While this illustration has been complete for some time I have not had the time to put together a proper WIP outline for the community. This illo is one for the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerer's of Hyperborea 2nd edition of the game. If you did not have the opportunity to back this in the kickstarter when it first came out then you can still pre-order it through here and here. This is a massive tome with a ton of great artwork from Val Semeiks, +Johnathan Bingham, +russ nicholson, +Jason Sholtis, Peter Mullen, and Logan Talanian with cartography by +MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal).
When I started on this project back in early 2016, I had no idea the latitude that +Jeff Talanian would give me with character design. He basically pointed me to the original rule books and said that he would like some variety to the classes with the available "races" of humans. To include, vikings, amazons, picts, kelts, kimerians and all of the other people beyond the north wind. It was sort of daunting to think that I would be part of such a project and that the look and feel for so many gamers would sort of be set by some of my illustrations.
Daunting, but exciting, to be sure.
I had this wonderful opportunity to flesh out the look and feel of character classes, that each time someone would play that class they were sure to think back to the illustration that accompanied it, much in the same way that I looked back at the Mexntzer red box (which I started with) and envisioned the awesome Elmore drawings.
When it came down to the Paladin, I knew that I wanted action, in fact the only other advise that Jeff imparted was that he liked action and he liked monsters in the class pictures, the people of hyperborea were not just sitting in for a portrait, they were caught in the wild, brutal world of Jeff's imaginaton, which was spurred by Howard, Lovecraft, Smith and many others. These people had to be active within the world.
That all meant that this was going to be a snapshot of a moment in that character's life, something that not only would players remember but that the character themselves would look back on and say, "wow, I'm not sure how I survived that!"
I start just about all of these class pictures with a rough drawing of the character in action. Some artists draw out the figure and armor them up, and then place them in the scene. That is not really how I work. Sometimes I do, but mostly I just throw the image in my head down on paper quickly. The basic pose of them. It will most certainly change, but I have this vision in my head of how and what they are doing, and I just get them into the pose in a rough sort of way.
I knew from the start that I wanted an amazon paladin. When I passed the idea on to Jeff he mentioned this picture, and it was perfect. An Amazon in armor, a good start to the project, and it filled my head with what I needed to begin the initial concepts.
You can see from the image below that I start with a very small thumbnail of the overall pose. Here I have her standing with her arm in position, shield up and casting a spell of some sort. I have yet to work out which spell, what her environment is like, but I have a general idea of the flow of her pose.
I then move to the larger sketch, I assemble her from basic shapes, boxes, cones, cylinders, etc, and get to work on the pose, defining things a bit more. I work the tilt of her face/head, and how her body curves.
The way her pose is here, she is in motion, but she is not exactly as I want her yet, so I worked on the arm position and dropped in a sword and wallah the final pose.
I had to figure out next what the over all scene was going to be. In the position she is in, I knew that there had to be some bad guys attacking her that would cause her to be casting a spell vs swinging at them with a sword. Undead. It had to be undead. The thought hit me over the head immediately.
So the next thing I had to do was figure out a way to show her being overwhelmed by undead without masking her completely. Now the story really started to reveal itself in my mind. She had entered this crypt, and triggering the undead, she ran, possible split from her party, and vaulted atop a tomb. That is where the undead caught up to her, and that would be the scene we would catch up to her in as well.
Some photo reference would spark my imagination further and so I began scouring the web for some pictures of tombs. They had to be tall, and they had to be big enough for someone to stand on.
I came across many on the web, and used this one to get the general size of the tomb that our heroin would be perched upon.
It wasnt perfect, but it would work. All I needed was a spark of the imagination to get the idea of how big and imposing the tomb would be. It also gave me a good idea about the perspective I wanted for it. But as you see I didnt copy it exactly.
I began sketching like mad. I placed her atop it, but once I did I realized that having her standing on the thing was going to put her too far out of reach of our undead. So I positioned her on her knees, the thought being that she was in such a hurry to get up on it, that she didnt have time to get to a standing position before they were upon her. So she was placed kneeling. It led to the desperation of the situation, and made me understand why she was not swinging her sword, instead holding her holy symbol of Artemis aloft. It was all coming together now.
All of those hands were a challenge, I used a lot of photo ref and constantly was looking at my own hand during the process. Not all of them ended up exactly like I envisioned them, but for the most part they serve the purpose.
Then began the inking, and fleshing out the background.
The final product I think really portrays the harsh realities of Hyperborea. I think our heroin realizes that she should never have left her other party members.
But after all is said and done, I'm sure that she recounts the details of this particular crypt many times over a glass of Ixian wine.
Thanks for looking and comments always welcome.