Monday, October 10, 2011

Entreat Me cover art

You may have noticed the WIP thumb I posted at the start.  I'm thrilled to finally present the finished artwork in full.  This is another cover for Grace Draven, who previously commissioned me for her novel Master of Crows.

Entreat Me is a Beauty & the Beast retelling, and from what I've read, is going to be an amazing read!  Grace has a knack for writing powerful heroines and memorable heroes.  The release date for Entreat Me is yet to be announced, but I'll be sure to let you know when it is!  Until then, you'll just have to enjoy the cover with my sig taking up space, since Grace's commissions have the dubious honour of being my most stolen pieces!

In the meantime, Master of Crows has recently been re-released for Kindle on Amazon and as an ebook on Smashwords, and this time Grace was free to use my artwork in the cover art.  Smashwords even lets you read the first 30% of the book for free, so go check it out!  You won't regret it.  Grace herself can be found on her blog (linked above), on DeviantArt and on Twitter.

Coming up next will be the steps and walkthrough of Entreat Me!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Setting Goals

I like to set myself goals.  I always work better with a task list.  Having a clear idea of where I want to go and what I want to accomplish has always helped me plan out how to get there.  It helps me balance and take control of my life, which I like to think is at least partially why I'm not sitting at some desk right now saying, "I haven't done anything I wanted to do."

(Ok, I am sitting at a desk, but it's a much loved one covered in sketchpads and books and a worn spot where my tea usually sits)

I also think having a clear set of goals makes it easier to accomplish them.  You know the old trick about breaking a big task down into smaller pieces?  Well, it works even better if you know your end point and can work backwards from it in small stages.  For exmaple, when I was fifteen and decided I wanted to work in the games industry, it obviously wasn't going to happen right there and then.  But I knew I would need a portfolio of work, which meant learning the skills to get my work up to a professional level, which meant (for me) going to a suitable university.  Which meant finding the right one, and then getting the grades and portfolio to get INTO said university.  That was someone fifteen-year-old-me could manage!  Some of my priorities changed along the way (I originally wanted to go into 3D animation), but that's ok.  The important thing is to have some desire.  Jon Schindehette of the ArtOrder blog/community made a post just yesterday about handling a portfolio review, and one thing he focused on was the importance of knowing who you are and what your aspirations are.

"As anyone that has suffered through a review from me knows – I always start out a review by asking “what do you do”, “Who do you want to work for”, and “what do you want to get from this review”. Those are not arbitrary questions. They are intended to weed out the artist that has goals and is serious about their craft. The worse answer you can give me is “I just want to draw!” While enthusiastic, it tells me nothing about your goals, desires, or professional track that you wish to take."

My goals a few years ago included getting a job I loved, moving into my own flat, starting my own blog and being featured in ImagineFX.  Well I accomplished the first three, and I did get a mention and a few pieces into an article in ImagineFX.  Now, I want to get my art featured in their FXPose section.  And I have a few other goals in mind, with my overall plan being raise my online profile and push my work and contacts up the the next level.

Here are some of my goals for the coming future.

  • As above, be featured in ImagineFX's Expose section

  • Learn to paint in oils

  • Have my art published in an Expose or Exotique book.

  • Get a critique/paintover from the Muddy Colours gang

  • Find a screen recording method that my PC can handle andmake a few video tutorials.

  • Become a member of the ConceptCraniopagus group on DeviantArt.

  • Build a personal website 

And just for fun, some of my longer term goals!

  • Be published in Spectrum

  • Be an ImagineFX cover artist

  • Do a book cover for Tor

  • Attend the Illustration Master Class

  • Ok, this one is vain - be nominated for a Chelsey Award!

So now I have those laid out, I can work out what I need to do to accomplish them.  The first list is much easier - I need to  finish up more of the paintings on my epic To Paint list, prep and submit my existing concept art to my gallery, figure out CSS again after all these years, and - duh - actually submit my art to ImagineFX, Ballistic, etc.  The second list is still mostly dreams and completing the things on the first will help, so I don't have to worry about specifics right now - although attending the IMC will probably require some sort of lottery win or a really lucky poker night!

I have other, non-art related things I want to accomplish (for example, I'm working towards being able to bench press, squat and deadlift my own body weight, and I'm getting REALLY close to the last one) but those are another list entirely.  So what are some of your art goals?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

From my day job, a collaboration between myself and my colleague Sarah Morris.  I painted the lefthand side and she painted the right.  This was done as a background for an animated promo video for Fallen Sword, one of our company's games (which you can check out at that link).

It was a nice change to paint a simple environment for a change without thinking about rendering limits or herding players through the level!

Monday, June 27, 2011

I love Game of Thrones.  I got hooked on the show and picked up the books halfway through - finally, so many of my friends' Fantasy Flight commissions made more sense!  This shot of Danaerys Targaryen from the series finale grabbed me so hard I just HAD to make a study of it.  The lighting, the composition, Dany's expression and the adorable Drogon.  There just wasn't anything else for it.

Just a quickie - about two hours in Photoshop CS2.  I made it an exercise in seeing colour and didn't let my pen touch the eyedropper. 

I'm working on a book cover right now, which I can't show until it's been approved.   Soon, though!  In the meantime, I've started a Tumblr after mulling over it for ages and stalking certain blogs.  It's not strictly an art blog.  I love the scrapbook quality of it and so you can expect to be subjected to a wide variety of my interests - crafts, interior design, fashion, far away places, fun photos, sappy inspiration quotes and the occasional fitness article.  I will post WIPs and sketches too, but the majority of it will be things that inspire me rather than things I make myself.   If that doesn't put you off, see you over there!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Keepers - Progress

I thought I'd share the process of a piece that's currently still "In Progress". This is both to give you a glimpse into my process and to show you the pitfalls of overthinking a concept (there is a very good reason why this piece is still In Progress!)

It started with a rough idea, a half story, which was pretty much inspired by a lot of reading about the Muses, the Fates, and other creepy chicks who often come in threes and like to pop up in all the good myths and legends.

I liked the sketch phase, but when I started adding colour it lost something for me. I don't know if it was the poses, the cramped composition or something about the expressions, but I wanted something with a creepy and slightly threatening edge, and I wasn't getting it here. So I started working on a full length version instead.

Right away I liked this much better. I had the image of them being in a cavelike environment filled with these little round glass bottles full of dreams, which would be glowing with prismatic colours. And the three of them together would be bottling another one. I distinctly remember my friend Melissa Findley telling me not to overwork this one or I would lose the atmosphere.

(She was kind enough not to say "I told you so"later!)

I was happy with the poses, so I started refining the characters, trying to find a look that was creepy and dark yet beautiful and alluring. I had a very specific idea about the type of costume and makeup they would wear. They would be tattered and slightly fae-like, with a lot of different colours popping out of the shadows. I knew I wanted lots of intricate elements like jewellery and beading, but for these to look old and cobbled together, like these guys are human magpies. And I absolutely knew I wanted very large, brightly coloured eyes peering out of dark, sooty eye makeup, luminous golden skin, and dewy pink lips and cheeks.

At this point I also started to refine the background, and right away I could feel I had lost a lot of the texture and atmosphere. But instead of doing the sensible thing like, oh, going back to a version that had actually work, I tried to inject more life in by adding the candles as a new light source and to start giving the scene a more lived-in look. I thought by indicating a big hole in the back wall I could make the area look cavelike again (it didn't work!)

I was also struggling the capture the feel of the costumes, so I opened up a fresh canvas and started sketching the concepts. It didn't matter that the poses wouldn't show everything I designed. I just wanted to find the look I was after without being constrained by the characters' body positions. Besides, I'm a concept artist by trade and fashion design is one of my favourite parts of my work.

And this is where it all really starts to go wrong!

I love the look and feel of the characters, but I have no idea what the standing character is doing now and I can hardly remember what I was trying to do with her pose. I think she was supposed to be dangling something from her raised hand. I've brought more candles into the scene and start to add hints of books, paper, artwork. I believe I was thinking that since their faces are smeared with paint and kohl that they can be some kind of fae muses or artists, but some old books and twisty candlesticks do not a goblin cave make! I've lost the ethereal weirdness and atmosphere of the original sketch. I open up the background to try and bring back a sense of space, since no matter how much I enlarge the canvas, the scene feels cramped. It just goes to show that a bigger canvas can never make up for poor composition.

So that's where this piece is still sitting. I've accepted that I'm going to have to do one of the toughest things for an artist - scrap the whole damn background and start again from the beginning. And this time, I'm not going to leave the sketch phase until I have nailed the composition and lighting down, instead of jumping ahead and then trying to bandage up the mistakes as I go. Just a little bit of planning and forethought go a long, long way!