Exalted: All Along the Watchtower

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

The friendly ghosts that would be dropped on top of proceedings – in proper translucent, ghostly style – were drawn on another bit of paper.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workingsRage, rage against the dying of the light.
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workingsRage, 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.
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workingsWorking 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:
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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!

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

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.

Exalted: Crash Test Funny

Want to get your mate round and go for a nice drive down the road in the Exalted role-playing game universe? Too bad, because Volka The Exalt here’s seen your chariot coming a mile off AND IS GOING SMASH IT TO BITS WITH ONE PUNCH:

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

So this is going to be printed on one half of a page of the Exalted Third Edition book from The Onyx Path Publishing with a column of text going down the other half. I’m guessing the text will be about how Volka here (who is definitely female, believe it or not, I was going with the brief here) is able to do this kind of thing without breaking a sweat because of her special Exalt powers.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Starting off in my sketchbook, I was trying to find a way of communicating everything that was going on while still making it dynamic. A really simple side-on view of Volka at one end and the chariot at the other with the punch in the middle. We didn’t have a landscape format to fit all of this in though… And anyway, it would be boring, like the side elevation of a plan. Some foreshortening was required! It ended up being quite a lot…

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

So here’s the rough I came up with. The chariot and its contents had to be flying apart – which was handily in the brief – to separate them in three dimensional space because it stopped them overlapping each other when it came to the foreshortening…

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Volka’s a great character (androgynous and she’s got a great skintone, all of this came from the brief) so it looks like I got to define her look. Whoop!

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

The final linework that went into the finished piece, drawn with an automatic pencil on bristol board on top a lightbox (I think).I didn’t get Volka’s mouth quite right, but that got fixed later.
I’m now gonna introduce a double-up wall of work-in-progress screengrabs; the long, thin images I’ve put up so far prompted a bit too much scrolling on your part, so this should be easier. You can thank me later.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

First up – on the left – are the colour flats, taking the fairly precise linework and knocking it down into shapes – the individual colour choices aren’t too important at all at this stage. Ignore the darker blue blob in the sky for now. Next – on the right – I dropped the hastily-daubed colour info from the colour rough straight on to the final to serve as a kind of under-painting.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

A couple of quick progress grabs of Volka’s face coming together.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Next, I worked in some dark shades to get the modelling of the forms now present in this final piece down. Then I worked on over the top with highlights, to model further. There was some proper painting with ‘local’ colours going on a little bit too.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Working over with different colours and getting towards a kind of ‘detail’ level here. Volka’s leaf-mail armour took a while, but it was probably worth it.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

The pink glow is Volka’s ‘Anima Banner‘ – a light show shroud that she emanates when she’s using her special powers. I was starting to work into the environment more here and soften the elements further away from the viewer in the composition to give a greater illusion of depth. And how much chariot’s just been broken up. The guys in the chariot are supposed to have a kind of Mesotopamian feel to them, which was fun. In fact, the whole flipping’ piece was loads of fun!

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Final textures and tweaks. It was decided that Volka’s right leg should be moved further into the composition to make her look a bit more rooted in the scene and increase the depth, so I duly did that. Initially I thought the bonkers figure work suited Exalted, but the edit probably makes the image work a bit better…

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

You can see here how my working ratio didn’t quite match the printed image ratio. Anyway, we’re done. Here’s some detail grabs, in case you’re keen:

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

G’wan, Volka.

Next time: Ramparts ‘n’ Revenants!

Exalted: Muscle Mary and the Infinite Sadness

The next in the series of ‘Exalted’ Third Edition role-playing game (“EX3” to the cool kids who’ve been waiting for it to be released) from The Onyx Path publishing. (Even cooler kids might know them by their old household name of ‘White Wolf’.)
Here, we learn it’s not all explosions and cheesy grins in the land of ‘Creation’ in ‘The Age of Sorrows’, some people are having problems too:

Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse illustration

So yer big man here is an ‘Exalt’ character – an individual who has special powers – the only problem is that with great exalted power comes crap responsibility: you have to suffer ‘The Great Curse’. This curse comes from the enemies of your godly Exalted ancestors, the ‘Primordials’. As the Primordial old-school-rulers of the world were overthrown and destroyed by the Exalted forces, the Primordials cursed the usurpers to feel miserable sometimes and occasionally lose control of their emotions. (Yeah, I have days like that too.) Tiny here is suffering and is no help to his friends who’re fighting off a Realm legion attack.

Anyway, here’s me at square one doodling out some ideas in my sketchbook.Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Oh the anguish:
Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The quick linework for a rough to send to the editor:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The same linework quickly coloured up:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

That was all good so I took the rough linework, blew it up and lightboxed this final piece lineart from it:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The colour flats. The idea is that you use these to grab selections of figures and elements to have in your toolkit for later on when it’s all gone wibbly and is hard to get back into:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The quick colours from the rough used as a bit of underpainting and then worked into, to start the ball rolling:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Giving the folks in the background a bit of attention for a change. And should say the blue lines are to mark the edge of the image:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Getting there. And yes, our linework’s pretty much disappeared so I guess this is officially a painting now:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Working in further, getting everything differentiated and trying to pull the background and other elements out of the gloom. It goes against type that the main character in the foreground is the one disappearing in the murk, not everybody else stuck at the back. (Pro Tip: The gloom represents GLOOMY EMOTIONS.)Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

A quick work-in-progress screengrab:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Here comes the sun: getting it nice and cheerful in the background so the foreground can look more depressing:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Putting in grass textures, details and some tweaks:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

A bit of colour wrangling and we’re finished:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse illustration

Some grabs of details; our Realm legionnaires, heavily-armoured heavies that seem to be one of the many recurring visual motifs of the setting:
Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art detailAnd some super-friends getting a bit of screen-time:
Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art detail

Next time: exploding vehicles!

Exalted: Ursa Massacre

The next in the series of Exalted RPG interior illustrations isn’t all quiet, unassuming and expecting you to take a seat, settle down and take in all the detail, instead it SUDDENLY THROWS LOADS OF HOT BEAR VISCERA RIGHT IN YOUR STUPID FACE:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Hoo boy! Apologies, bear fans, nature-lovers, and er, just about everybody. The creative director and the art editor made me do it! Okay, crap excuse. Anyway, this is an image of a ‘Lunar‘(feral, tribal) ‘Exalted‘(person with rare, special powers) having to defend herself from some wildlife while she’s on a nice hike in the mountains.

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

These are the first series of rough thumbnail scribbles I scribbled in ma travellin’ sketchbok. The image is of a woman ripping a rampaging bear in half with her mad powers. I knew the bear would be suspended in the air, so I was wondering wether to show it hanging above or being looked down on.

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Here was what I came up with for a rough to show the creative director and art editor. In amongst the bears with the unfortunate bear in the air (hey that rhymes) towering over the viewer. Next, I coloured it:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

The scene is set in the mountains in the snow, but I didn’t want to just rely on a white and light-blue colour scheme like so many wintery images seem to have by default… It’s far too clean and plastic-looking. Instead I deliberately went for saturated purple and red colours. The thing that looks like a ghost crocodile is the woman’s ‘Anima Banner‘, a lightshow aura that surrounds her while she’s activating her special powers. (And providing a bit of comment on the situation too, by the looks.)
Here’s the very restrained linework I drew for the final piece with a mechanical pencil. (The pencil gives a fine line with just enough variation and weight to keep it a little bit interesting:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

…but talking about line qaulity is a bit academic because the eventual goal is to cover it up with digital paint! Here are ‘the flats’ for the image:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

…placeholders for putting particular colours in particular parts of the image. Once I got the shapes I down, I then straight away changed the colours to these:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

You can see some of the stone and rock textures I dropped in too. Next I worked into the lowlights and shades:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

I threw some blood on it too… Next up, the highlights went on and the background were worked into:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Here’s a quick screencap of me working into the lady’s face. It was much more squished at this point and I had to fix that. Also, the eyes being at different levels. Oy:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

While we’re doing cutways, here’s on of some of the textures and whatnot without anything else in the way:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Then working into it all some more…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

More importantly the crocodile anima banner went in. The title for this image in the art notes is ‘Grusome Triumph’. Yup. There was some head-scratching about how transparent(?), translucent(?) or semi-opaque(???) it should be overall and in particular bits, but we got there in the end:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Then a bunch of fixes and overpaints, working into it all the while, doing the odd lighting trick:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Then we were getting more into details and plugging away at all the brushstrokes needed to make the furry bits look furry:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Fozzy bears duly fozzied, I was pulling the dark bits forward and making the light bits stand out, trying to get as much depth as I could out of the piece. (Which is a challenge because there’s only so much depth in the composition before we hit the sky…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

And we were done! I even signed it and everything. The piece was cropped, the idea being it’s a tall, thin illustration to take up one half of a page of the book running from top to bottom, leaving the other half free for text. (Apologies if these are a bit hard to view in the blog and need lots of scrolling, I’m sure they’ll look good in the book thanks to the lovely Oynx Path folks!

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Here are some close-ups of interesting bits of the piece, in case you were tired of squinting…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Because I took the time to put all of these brushstrokes into the bear’s fur, you’re getting a close-up of it…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

This bear is concerned. I’m sure you would be too. (Also, check out the textures and whatnot on the mountains in the background!)

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

 Next time: Super-powered people struggle with everyday things too, you know!

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

Exalted: Flamey Shoutyman

The first from the next round of ‘Exalted’ RPG illustrations I did for The Oynx Path publishing house – who you may also know from their ‘White Wolf’ name – when I say ‘RPG’, I mean the offline, analogue kind of Role-Playing-Game that springs out of a printed book near some paper character sheets filled-in with pencils and dice clattering around, with graphics provided by our ape brains.

Exalted RPG Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Glory' Illustration

You want to see the shouty flames bigger? Click if you can stand the heat…

Or in this case, a visual from my ape brain. So this is a ‘Solar’(fine, upstanding) ‘Exalt’(person with special powers) projecting his ‘Anima Banner’(special power lightshow aura) at the viewer. He might have just defeated one or both of those armies in the background.

Exalted Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Gory'

Doodlin’ with noodlin’s! This was fairly simple as far as briefs go, but I still wanted to nail it if I could…

Exalted Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Gory'

First attempt at a rough to show was a bit too close-up (the top one) so I started again. Exalted fans will also see that I started off with the wrong Exalt ‘caste-mark’ on the guy’s forehead. Exalts’ caste-marks also glow when they fire up their Anima banners.

Exalted

The same pencil rough with some colour slapped over the top (and a tiny bit of repainting on the face) to make a colour-rough to show.

Exalted

The linework that started off the finished thing! It was pointless drawing the flames of the Anima banner because they’d be ‘additive’ – rendered with light – during the digi-painting process, drawing them with the dark ‘contour-lines’ of a pencil would be silly.
Although most of the detail was going to be lost, I still had fun coming up with blazing sun motifs on the guys armour and detailing smashed-up siege engines and fallen troops.

Exalted RPG Anima Banner artwork process - pencil linework in Photoshop

A closeup of the linework before the colour palette gets unleashed…

Exalted

Colour flats! About as soon as I did these, I realised that I didn’t really need them on this piece. Still, having the blocks down to pull selections out of later on is always handy.
Once again I took to isolating the colours from the colour rough and using them as a kind of under-painting to get the brushstrokes going. The worse thing is a blank canvas, as the saying goes.

Exalted

A bit of the rough, soft painting on some of the lower layers from the piece. (Generally there are ’nuff layers going on. I discovered colour-coding the label layers in Photoshop on this series of images.)

Exalted

A quick snap from while I was painting. The goal is to pretty much obliterate the pencil lines by painting over them and turning the piece into a proper painting as a result. This guy’s face was looking a bit too manic, so I made him assume a more determined look as I went on (check the final image for the difference) this should be someone that we feel some kind of connection with – even if it’s a small one because he’s flaming us – not a gibbering maniac who looks like he’s gonna incinerate us.

Exalted RPG Anima Banner digi-paint progress - character's face

Further to my previous waffle, here’s the guy’s face changing brushstroke by brushstroke…His hair was better here, but his face was still a little too drawn (oho) and eyes too buggy. More about the firey bit in a second!

Exalted

Some of the detail going into the armour and the rest of yer man here. The gaps in here are for…

Exalted

The firey flames of fire! (The fine checkered backdrop here means it’s transparent in a series of layers.) These came from all over the place.

Exalted

Always eager to get a bit of our reckless industrial past into the drorin’s, this lot is mostly from photographs of welding sparks.

Exalted

But before you’re thinking ‘Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century’ ending sequence, this is a similar thing but trying to get a bit of manga speedlines style rushing motion into it…
(Oh and the blue lines are guides for the dimensions of the final piece.)

Exalted RPG Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Glory' Illustration

Last shout: here he is again, just in case you needed reminding. Click for a bigger shout…

Next up: soothing, darkened rooms!

The Burning Sands of Exalted

A piece of art for the 3rd Edition of the ‘Exalted’ Role-Palying Game from Oynx Path – formerly White Wolf – this is one of five environment pieces that each focus on a different ‘continent’ (it’s not that simple in Exalted’s world) that spread across the bottom half of two pages of the book as it falls open.

Exalted RPG 3rd Edition 'The South' setting illustration

You want the big? You click. You not click? You use finger. Wiseguy.

Exalted is a game that deliberately casts its main characters as ludicrously powerful semi-divine heroes that could step out of a colourful anime, manga with lots of speedlines or kung-fu film with flurries of fists, magic, legendary swords, explosions, dust clouds and other shiny derring-do that’s fairly unique to the setting, so it’s all loads of fun to draw.

Exalted 3rd Edition EX3 Logo

The book – thanks to the very sucessful Kickstarter campaign that spawned its printing will be an amazing thing in itself too; hard-backed, special endpapers, embossing on leather binding, metallic edging and metallic alternative covers… The list goes on, so once it’s out and in the hot little hands of role-players around the world (along with clutches of ten-sided dice, no doubt) it’s going to be a very lovely thing indeed.

(Talking of role-playing, I flippin’ love role-playing. I was introduced to it as an adult by some friends and I think it’s an amazing way to spend your time; collaborative, imaginative, story-telling with no need for any expensive or exclusive paraphernalia to get in the way of enjoying spending time with your friends. I love board and card games but it’s role-playing that puts you straight into the brains and personalities of the other people sitting around the table with you. Anyway, I’ve digressed far too much.)
Let’s talk about pretty pictures!

The piece was to not only show off the desert setting, but also to include pre-existing character. (This is one of the fun bits of being Work-For-Hire) Admiral Sand. So off I went to find reference for him. I also learned a lot about the setting. And what a Lunar Exalt is. There’s a lot to it. Lunar exalts are a bit feral-looking or were-wolf-y, it turns out. I did have some fun making up some caravan guards though. Notice me using what I thought was the ‘Exalted style’…

Exalted Environment

So the piece needed to have some draw but also pull the viewer in with a bit of human drama, so I started trying to figure out how to balance these in up with thumbnails in my sketchbook.

Exalted Environment

So this was the final rough thumbnail sketch from my sketchbook adventures – focus in on the Admiral (on the left) and the lead attacker of the tribe of Lunar Exalted (on the right). The Admiral’s trade caravan and the tribe of bandits serve as the setting.

Exalted Environment

This is the colour rough (with copious notes!) that I sent of to the Art and Creative Directors. There’s a few things to pick on here too, like how I didn’t want anything to disappear down between the centre page spine too much.

Exalted Environment

Next: scaling this up and producing some linework. I printed out the above rough and lightboxed off this linework with an automatic pencil, to get that kind of anime styling a lot of Exalted art has. If I ended up going over this later on with paint, that was fine. I just needed the shapes in there.

Exalted Environment

Next: I needed a quick source of some kind of underpainting to start off the piece and then work over the top of to give it some depth, so I knocked out some of the layers to just get this rough backdrop. It looks crap at this stage, but the worst thing with any kind of painting (digital or analogue) is blank canvas.

Exalted Environment

Next, I flatted in some colours of the characters just so they didn’t get lost. Note the note reminding myself about drawing on the blue-haired bandit leader’s luminous tattoos later on.

Exalted Environment

Knocking the linework back a bit, I got more into highlights and shading… I had started to paint in the harsh sunlight and shadows (complete with shadows being cast in the dust swirling in the air) that were in the rough, but… I just couldn’t make it work. It was too much. Just slapped down in a rough it worked okay, but when it came to the finished thing it was too much and it ruined the look of everything in the picture. So I opted for a bright, slightly washed out approach with bright colours reflecting the sunlight.

Exalted Environment

Next: one of the perils of going at it hell-for-leather towards a deadline: not having all of the information. It turns out that in the world of Creation in Exalted doesn’t use cool-looking elephants as beasts of burden – camels are okay though – they use an original animal called a ‘Yeddim‘! Here’s one being painted over an existing elephant:

Exalted Environment

So they’re big, shaggy, blunt-snouted quadrapeds. Kind of like wooly mammoths with no trunk or ears and wide mouths. Meanwhile, the entire piece was being worked into. Background colours were being put in.

Exalted Environment

Getting around to putting the odd detail in. I should have said before, this piece has loads of ‘bleed’ – spare space – around the edge so the layout artists could be a bit versatile with it. Also some of it could be lost as part of the printing process. So the ferocious guy in the top-right corner wouldn’t look quite so much like a disembodied head and pointy-stick in the final print.

Exalted Environment

Talking stuff through with the editors, two things came up about the leader of the bandits; one, she looked like Sonic the Hedgehog, Two, her face should actually be pointing towards the guy she was supposed to be fighting. At least someone was paying attention. I was probably getting too comsumed with trying to draw her face to look anime style. Anyway, here’s the old face:

Exalted Environment

And here’s the new one, which actually obeys the laws of psychics and perspective, and lifts the whole character, I think.

Exalted Environment

Getting there now, the lines were still getting knocked further and further back, and now everything was in place I was trying to establish more of a feeling of depth by hazing out the more distant characters.

Exalted Environment

Last leg now, final tweaks, desperately trying to get it to look more like painting than an illustration with linework and then colour afterwards.

Exalted Environment

Apart from knocking things even further back, I was now getting into highlighting everything to try and make the sun look more harsh. It also helped it look a bit more like it was lead by the brushstrokes. At this point, you usually lose objectivity completely and then that means you’re finished and it’s time to move on!

Exalted RPG 3rd Edition 'The South' setting illustration

You want the big again? You click again. You not click? You use finger again. You big wiseguy.

And then I was done. Phew. It was really good fun and I learned loads doing this piece.

Also, here’s a cropped version with just the main figures in, in case some of you are squinting too much at the previous pics:

I didn’t realise, but this piece was used as one of the rewards in the Kickstarter campaign for the book as one of a series of wallpapers. So that was cool.
You can check updates on the project on the update roll for the Kickstarter, or on the Facebook page for Exalted.

Local lads John Spelling and Dom Reardon did some pieces for the book too, so that was cool. John did most of the work that informed the final 3rd Edition logo above. It was nice that our remote little corner of the backwater island was well-represented in this world-wide project.

I did a few more pieces for the book of totally different things from the Exalted world and I’ll be sharing those soon. The other ones don’t involve quite so much sand in your pants, so check back for them sometime soon, Yeddim-herders.

Celebrate With Cake

Oyy, long time no update. Sorry, I’ve been busy. I do have a bunch of cool stuff to show as well as the usual blog backlog though, so let’s get right to it with an easy update…

Yes, this is silly. Here are some cakes I drew for my illustrator pal John Spelling‘s birthday. If you were at the British Library‘s ‘Comics Unmasked‘ exhibition, you might have seen his work on the ‘Fight the Power‘ anthology on display there. Apparently the Ctrl-Alt-Shift Unmasks Corruption anthology I worked on was there too!

cakes1

Anyway, cakes! John likes a card game called Fluxx. He’s already received a custom, home-made, fully-playable edition of Garth Marengi’s Darkplace Fluxx for a previous birthday. John also likes cake. So ‘Cake Fluxx’ was inevitable, really.

Cakes for Cake Fluxx special birthday edition

So while these were just quick little things to be printed at about the size of a postage stamp for a mate, I still found myself rather getting into the art, describing as much as I could and getting something interesting going on with the colours. Then I looked up what Sun and Moon Cakes are. What are they..? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

cake flux cards

Printed up, they look like this… Am I a big enough nerd to not get excited when I see something game-a-rific with my art on..? No.

image

The amazing Henry Flint and Jock did some art for this too, y’know. I suspect these two sets of Fluxx might probably be the most remarkable bits of custom gaming in existence.

Anyway, stay browser-tuned for more art-for-games waffle, of a more mass-produced bent…

Subterranean Iron-Pick Blues

Little limited-palette digi-painting I did quickly after I’d just finished a long photo-shopping session. This is a Dwarf (yes, one of those Tolkein-esque fantasy things) from the indie game phenomenon that is Dwarf Fortress.

Digi painting of a Dwarf worker from Dwarf Fortress

He’s a worker of some kind and is just brooding away in the darkness at the bottom of the pump stack of his underground home, thinking about how he’ll only ever see sunlight again if he’s really lucky, and how he’ll be spending the rest of his life eating subterranean mushrooms…

I’d been curious about Dwarf Fortress for a long time after seeing it crop up again and again on the internet. It’s the game that inspired that Minecraft game you know, and it’s been called one of the most complex games ever made.
So when I had some free time after finishing the inking of the Evil Star graphic novel, I settled down with some tutorials and had a go. In ‘DF’ you’re in charge of a colony of dwarves who have to set up a sustainable home or gradually die. There are lots of ways for your little guys to die; be it thirst, hunger, madness, disease, infection, violence, violence by friends who have gone mad, wildlife, bandits, suffocating, trading disagreements, drowning, or more madness. The list goes on. And on.

I’ll leave Tim Denee to explain more about it, with the brilliant comics that really got me curious: Bronzemurder, Oilfurnace and Akrulatol.
There’s also a good intro here from a fellow called ‘Zweistein’. If you’re keen on finding out more, there’s ‘The Song of Onionbog’, the multi-media Fortress story ‘Bravemule’ and the ‘Glazedcoasts’ playthrough.

If you fancy playing the game yourself, get a New Player bundle pack – for Windows or Mac – and turn on the Ironhand graphics, ‘Soundsense’ sound pack and use ‘DwarfTherapist’ to actually control the little fellows.
Mostly though you’ll be needing some tutorials, which you can find here, here and here, and be prepared to spend some time on the Dwarf Fortress Wiki.

Still No Happy Ending

I had another game of Labyrinth Lord from Goblinoid Games with Messrs Morgor and Bumrage the other day. Last time, I was so chuffed Morgor had set up a little group blog for our adventures that I drew a little comic, which ended up being really popular with the folks who browse old-school roleplaying game blogs. So I was convinced it would be good to make a bit more of it this time around…

Labyrinth Lord Dungeons and Dragons Comic

Click through to read in non-squinto-vision!

So yes, all of this happened in one way or another. The gamesmaster will roll a dice behind his screen for a monster attacking you and then your character’s dead all of sudden. There is non sequitur nonsense that happens in collaborative storytelling. It’s fun.

I drew this with a 1.5mm Pilot Parallel Pen I got from my lovely girlfriend for Christmas, which helps the linework look a bit more lively than usual, and there’s even a nerdy nod in the colouring: it’s done with yellow and red, the same colours as on the cover of the first printing of Labyrinth Lord, and the old Basic version of D&D, which was released before I was even born… Oy.