The last in the series of illustrations I did for the interior of the forthcoming Exalted third edition ‘EX3’ role-playing game book from The Onyx Path publishing. Here, it’s sunset over the mountain city of Medo and it’s time for the changing of the guard. The living guards are joined by the ghosts of their ancestors who take the night shift of watch duty over the ramparts of the city when the sun sets.
This is something of a world-building piece with one main character in it helping to communicate the setup of the place too. The brief was to show a valley and a mountain range with wooded lower slopes, great city walls with crenelations, our main guardswoman, the friendly ghost appearing, others appearing in the background, and that the guardswoman had a small bone on a necklace around her neck that she was playing with.
After lots of playing around with angles and compositions to try and get as much as I could into one image, I decided to clobber the composition with a sledgehammer of simplicity… Get things fairly straight and layer them up. Keep it simple.
I coloured up my linework to make this colour rough to show to the art editor and creative director. The feedback that fed back said, ‘can we darken it up a bit and make it look like it’s definitely night-time drawing in?’ So I got out the pot of darkness paint.
My Onyx Path pals definitely had a point. Anyway, next up was printing out a blown-up rough and light-boxing some pencils from it onto another piece of paper.
The friendly ghosts that would be dropped on top of proceedings – in proper translucent, ghostly style – were drawn on another bit of paper.
Colour flats! Hey, this didn’t take long! I wasn’t going to flat every single tree trunk and canopy on the hill-side since I could do that much later in the process with a few flicks of a brush and produce much better results. Is it clear how much fun I was having drawing her protective sou’wester? I was.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rage, rage against the shoddy artistic workmanship of just dropping in the brush strokes from colour rough from earlier on to build up a bit of texture, to get the painting going.
Working in the darker tones, shades and shadows. It’s funny how just the linework visible over this makes everything look a bit like it’s in relief or something. Anyway, no time to reflect, it’s time to put the highlights on:
The sun’s dipping behind the mountains, so there’s only so much light being thrown around. You could argue that there’s a mountain behind the viewer which could bounce the light back onto the scene, but we’ll leave that alone for now. And in general.
Some more feedback on making the main character a bit more rosy so we could pick her out a as living, breathing pink thing in the gloom as opposed to a statue. I love doing limited palette work, so every once in a while I need a nudge like this. Anyway, the friendly ghosts in lamellar armour had appeared and we were done!
And here’s a close-up of some of the detail. The character’s face was a little bit out of my usual style, and it was only after the fact that discovered that there was no such thing as an ‘Exalted look’ in this edition of the game. Ah well.
Even though this is the last piece from this series I’m showing off, it was – paradoxically – the first one I finished. I’m kinda funny like that. I learned a lot on these illustrations. The book was finally on general release a few days ago, so sidle along and pick yourself up a copy if you’re a roleplayer. The book design is really incredible, so fresh-looking for an RPG. ‘Medo’ – the region the piece of artwork above is set in – gets a mention in the blurb for the book, so that’s cool. Oh and If you’re one of the fancy types on Kickstarter who’s getting a metallic slipcase version or similar, then I salute you.