I'll start out with the painting "Perimeter Captain".
Typically, I'll do at least some thumbnail drawings to figure out a given pose and composition. Sometimes I'll go for the finished sketch if I'm confident enough in the direction I'm taking. In pretty much every case, however, I do drawings before I shoot reference. This doesn't mean that I won't explore other options with the camera, but I always pick a direction and start shooting the reference with the intention of fleshing out that initial direction.
So, here's my sketch. It's part pencil, part digital, and awful sketchy. But, for better or worse, this is where I started.
|©Wizards of the Coast|
Despite its sketchiness, it's still pretty clear which way I'm headed and so I set up the lights how I wanted them, posed, then had my wife snap the shots. Here's my main bit of reference.
Pretty straightforward, so far. But, I'm sure you'll notice a few things. First, I'm not black. Second, I'm not wearing anything that's even close to what is indicated in the sketch. What's the deal?
This is where supplemental reference comes in. I knew at this point what the general lighting scenario was and I also knew what the general color palette was going to be, so I first started looking for images of dark complected men in similar lighting situations, and specifically for those with blue or purple highlights in their flesh tones.
Now, what the main figure was wearing was based primarily on aspects of a styleguide that I was being asked to follow. Styleguides are a whole animal unto themselves, but the short story on them is that they are created by companies (in this case by Wizards of the Coast) to give the artists working for them a clue on what things are supposed to look like for a given project. The styleguide contained specific armor and clothing designs that I riffed on and then backed up with some images of armor from various books I own, and various photos I've taken.
In the interest of not getting any kind of cease and desist letter, I won't actually post the supplemental images. I can tell you that outside of the books on my shelf, my main sources for the images I used were Getty Images and National Geographic Stock. The images obtained from there were solely for the purposes of getting the fleshtones somewhere in the ballpark of where they should be.
It should be made clear, however, that the vast majority of the main figure was informed by the above photograph. Everything from the placement of highlights on the skin, to where the light would be hitting different planes of the armor and clothing. Any solidity the finished figure has is due mainly to this one picture and my ability to bend it to my will.
As for the overall environment (or lack thereof), it was mainly inspired by the likes of Maxfield Parish and N. C. Wyeth. Both of these illustrators loom large in my childhood and are among my biggest influences, and I often like to give them a nod or two whenever possible.
Finally, the fellows in the foreground. This was a rarity. No reference. Perhaps you can tell. Perhaps you can't. The way I figured it, they weren't important. I wanted to keep them generalized and I didn't want to be too precious about them. They were informed by lots of drawing and lots of reference taken over the years. I really don't have any other explanation.
So, here's the piece in its final form. For better or worse.
|©Wizards of the Coast|