The best laid plans......

This piece was a nightmare.

I went through my process like any other piece. Thumbs, sketch, better sketch, etc.. Then I started working on the finish and quickly realized that my masterpiece was not going to work.

A problem (definitely not the only one) was that it's hard to let go of ideas you already have.

So, we will start with the story. I wanted a World of Warcraft piece. I used to play the game. As far as addictions go, it's up there with smoking and drinking. Just doing the research was enough to make me contemplate loading up the game again. Which of course would lead to the wonderous bliss of gaming life. No showers, heart attack inducing amounts of Diet Mt. Dew, and alot of Red Baron pizzas. Sounds wonderful, I know. But, I digress...

I wanted an iconic event of WOW (learn the lingo, noob!) One of those instances that everyone talks about being so much fun. Again, I went to the collective nerd brain (my friends). The one event that was mentioned multiple time was Karazhan and the "Opera Event".

So without completely nerding out and explaining every last detail about the event........Your group enters the opera, and the evenings show is announced. There are three "plays" that can happen at this point. Hood, Oz, or Romulo and Julianne. I think you can figure out what stories these are based on.

Here is a little video for you to watch, if you are interested. You can even hear them talk in that foreign gamer language. Karazhan Big Bad Wolf

The "play" that everyone remembers is Hood. So obviously (oh of course!)  the point is to kill the Big Bad Wolf. While you are in the process of trying to do this, the BBW will yell out, "Run away little girl, run away!" and turn someone into Little Red Riding Hood. That persons only option is to run like the wind, or be squished like a little red bug.

So how to tell this story in one image.....

I liked the poster idea above, but it didn't have the action that I thought was fitting.

I decided on the big action, dramatic pose, with red running around in the back.

So the sketch was done, the line drawing was ready to start painting. I'm a genius! This will be epic! I'm L33t!

I started working on the grayscale. I quickly (not so much) realized that this wasn't going to work. The cut out house didn't work. There needed to be something in the foreground. My drawing was horrible. To name a few things.

These should have been relatively easy corrections. However, I am a dedicated man. Dedicated to making things as difficult as possible for myself.

 Ok, so we will throw in a dead "Tank" in the foreground. It will add to the drama. Red is in some serious shit without anyone to protect her.  Here is where I should remember the words of William Faulkner. "Kill your darlings". Meaning, have the courage to get rid of the elements that you love so much yourself, but that don't really add anything to the whole - or, even worse, actually weaken it.

That dead body wasn't going to work for me. No matter what pose I put him in. As you can see, I tried and tried and tried and tried........and tried......

Finally, I got it through my thick skull and went for the standing pose, getting ready to take on the BBW.

Finally at this point, I thought I was home free. Just add the color and finish up. Oh, if only......

I was trying to use the WOW palette that they used in the game. However, I didn't really set up my value structure of the image to fit this quite right. I grew progressively more frustrated with the colors. This lead to the very simple palettes that I tried with the black and red. I didn't want to do just the greyscale image with spots of red. That seems to be everywhere right now. Seriously, go to a Gamestop, and look at the video game covers. It's popular. I tried adding just a little blue. Ugh. Nope.


Finally, I got something working. After discussing it with Sterling and the rest of the studio, it was decided that it was too chalky and the palette was all over the place. Hence, the warm wash. Not only did that help the palette, but it also added some atmospheric perspective to add depth between the BBW and the Warrior.

A few adjustments and we have the image at the top of the post. TA DAA! It really is magic!

So the moral of the story? Sometimes you do everything you are supposed to, take all the steps to a successful image, and it still doesn't work. You have to learn to roll with the punches. And kill your darlings. Kill them with impunity! Die! Die! Die!........I'm still working through some of the frustration.

I should have gone with my friends idea. A pile of dog crap on a stage, with a little piece of red cape peeking out. Simple and elegant.

An excuse to do Star Wars

Lyssa - A young female human wizard with black hair who always wears white trimmed in gold.

That was the description, and the only restrictions for yet another ArtOrder contest.

It was wide open, and the history of the project from Scott Taylor at Black Gate Magazine was a huge draw for me. I actually read Black Gate Magazine and had read all of the entries for Art Evolution.

If that wasn't enough motivation, one of the one of the judges, Jeff Easley, was one of the reasons I got into art (and D&D for that matter). I still like looking at his images. His stuff from Dragonlance is some of my favorite work by anyone.

 Also judging the contest was Todd Lockwood. His work is everywhere. He is one of the most popular fantasy artists working. His work is great, and once guessed it, I'm a big fan! It's another guy that I study to try and improve.

Ok, on to the project.

I normally try to give myself restrictions on each piece. Otherwise my brain starts going haywire and I can't make a decision. This usually ends in a nap. I had no time for naps though.

So if you look back at all of the great Lyssa's done for BGM, most of them were fantasy types. Wizard is a keyword that just brings fantasy to mind first. Not all of them were fantasy, but the majority were. That lead me to the first restriction I gave myself. No fantasy.


My 2nd restriction was the attitude of the image. I didn't want it to be a pin-up or have the concept art character development feel. I had a feeling alot of people would be going this direction. So no half naked, hot chics with a pretty face.



Now, whenever I think of  a character in white, the first thing I think is clean and holy. A healer type. Not my Lyssa.

Look at some of the bad guys that have worn white. They seem that much more sinister. Stormshadow, Stormtroopers, Boss Hog, the "Man in White" from family guy, and obviously the White hat in Spy VS Spy.

So I reached out to the nerd collective (my friends) for different "wizards" in different games, books, movies, etc.. As soon as I heard the words Star Wars, I knew I had my Lyssa with the Nightsisters

The Nightsisters were a group of Dathomiri Witches (usually exiled from one of the other clans) whose magic was powered by the dark side of the Force. Not to mention they use a Light Whip instead of a Light Saber. How cool is that!?

I did some research, reading up from gaming manuals, watching Star Wars The Clone Wars, and reading excerpts from books. That was rough. I mean, reading and watching cartoons!? Just pure torture!

So on to the thumbnails. I got some opinions from the studio mates and cut them all down to three that I worked up a little more. The one looking down on Lyssa was too "serene" for me.  The last two were in a tie until I held someone at gunpoint to make a choice. Just kidding. It was knife point. I can't afford a gun. Still kidding. I bought them a sandwich and begged. I'm pitiful.

Once it was decided, I shot some quick reference of one of the studio folk. I got out the tracing paper and started working up the drawing and her outfit.


When the drawing is pretty tight, I scan it in to Photoshop and start adding some values. (I obviously didn't notice her eyes were all jacked up)

I explained before how I add color. However I usually try to have a direction instead of just blindly adjusting colors. I look at "those that have gone before" (say that in James Earl Jones voice...Epic!) to see how they handled a similar painting with a similar mood. This one was dictated so much by the whip having to be red, and the clothes being some form of white. I just had to make the rest work.

After I have the color pretty close to what I want, it's on to Painter. I like using the brushes in Painter for the final mark making and blending and such. It just adds a touch that I like that makes it look a little less digital (hopefully). I also like using the paper libraries. I've been experimenting with those more and more.

Oh, and the light whip shapes were just vector shapes with some fx thrown on.

And now, how do I promote a Star Wars painting?

"Check out the Star Warsing Star Wars I just Star Warsd! Star Wars is so Star Wars, that I was just Star Warsing all over the Star Warsing, Star Wars. Star Wars!"

It's like filling out a Mad Lib with just the words Star Wars.......I'm an idiot.