Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dragons

And again with the dragons! A staple of fantasy and myth for centuries, it remains one of those mystical, magical creatures that we cannot escape. Even those that think the fantastic is silly, firvolous, geeky (which in this world is difficult to come by these days with the advent of a mainstream fantasy culture), they could all recognize a dragon if they saw one. Even drastic changes to anatomy cannot mask it. I give you here another wyrm of spiteful, malicious intent. Behold!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

'What news, wyrm?'

Okay, so I had a bit of a hiccup there, for a bit. My computer is still down, but I am able to use my fiance's to upload images.

This image is one I had a great deal of fun with. I imagined a rat-king being visited by his little flunky, a goblin, or a similar creature, to bring news of a mission. The rat king, with more than a little disdain in his raspy voice, hisses his command through razor sharp incisors. The pet toad is a fat reminder of what happens to those that fail to meet the tyrant's high expectations.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Inspirations, Part 1: Larry Elmore

Well, here's the first of (hopefully) many Inspirations posts. The first is, well, the first. My introduction to fantasy came when I saw a friend of mine with a binder with one of those clear covers you stick things into. I always stuck pictures into them. So did he. A wizard stared back at me, like Merlyn promising a lifetime of wonder to a little Wart.

'What's that?' I asked.
'That's my D&D binder, man.'

From there history was made. And so was my mind made up to follow a particular path that would challenge me and give me so much in return for my devotion.


'Dragon Slayers and Proud of It!'
Larry Elmore
'That wizard led me to the book store to the AD&D 2nd Edition Player's Handbook. I opened the pages right there in the store and stumbled upon another image of a group of faithful, fateful adventurers whose stories were mine to wonder about for as long as I wished. I wanted so badly to be a part of their troupe; to be the great, jovial fighter; the warrior priest with his war hammer hung leisurely over his shoulder, resting after a hard won battle; the stranger hovering in the background, shrouded in the folds of his crimson cloak, a worker of mysteries, enigmas; to know the elf woman with the bow (who I imagined began with the priest on some special errand); and to batter steel against steel in mock combat against the warrioress (whom I always imagined as a sellsword, or a rogue of some kind, a companion to the giant man and the wizard).

Even though I have many influences now, Larry Elmore was the first. From that day in the book store to the days I spent traveling the lands of Krynn, he made me wonder with nothing more than coloured mud and brushes... I wanted to do that, too.

Little did I know that the wizard on the cover of my friend's D&D binder was me...

Much as Merlyn reached from the future back to Arthur's youth to guide him into the shoes he would eventually fill as a man, it seems to me now the wizard was familiar. His task, to teach me to wield the wand of graphite and smear the coloured mud in many patterns and signs to make visions to enchant the world, to show it beauty and magic, to help
 it dream.

If you ever get the chance, go to an old used bookstore and rummage through the early D&D stuff there. Chances are you'll find old copies of 'The Dragonlance Chronicles', back issues of Dragon or Dungeon magazines featuring Elmore's art. And make sure you stop by Mr. Elmore's website and pick up a print, or two, or three. Stop by his booth at the various conventions he frequents. I had the opportunity to meet him two or three times; each was a blessing and a treat. It was very important to me that my earliest hero turned out to be a big kid and a friendly face.

Elmore's still an active artist. My eyes are always peeled for updates of new commissions, personal work, and another opportunity to meet such an inspiring fellow.

So, my thanks, Larry. You were the first to set me down this path, and you are the first here. Thank you...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dragons

Of course, next to dwarves, dragons are my favourite creature to draw and paint. I seldom represent good dragons. For some reason, to me, dragons are almost exclusively an obstacle to overcome, a cunning adversary or villain to act as foil to the cause of good, the valiant knight. That is not to say I have not spent time exploring goodly dragons or that I don't reserve a special place in my heart for them. Indeed, I am very fond of Krynn's metallic dragons and some other notable serpents of friendly and noble disposition.

Primarily, however, dragons are a primordial force of evil. Perhaps this is because they are so huge, so symbolic of malevolence, so awesome, that even in their goodness they represent a terribleness.

In most fantasies, the line between good and bad, black and white, is so clearly drawn that the individuals belonging to either side must be exaggerations of normal human experiences and concepts in order to emphasize the struggle within us. Good is good only when compared to evil. Dragons represent the larger than life, ultimate obstacle. The dragon slayer, the walker through the valley, is the one that will come out the other side stronger for having faced his challenge, the amplification of his fears and demons.

And it is for this reason, I feel, that I must relegate dragons to the evil side of the spectrum. Sure, there may be those few good dragons that still and will capture my imagination and heart, but I have fought enough of them to know that even the good are not what they seem. To slay a dragon you must be wary of their tricks, sound of heart and mind, and courageous, even when defeat seems immanent. To be bold in the face of ultimate suffering, to fight when you want to give up, that is what fighting dragons is about.

I think about this struggle frequently these days. A friend recently lost his fight with a most foul wyrm, Cancer. This post is for you, my friend. Goodbye, Shawn. You fought bravely, and you will be missed. I haven't had a proper time to grieve for you, until now, your passing was such a shock. Your fight is done. May you rest well. God knows you deserve it...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bard the Hare

A character I am playing in a friend's 2nd Edition AD&D campaign.

The Elf Prince

 A character I have been dealing with for some time is an individual called the Elf Prince. I've started writing a story about him and would love to explore his journeys visually.

The Elf Prince represents for me a romantic ideal. He lives in a world very close to our own, yet removed from it. Maybe, one day, when I have been doing some freelance for awhile, I will come to a place where I am ready to share those stories in more detail. For now, here are some sketches.
I hope you all enjoy these images and they inspire you as much as they inspire me.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Don't Lose Your Head...

Skeleton warriors are one of the coolest fantasy monsters. They're iconic. I think Ray Harryhausen started my interest in them, along with the illustrations from the early Dungeons & Dragons monster manuals. This is one I'd like to explore in more detail and turn into a painting.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To Slay a Hydra

Continuing the hydra theme, I will post this. After all, a beastie can only sit so long atop his bone bedecked hoard before a brave soul comes to put an end to his voracious appetite.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hydra

I have no words of wisdom or special thoughts, at the moment. Just enjoy the sketch.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dwarves... Again


As I have said, D&D was a huge influence on my life. Since I can remember playing I have been drawing my characters to flesh them out more for myself and fellow gamers.

Balon was my first D&D character. I revisited him a bit for the latest game I'm playing in. It's interesting to see the differences between then and now.

So, enjoy! I had loads of fun sketching these.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Necromancers and Process

One of the things I always do my best to capture, is a feeling. I just let my pencil wander along the page (which you can see in many places on both images) then pick out the shape and line relationships I find there. I do my best not to 'think too hard' and let the pencil do the talking. My heart speaks a language my waking mind cannot grasp completely, but somehow is translated through the drawing media. Almost like I am a silent observer watching the tale unfold, and every now and again putting in my two cents worth. It's so much fun to be surprised by my own drawings. Sometimes I get big ideas and put them down, as well. But I always allow the pencil, like a trusted wizardly advisor by the side of his king, tell me what he thinks. This essentially means there is never any artist's block.

Once I've made my 'notes' in my sketch book, I shoot my reference, tighten up the drawing where it needs it, then paint.

I've reached a point now where I will not stay with something I am dissatisfied with. If I do not like the 'feeling' of a drawing or painting, I will completely erase or destroy it, and start over, again and again, until I get what I want.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dwarves and Their Shenanigans...

Dwarves are perhaps my favourite fantasy creature. They are (in most instances) stubborn and earthy, gruff and cantankerous. However, at their best they are admirers and creators of great beauty. They are easily juxtaposed against massive, towering environments, which further accentuates how very small they are and adds to the feeling of 'smallness' that I find essential in the recipe for creating sublime experiences.

On my mind lately has been not the smallness or largeness of a dwarf's creations, but the bumbling nature of the earth dweller in contrast with a task that requires great stealth and quiet. The top image is the one I started with, but it wasn't working for me. I explored the idea somewhat because I liked the feeling of the image, but, in the end, it went nowhere (at least for now). The second image captured more of the feeling that I wanted. It wasn't too serious, though you could tell the kind of danger the dwarves were in. I laid down some basic values to show what I might consider for a final value structure.

One thing that should be made clear about my sketchbook. It is a notepad. I explore ideas in it. I figure out problems. I don't care how pretty things are. As long as I can read the notes to make paintings at a later date, then I am happy. Some people use sketchbooks as an art form. That is not me. In fact, sometimes I like to shock people and erase whole drawings that I laboured over for a half hour to a couple of hours. I feel like if I am unwilling to destroy what I have made, then I am not really in control of it. I should be able to recreate what I have done (or make it better than it had been. Which is usually the case). This practice helps me let go when I draw so I can look at drawings as a whole rather than as a collection of small parts. This, in the end, frees me up to see things I would not have noticed if I were stuck noodling for hours. details are a final step. For example, the chest the dwarves in the first image are carrying will have a strange face as a lock.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Personal Gardens

Alright, so still on the topic of adventuring. This time, it is related to 'The Hobbit', or, more precisely, 'The Lord of the Rings'. What is Biblo's warning to Frodo, 'Be careful stepping outside your door, Frodo. You never know where you'll get swept off to.' or something like that. I like to think of this when I draw. I ask myself as much as possible, 'What would I like to see or experience in an adventure?' 'What would be terrifying and new?' I also think of the reason for the creation of the first 'Zelda' game. Everyone needs a personal garden, a place to explore with a child's wonder and uninhibited, pure delight. What would be amazing for you? What kinds of places would make you feel small and curious, exploratory? What kinds of places inspire in you awe and a desire for the mysterious and romantic?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

'All we need is a little bait...'

The image that sold me on Dungeons and Dragons was the full page Larry Elmore painting, 'Dragonslayers', at the beginning of the 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook. As soon as I saw that painting, I knew I would love the game. I wanted to be a member of that motley crew. I wondered what their stories were, where they came from, how they all met one another. I can still look at that image for hours and wonder.

I feel an image should have that quality. It should transcend itself, becoming a thing greater than what it is. For me, an image should not answer a question bluntly, but should pose questions itself. What came before and what comes after? An image is just a starting point, a launch pad, a place of beginning. Physically, it is an end point, the culmination of an artist's current skill, aesthetic, and personal mythology. It is a launch pad for further imagery and ideas. The colour, composition, and elements comprising the image create the scaffolding from which the viewer suspends his ship of wonder. The inspiration and creativity of the audience prop
els that ship skyward to limitless possibilities. Sketches are girders helping the scaffolding to stand.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One of my chief inspirations to pursue a career in illustration was Dungeons and Dragons. I discovered this game when I was about 11 or 12.

The white dragon was always one of my favourite monsters. Its colour, design, and habitat all made for what I imagined would be a fun and challenging encounter. I never got a chance to fight one as a PC, but I drew plenty of them.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Welcome to My Sketch Blog!

'Come with me, ladies and gentlemen... come with me: and those that tire at all of the world we know: for we have new worlds here'

~ Lord Dunsany, 'Wonder Tales'