Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Learning from Crits, Part 2: Painting with new information.

A couple days ago I posted my Art Order "Inspiration Challenge" entry. I'm really happy with how the piece turned out, and a lot of that has to do with some of the decision making I dealt with while creating the piece. The crits from Illuxcon offered me some great insight of angles I wasn't considering when making a painting. In this post I'm going to use my latest piece as an example of some ideas I tried to incorporate based on the feedback I received on my portfolio. Here's the piece again as a refresher...
Antlion - Finished Painting
One of the things that Robh Ruppel talked about during my review with him was that I should be organizing me values in order to best serve the focus of my painting. I've stripped out the color of this piece to make it easier to see the values, and I've added some notes to the painting. The main thing to note with this image is that I made the areas of focus have the highest contrast (look at and around the face and mouth). Now compare the face of the creature to the values of the trees in the background, and the objects in the'll notice that there's a much more narrow value range in these areas, they almost blend into the other non-focus elements. This was a conscious decision I made to ensure that the viewer would keep their attention right where I want it...the face.
Greyscale image with notes
Now let's take this one step further by using a threshold layer to turn the image into 2 values, pure black and white. In this image you can see that composition for this image is really just a dark object on a light background. The creature is the focus, thus I want him to pop out from the background.
B&W Threshold layer
In the next image I want to point out all the elements that help move the eye around the painting. All of the arrows indicate different elements that direct the viewer's eye around the image. Almost all the elements in the piece are helping direct the eye around and back towards the focus of the piece (the creature).
Lastly, I wanted to talk about the importance of color arrangement. In this next image you can see I've stripped out all the values of the piece leaving just the colors. You can see the creature's shape still holds up, based solely on color you can still tell what the focus is. I pretty much placed a colorful monster on a blue backdrop, so anything that isn't blue is the creature, thus it stands out from the background and pops more. You can also see that in the appendages and body fur, the colors are more muted than they are in the face, saturation control does a great job of helping enforce the focal point of your image as well.
I'm no expert, and I know a lot of this might sound long winded and repetitive in some places, but I thought it would be fun to share some of what I've been thinking about in my work lately and maybe you can start thinking about it in your own work, or use this as a refresher if you already know all about this stuff. Either way, writing this all up helped drill the ideas into my head even further so I'm excited to bring these lessons with me into my next piece.

Monday, November 4, 2013


I've been itching to submit something for the latest ArtOrder Challenge for a while now*. Being that the theme of this challenge is "inspiration" it seemed like it offered a great opportunity for me to crank out some fan art. I spent a lot of time considering what I wanted to paint for this, and after a while I realized that I had never done any Final Fantasy IX art, FFIX being one of my all time favorite games. This also gave me the perfect chance to do a nice monster-illustration for Jon Schindehette (something he requested I do for him during my review with him at Illuxcon). So I thought, why not kill two birds with one painting and have some fun while I'm at it.

My Antlion

After sifting through all of the monsters in FFIX I picked one of my favorites, the Antlion. This creature is a common enemy in the game, but the way it is first introduced really made an impact on me when I first played the game years and years ago. When you climb to the top of this massive, hollowed out tree in the desert, you'll reach a settlement in the sky called Cleyra. There is a fork in the road, one path leads up into the town, and the other leads to an ominous sandy pit with not much else around...hmm interesting. Later a significant character is attached by the pit's inhabitant, the Antlion.

In-game graphics fighting the Antlion - FFIX

I love the design to this guy as well as his colors and I thought the setting would be fun to paint him in as well (I'm trying to steer away from monsters just chilling on a plain white background), so I decided to give him a go and I'm really happy with the results! I'm excited to enter the latest challenge and I'm hoping to have some more time to come up with another piece before the due date.

Not a real Magic card, created for promotional purposes only

Oh yeah, I also decided to make a Magic: the Gathering Antlion card using my illustration, I hope you get a kick out of it. I'm going to make another post on how I painted this piece using what I've learned from my recent critiques so stay tuned for that!

*Note: After reading over the competition guidelines again I realized that my entry is unacceptable due the creature being owned by SquareEnix. Oops.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Very CollegeHumor Halloween

A few weeks ago I was approached by the kind fellows over at CollegeHumor regarding a new Halloweeny web article that they needed some illustrations for. The pitch? Spoofs on a classic book series called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz. If you're a long time reader of my blog you might remember a while back I wrote this Inspiration Spotlight article on Scary Stories. And with this project I was allowed to try my hand at spoofing some of the classic Stephen Gammell illustrations that I love so much!
Source material

The article was written up by CollegeHumor writer Michael Trapp, and art direction was provided by Caldwell Tanner. You can see the article and the illustrations in their final published form on the CollegeHumor website!

Fun extra, exclusive to my blog, below are the images as I sent them off to CollegeHumor...

It was a huge blast getting to emulate an artist I've admired for so long, and it's always a joy getting to work with the CollegeHumor team. They offer a nice break from the usual grind of fantasy illustration work. It's not often I get to flex my humor muscles so I like to enjoy it when I can. Not to mention the CollegeHumor guys are extremely pleasant to work with. Hope you had a Happy Halloween!