Friday, January 14, 2011

Reference, Part 8

Okay, so I'm going to give one more example today and then do a bit of a wrap-up tomorrow.  It's been a fun run on this subject, but I don't want it to get too stale.  I'll likely revisit the subject of reference from time to time in the future (after all, who doesn't like a peek behind the curtain?), but I think it's time to move on.

With that in mind, here's how "Lighthouse Chronologist" came together.

First the sketch.

©Wizards of the Coast

This was one of the rare sketches that just kind of flowed out of the pencil.  For me, it's rare, and I was really quite happy with how it all came together.  It's also worth noting that this is one of the cleanest sketches I've ever done for any piece, ever.

So, I knew it was going to be a night scene with a distant fire, and I tried a couple different lighting scenarios for my reference, ending up with this:

©Amy Belledin

I'm not sure if I went out that night and had that shirt on or put it on for the piece, but it's a personal favorite of mine.  I kind of have a collection of less than attractive shirts.  But that's a different story altogether...

Anyway, you can see that the pose is off, as is the perspective.  This is because I was shooting mostly for lighting.  I wanted to make sure that my drawing wasn't too far off proportionately, and needed to see where shadows might fall in the moonlight, which I was simulating with a single lamp from overhead.

In addition to this reference, I had some reference of stone parapets (to get the rough stone quality down), some reference of rocky shorelines, and some reference of distant fires at night.  These, again, were pulled from books and the interwebs.  Handy thing, the interwebs.

Still, with all the collected imagery, I was a little unsure of the piece's value structure.  I'd never really done a night painting before and didn't want to dig too deep a hole, so I whipped up this value study:

©Wizards of the Coast

Undoubtedly you are cringing at the poor quality of the value study, and I am too.  There's almost no differentiation in value between the main figure and the background.  Still, it was a mental start for me that allowed be to be a bit more relaxed about the piece.  The result was this:

©Wizards of the Coast

There are a couple things that nag me about the end result, but mostly this: I adhered quite rigidly to my initial sketch, and in retrospect I wonder if the more open pose I struck while posing in the reference wouldn't have been better.  In this case, instead of falling in love with the reference and adhering too closely to it, I fell in love with the drawing and perhaps fell into the same trap.  I just really dug the drawing and the fact that it was so effortless.  Sigh.

The piece was oil on paper on hardboard.  It measures 14"x11" and is in the private collection of Chris Rahn (provided he didn't sell it on ebay).  Despite my uncertainty, I'm pretty happy with it and am still kind of surprised it worked out as well as it did.


  1. Nice to see a little of how this one came about (despite the fact that I'm endlessly killing it or trying to when playing MTG lately, ha).

    This has been a really inspiring series to read. I've relied so much on searching up the best pre-existing reference possible -- which is never absolutely perfect. Then I find a passable shot but think, "What can I really use out of this?" You've given me a very different look at what's useful. I'm excited to pull out the tripod and get snapping before I do anything else.

  2. Thanks, Sean. Hopefully it works out for you. Because there's little or no cost to shooting reference nowadays, it's something that I think every illustrator who works even remotely realistically should give a try. If it's not for you, at least you didn't put anything into it beyond a camera - which most people already own, anyway.

    As I said before, you'll figure out through working with it, what is useful to you and what is not.

    Either way, good luck!



I welcome all comments, questions, and discussion so long as you keep it civil.