Exalted: Holy Mountain

The Exalted Role-Playing-Game! Full of exciting martial arts guys and gals punching cities into the sky and colourful explosions! Most of the time! Unlike last time¬†though, sometimes there are more quiet moments where flaming magic isn’t in evidence and it’s time for the kung-fu kids to just stop leaping tall buildings in a single bound, sit themselves down and take in the world around them for a change. You know, to help get the nuances of the setting across to both them and the reader.

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum

So this is an environment piece depicting a city hiding away inside a series of organic-looking tunnels, chambers and thoroughfares carved with magic into the inside of a mountain. The people living there now didn’t do it, that was how they found it and they moved in. (You can see me thinking about wibbly, impossible rock carvings in bottom-right of the sketches below:)

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum

So while this is a city, it doesn’t have a skyline to help impress its size upon the viewer. In the above sketches, I was trying to figure out a way to convey the size of the place and also its swiss cheese like nature. (Rock blocks your vision, y’know.) On the top-left you can see I was going to put the viewer at street level and show a giant ravine with bridges criss-crossing it fading away into the distance above. This was a good idea, but I thought I’d go for something that showed the overall hubub of the place, so I tried reversing the angle and looking down on the same place from above. It wasn’t really working, so I threw both of those out and went for a layered composition that had both bridges and streets. And some view distance to distant lights and buildings to make it seem bigger…

This was the rough I came up with:

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum

This piece was the one out of the series that I didn’t actually draw any linework – with pencil on paper – for. I felt confident with going straight to digi-paint from the rough since it was fairly a limited-palette piece.

This is some of the ‘underpainting’ for the illo, grabbing the rough brushwork from the rough version and then spotting in big round brushstrokes from a distance to get all of the information in:

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum Work-in-Progress

Here’s the next phase of painting: moving in and describing and modelling things properly, even the buildings in the distance. There was a bit of an Art Nouveau thing going on in this town:

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum Work-in-Progress

Here I was working on giving the distant bits some haze, just like distant buildings would have in any open-air city. Also to suggest the lights and activity happening across town:

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum Work-in-Progress

Glowing bits! The guys with the light sources on sticks are priests of the temple with the great big head above the entrance. Since this piece was worked in progressively lighter colours out of the dark background, it was getting pretty light down there:

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum Work-in-Progress

And here at the finish I’ve started to take some bits of the architecture back into the subterranean gloom, to smooth its carving and also divert attention to other parts of the image.

Exalted Third Edition Holy Sanctum Work-in-Progress

And we’re done. Sorry if it wasn’t all as whizbang as the other images. There’s got to be a letup at some point I suppose. (More whizbang images are on the way.) The creative director on the book – lovely fellow Rich Thomas, who it turned out painted some of the Magic: The Gathering cards I liked back when I was a teenager – was really positive about this image. Shucks. And here I was thinking it was one of the weaker ones.

Next time: bear bits!

While we’re talking about Exalted, here’s a quick grab of the double-page-spread desert piece I painted in layout for the finished item, courtesy of the Exalted Third Edition Kickstarter updates feed:

Exalted Third Edition RPG book layout spread

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