Finally, I did something different this year. I invited my wife along. I did so with a boatload of trepidation. I worried she would get bored, or feel left out due to my work schedule. I even had a bit of a fear that she wouldn't like the artists that I call friends. All irrational fears of course, but that is the nature of fear, right? I couldn't have been more wrong. More interesting though was how much we learned about each other at the event. We were able to see each other in an environment that was completely different from any we had seen each other in before. My respect for my wife grew even more, and my admiration for her kind spirit and love of her playful nature were reaffirmed. And a "thank you" to everyone that welcomed her with open arms. Alright, another IlluxCon has come and gone. When I get my camera back with my luggage, I'll toss up a few images that are interesting, and as my brain recovers from it's post-con fuzz I'll try to remember some of the great questions I got over the course of the event and share them here. It's good to be back...
Chaos Scar: The Brothers Gray. Artist: Patrick McEvoy. Cartographer: Sean Macdonald. Patrick is another recent addition to the stable. He clinched his place on my go-to list when he delivered on a killer tiefling piece a few months ago. Now I look forward to finding something new and interesting to push his ability to find a dynamic point-of-view. This was a tough one, with both foreground and background elements of interest. His decision to use the time of day to create the dramatic lighting worked out very well. Sean was a name that was handed to me when I took over magazines. I have enjoyed working with him since starting in this position. The hardest task I have is keeping him busy - he's so darn fast! Expeditionary Dispatches: Artist: Wayne England. I've worked with Wayne for a while. I always loved the items and environments he created for D&D. One day he asked me to let him do some figurative work for me, and I haven't regretted the decision once. When he talked to me last month and asked to start doing some magazine work - I hesitated. Obviously, not because of his skill or quality, but rather becuase of the crushing schedule we often have for magazines. Since Wayne works traditionally, it adds some stress and strain to the process. Wayne assured me he could get the paintings done, and shipped across the globe within my time frame. He's never steered me wrong before, and he didn't this time either.
The other morning, I was chatting it up with a few or the regulars on the ArtOrder chat, and the subject of reference came up. I'm not going to argue the merit of reference in illustration. In fact I'm going to skip right past that subject. In the midst of our reference discussion a glancing comment about Anita Olsen's posts about her university illustration project and mood boards. Love 'em or hate 'em, mood boards often step beyond the idea of reference material and enter the realm of research. It doesn't matter which of my hats I'm wearing at the moment - illustrator, designer, photographer, art director... I find the research phase of creative development to be the most intensive and rewarding portion of the entire creative process. Just yesterday, I pulled together a concepting team to start the research phase for a new product line we are developing over at Wizards of the Coast. I'd like to take a minute and talk about research, an how it can be useful and helpful for the creative process.
Posture. A lot of the characters are very upright and strong. That is very heroic, and normally that is something that I look for in my D&D art. In this circumstance though, this character is suppose to be beat down, injured, worn out...basically had all the 'heroic' kicked out of them. Make them slump, make them weary, have them supporting themselves, think of them about three steps away from complete exhaustion. If they look like they still have fight in them - they probably aren't very tired or desperate yet. I'd like to take a minute and highlight a few images that jumped out at me. Roger Bethke. I like the sense of "lost" in Rogers piece. Giving a character multiple options for where they can go emphasizes the sense of being lost.
The heavy black vertical shape cutting through the image bothers me though, and I've look at the composition. The doors could and cavern elements could help lead the eye around the image rather than just feel kind of arbitrary. Melissa Koch work at Coloring Pages website. Melissa is really capturing the idea of weary here. The weight is off to the side, she's holding herself up here. I don't really get the sense that she is lost though... Alexander Nanitchkov. Love the sense of despair, and the feeling that there is impending doom. The warm/cool adds depth to the image. I'd love to talk about many more, but I'm short on time. Take a look at your sketches again, and give them one more pass with the thoughts I mentioned above in mind.