June 9, 2013

Mystery Monsters Revisited

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I'm busy at work and busy at home. I realized I had completely forgot to post the last cover I did for Paizo Publishing. So here's a process post about the creation of this illo.  Enjoy!

The cover idea was pretty straighforward, two of Pathfinder's iconic characters being attacked by a lake monster. Not exactly high art, but I guess I can make up some b.s. about monsters representing our fears or how it's an allegory for the Iraq war or blah blah blah....

Here's a few thumbnails for the cover. I find when doing cover art it's always good to put the type in your mockup so you get a better idea for how the final book will look.

I really like the confining feeling that #3 gives you.
Ultimately #1 was picked.

After the art director picked a direction I started on the final drawing. Paizo used to allow more of the image to overlap the text, but now the rule is to keep the title clear of any obstructions. I had to move the serpent's head down a bit, but I think it helped the composition, creating a circular viewing path with the two characters and the monster.

Here's the drawing at a mid stage, the foreground and
background aren't worked out yet.
Checking the "live" area.

As with most of Paizo's covers you have to illustrate their existing character designs. Both Seelah and Ezren were designed by Wayne Anthony Reynolds. Wayne's awesome designs are known for their insane level of detail, and sometimes it can be a challenge to figure out how much to show and how much to omit. Here are his character designs:


The finished drawing.

I was a good little artist and actually did a color rough in gouache. Ideally if you do a color rough it should be in the medium you intend to paint it in, but doing them digitally does allows for more options. I wanted to try a more limited and muted palette. I was imagining a foggy lake on an overcast, stormy day. The two most saturated colors are the blue of the serpent and Seelah's red cape.

For color comps, I typically print my drawing on a
very small piece of watercolor paper.

I'm usually really bad about taking any progress shots of my work, but for this cover I happen to have the camera out, so here's a few shots of the painting with a basic wash and some line work painted in. Look how neat and organized my drafting table is! Emily was also working on a Paizo cover, check out her post here.

Can you have to much reference? ...YES.
My metal "butcher" palette has fallen many times much to Emily's annoyance.
Paintings usually look really bad before they look
 really good.

Finally, here's the finished illustration: 

In retrospect, this isn't my best painting. I think it turned out pretty well overall and I had fun working on it since I don't do a lot of freelance anymore but there are a lot of things I would fix. It's funny, but my favorite part of the painting is the coils of the serpent that are fading away into the mist. I'm also happy with the expressions I got on the characters, I know RPG fans really key in on those things so hopefully the illustration still resonated with them. Click here to see the book on Paizo's site.

I'm going to be working on some more paintings soon, both for myself, and for an independent company, hopefully this will jump start my art brain for the rest of this year. 


  1. Awesome! I really like the face style of this monstersnake...Great!

  2. Just beautiful, from top to bottom. The lineart is stunning, and I do love me some good lineart.
    This came to my attention on a "How to do it right" post on Escher Girls and I want to say thankyou. Even if you don't feel this is your best painting, thankyou for having a female character front and centre, wearing beautifully detailed and realistic armour.
    I'm not going to talk about boob windows or vacuum-wrapped plate armour or battle makeup, which is so much the norm in fantasy works.
    Instead I'm just going to say; Thankyou.

  3. Sweet Painting! I really dig the head design on the serpent

  4. I'm going to have to ditto Anji Wagner. It is unimaginably nice (as a female comic book/fantasy/sci-fi fan) to look at at the cover art and realize - she could do battle in this and I'm not in the position of looking up her ovaries! The painting as a whole looks wonderful- the facial expressions on both Seelah and Ezren are wonderfully expressive- and the overall design of the page is great.