Friday, June 26, 2015

Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen

Last summer, I was hit with a couple of medical issues that made getting work done complicated and sometimes quite painful. Like a lot of folks, when I'm in pain I find that my temper can be short and my patience nigh non-existent. It's entirely possible that I shouldn't have taken on what little work I did. That being said, I'm positive that sitting around wallowing in my discomfort would have been a far worse idea.

Enter the assignment for Dwynen, Gilt-Leaf Daen:

Color: Green and Black creature
Location: Lorwyn forest (daylight)
Action: This is a legendary female elf, Dwynen. Lorwyn elves are vain and haughty. That should be her attitude.

This is a tight shot of Dwynen  from the chest up. Her head is turned, and she has her bow at full draw. She holds her bow in her right hand, and draws with her left (see reference) She is aiming at some off-camera prey.

Lorwyn elves have very lithe silhouettes. we want to keep their exaggerated proportions, but have this executed in a more realistic style than original Lorwyn art.
Focus: Dywnen the hunter
Mood: a hunter at work
Attached to the description was the original version of Dwynen by Johannes Voss.

So off the bat, I was left with relatively little input on this piece. All the key decisions about Dwynen had already been made and pretty much everything about her had been designed. I was left only to create a new portrait of her.

Looking at the original art and the description, I fired off an email for clarification on how the suggested realism was to be employed. See, I worked on the original Lorwyn sets and had a good feel for what elves looked like in that world. They had exaggerated wasp-waists, thin limbs, swarthy skin and brown hair. Their broad noses and dark eyes gave them an almost sinister air. This new elf was pale complected and blonde and to an extent her features felt normalized. Were these changes the employment of the realism mentioned in the description? Or was Dwynen just a pail anomaly among the elves and the realism part was more addressing my choice of lighting and paint handling?

If I'm perfectly honest, I was not particularly keen on some of the choices made. If I was to do a Lorwyn elf, I wanted a chance to really nail them in the way they'd always been depicted (dark and perhaps a bit dangerous). But alas, my feelings don't really enter into it. In the end, my job isn't really about liking the decisions made by other people. My job is to take those decisions (whatever they may be) and present them in as cool a way as possible. And so after getting a reply back from the fine folks at Wizards explaining the reasoning for Dwynen's appearance and requesting that no significant tweaks be made, I did my best to set aside my prejudice and began plotting to deliver Dwynen in the best way I could.

I went to the drawing board and after several thumbnails, knocked out a quick and dirty pencil sketch and cleaned it up with some even quicker and dirtier Photoshop values tossed on top.

©Wizards of the Coast

Off the bat, one might notice that her right arm is a bit too long. Keener eyes will notice that I tried to push some the facial proportions a bit closer to the original Lorwyn elf designs. It's still not quite as severe as I might have gone, but I tried to keep in in the neighborhood of something that I could believably pull off in paint.

This was given the green light. I fixed the long arm and took it to paint.

©Wizards of the Coast

The finished painting is oil on paper on hardboard and measures fourteen inches wide by eleven inches tall.

This piece evolved significantly as I painted. Originally, this was a bright painting. The background was blown out by sunlight and was comprised mostly of washed-out greens and yellows. But that version seemed to clash with my mood at the time. Mid-stream, I shot a photo of the piece, took into into Photoshop and explored a couple alternate directions. Making the entire piece darker felt like the way to go and so I reworked the piece to match the digital file. In essence, I took the darkness inherent to the original Lorwyn elf design, and injected it into Dwynen's environs instead.

My memory of working on the piece is full of feelings of dissatisfaction. In fact, I remember hating everything about it. But I think I hated everything at the time given how much pain and discomfort I was experiencing. At the moment, I can tell you that I quite like aspects of the finished piece. There's definitely stuff I'd change, but that's hardly anything new. I've never been a particularly good judge of my own work.

Any complaints aside, there is one aspect of this piece that I truly love: I got to dip my toes back into the world of Lorwyn. I suspect that this will be my last time doing so, and it's a prospect that saddens me. While I did work on two other sets prior to Lorwyn, it is in that world of elves and kithkin that I truly cut my teeth in Magic and fell in love with working on the game. I loved every minute exploring that storybook world and it was nice to create a glimpse back in time, a portal to the past not only for fans, but for myself. But then, who knows? It's impossible to say where Magic will take us.