Friday, May 11, 2012

Searchlight Geist

Searchlight Geist was the third piece commissioned along with Fervent Cathar and Defang. Like Defang, this was another piece that just came together for me. Unlike Defang, however, there were no special memories that fueled this piece. Instead, I was packing a bit of inside information. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll take a look at the description first.
Color: Black creature
Location: Foggy sky, perhaps over a swampy graveyard
Action: Show a spirit that is floating through the night sky (see "Shake" styleguide pg. 78-84 for geist reference). It has no face, and "carries" a grim-looking iron lantern (maybe it just hangs from a chain, or is attached by wisps of ghost-stuff). Inside the glass of the lantern is a ghostly, glowing skull-face.
Focus: The geist
Mood: Creepy, haunting
As I've mentioned before, I worked on the team that designed the visuals for the world of Innistrad (something about which I promise I will elaborate upon real soon in my Innistrad wrap up). I worked on a variety of things for the world, primarily the architecture, some landscape stuff, wardrobe, a few creatures, etc. Up to this point, I'd only gotten to actually illustrate one creature that I'd helped create, the Frankenstein inspired undead creature in Geralf's Mindcrusher. Finally, with this piece, one of the last I would work on for the Innistrad block, I got to do a finished illustration of something else I'd worked on: a ghost or spirit, which in the world of Innistrad are called "geists."

Armed with the bit of confidence in the fact that I knew what I was doing (or at least thought I did), I strove forward with pencil and stylus in hand to create the following sketch:

©Wizards of the Coast
It's a pretty straightforward description of a pretty straightforward image that resulted in a pretty straightforward sketch. This one was all about nailing the tone, mood, and a certain sense of light. Considering that the light source was right there in the description, the only thing I had to do was get what was in my head down on paper. The fine folks at Wizards dug what eventually ended up on that paper and approved the image for painting.

©Wizards of the Coast
The piece is oil on paper on hardboard and measures 12"x9".

As you can see, it's a lot darker than the sketch indicated. This happened pretty organically and I'm happy it did because it really pushes home the ominous nature of the thing, and also makes that skull lamp sing. Color-wise, I knew I wanted to stick with blues, greens and purples. It was a piece that just kind of called out for a cool palette to me, and indeed the only hints of warmth are in the decaying fabric of the geist's form.

Anyway, here's what it looked like in card form:

And here's a link to a page where you can download the image as a desktop for your computer, iPhone, iPad, or even your Facebook cover: link. If you're not interested in any of those things but are a painting goober like myself who likes to see brushstrokes and such up close and personal, then I urge you to go ahead and check those images out anyway because my lack of skill is laid bare for all to see.

To be honest, this is the kind of piece I like. Not necessarily the subject matter or the color palette or any such thing. I'm talking about the total lack of drama. It was a piece tossed in my direction that I knew what to do with immediately and then went through to finish without calling much attention to itself. Any time a piece comes together this smoothly I feel pretty lucky. Of course, looking at the three pieces I was assigned, that only one of the three gave me any real difficulty is kind of a miracle. This might not be the best piece I've ever done, it might not even be great, but I do have a quite a fondness for it. I like trying to inject beauty into horrible things, and sometimes I get lucky when it actually works. I think this might be one of those times.


  1. love this one!
    the only strange is the melting of the hood and the rest of the fabric.

    1. Glad you like it. The decaying fabric is pretty clear. I mean, he's dead. Dead things tend not to remain pristine. Also, the hood is shallow due to the lack of a head, which is in the lantern.


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