ultimately be coloring the piece, I wanted to be sure the artwork worked in black and white, so I tried to be hyper aware of where the dark spots and textures were going so I didn't overwhelm the piece with visual clutter.

Once the inks were finished, I scanned them back into Photshop to start the coloring. This first step is called 'flatting' where all the base colors are established. It's a professional version of coloring-in-the-lines. Some of the ideas of the colors were established in Thorin's descriptions, but picking exact colors was a dance I had to do to make sure everything read well while also looking harmonious (like they are all in the same place). Originally I was going to go with a yellow sky like in the rough, but opted in this stage to play with some pink-to-purple gradients to make the setting more ominous.

I also established some color holds (areas where I want the lineart to be a color other than black) mostly on the swirling clouds, but also on one of the character's upper lip and on the dwarf's bow string.

Here again is the final colored art (sans text). The rendering was done mostly using the dodge and burn tools with a stock textured brush.

To find out more about Nadra, you can visit Thorin's website:

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Lake Como Folio Print

 This weekend I’ll be a guest at the Lake Como Comic Art Festival: https://www.lccaf.com/

They will publish a folio of art pieces done by the guests and made available at the convention. You can see my finished piece here and below I’ll show the process of creating the piece.

For the layout, I wanted to include some architecture found in Lake Como. I happened upon a photo of a terrace with an amazing tile floor and used it for reference (though I did have to alter the scale of the roof and columns). I also found that the Kingfisher is a native bird there, and loved the idea of mice in partnership with the bird catching small fish (for oil, scaled skin, bones, and meat for the bird). I drew these elements on copy paper and then assembled them in photoshop and did a quick blocking color pass to help me see everything clearer.

The layout was printed out and taped to the back of a sheet of 14”x17” Strathmore bristol. On my huion lightpad I was able to see through the bristol surface and use the printout as a guide to ink from. I inked the piece with Copic Multiliner SP pens. The original of this piece will be offered for sale at Lake Como, but later in my online store if it doesn’t sell there.

When the inks were finished, I scanned them and started the digital coloring process. This first step is called ‘flatting’ where only flat base colors are painted in (like a professional version of coloring in the lines). I’d mostly decided the color choices in the layout stage. I also established color holds (areas where I want the inkwork to be a color other than black) on the background landscape and the details of the tile floor.

Here again are the final colors, all rendered in Photoshop with the dodge and burn tools and a stock textured brush. The folio with the print will be available at the con, and *if* I get any extras I’ll make them available in my store.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Proud Patch-work Tiger 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). It takes place on the first Friday of the month.

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: Proud, Patch-work, & Tiger

I opened several tabs of google image searches of Tigers, Milt Kahl's drawings of Shere Khan, and some of Nora Potwora's Art

I started on copy paper with the head and then on another sheet overlayed on a lightpad, I drastically changed the body by making it loop overtop the head. 

The stripes were drawn as just stripes, but I knew that when it came to the inking, they were the place I'd emphasize the 'patchwork' prompt.

I assembled the drawings digitally and then digitally drew in some wings and antlers after getting more reference. The colors were just to help me see the various body parts more clearly when inking to keep track of textures and forms.

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 started with the contours and overall form. I was unable to finish the inks on-stream, but returned to them later that night off-stream, where the inking became all about the patchwork stripes and getting those textures and patterns to read, but still look like a dark stripe.

The next day, I scanned the inks to I could start the coloring process. After prepping the digital scan of the 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 dark purple on all the patchwork textures with a few yellows thrown in to offset...later on I'd also add a hold to all the stitching lines).

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. Most of the colors were already established in the rough, but to add some more fantasy to it, the patches were a purple instead of a black/brown.

For the final colors I used the dodge and burn tools to add shadows and highlights to give the dragon some form. The stripe-patchwork all needed separate attention to vary their colors and values so they truly looked like patches. 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. 









Nate Pride



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