Monday, June 30, 2008

Dungeon Tiles

I wanted to do something on here that wasn't me just bleating on
about finished work that I've noticed has been published. A while back I did some maps for D&D 4e, which I believe (sometimes these things change) will show up in Pyramid of Shadows. I had a brilliant time with them and while doing them I had a lot of flash backs to old dungeon tile packs I bought as a kid, and I had the germ of an idea to do some simple ones for people to download and use for their games, on t'internet like. So that's what I'll be starting here, it's a simple game component but it will also let me talk a bit about the design process, which is always fun to do.
So lets start with a brief (this, I know is going to come back to haunt me, over and over again).

Dungeon tiles -I wont explain this bit, if your bothering to read this you know what they are, what they're going to be used for and who's going to use them. I will set it that they'll be on a grid of 1" squares and lets also say here that the first ones will be corridor pieces and we want enough to be able to build a pretty comprehensive maze type setting, lets sayyyyy 12 pieces.

Style -Style or 'form', I believe follows function, so apart from the obvious (they're depicting a dungeon for use with miniatures in an rpg) what other things do i have to take into consideration. Well, I want them to be easy to download and print out. More importantly I also want them to be easy for me to do, I don't want to have to spend days on these at a time. So I'm going to set the restriction that they have to be B/W line (I could probably get away with grey scale, but I fancy making things even tighter for myself design wise). This will make the file size smaller, the scale of the work more manageable, and the finishes easy for people to printout (you wont need a colour printer). I also want them to have a desert feel to them, and I want them to be from an abandoned city.

That's a good enough start I reckon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I try to keep my reference books to a bare minimum these days. I find anatomy books useful and I have a few, but generally I prefer to take reference photos, usually of myself or some other unwilling subject I've forced into an awkward pose (10 minutes before they're about to leave for work). If i need something specific, I used to use google images, but these days I usually head to Flickr. I also shy away from "art" books now too, I have a few prize ones that would be impossible to replace, but at some point I realised that 90% of them were gathering dust, and most of them were purchased just so i had something to buy....consumerism, tsk, so i sold them.
So on that note, I picked up DK's Weapon at the weekend. It's strange, but it's inevitably the books you hum and ha over in shop that become indispensable when you get them home. This is a great visual encyclopedia of weapons, perfect for the budding fantasy artiste like myself. I'll be picking up Soldier at some point too (or Warrior as it's known here) for the clothing and armour, probably when it comes out in the compact edition (because like everything I want to buy in Australia, it's about double the price I would pay in the UK).

Thursday, June 26, 2008


I saw this over at Kotaku, and thought it was worth passing along.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Colour of Magic

It might start to look like i go cruising the magic web site just to see if there's any of my work up's partly true, but this one, used for the Orb od Eventide was pointed out to me by Mr Allsop. I had to blink when I saw it, I had forgotten just how colourful I made these pieces and it got me to thinking about how I express magic.
I was a big fan of the Terry Pratchett's discworld books when i was younger and they heavily influenced how I thought about fantasy, he has a great imagination for the 'what if' (what if light was one of the slowest things in the universe...) and a love of making the intangible, tangible. Reading his books he explained magic had some form of colour, and maybe it had some sort of substance, that you could hold it (carefully I would imagine , and probably with some sort of special gloves ). That notion stuck with me.
Magic the Gathering extends very neatly into this world view, especially for me as an artist. I'm having to visualy represent magic quite a lot within it, and the magic is broken up into different colours, that usualy have to be reflected in the feel of the art. This worked especially well in the post apocalyptic block of magic, Time Spiral . In this return to the now ravished, disintegrating, depiction of Dominaria, magic (or mana) was to be depicted as quite rare and precious. This was natural for me to express by simply removing most of the colour from my work and concentrating it in any magical effect (if any) that might be going on within the piece.
So when I was invited to work on the Shadowmoor I noticed that this was a kind of fairy world, a world, in my mind at least, constructed entirely of magic. So I was able to take all this colour I'd been saving up from Time Spiral set, and let it rip into most of the pieces i did for Shadowmoor. The results were, well, colourful. Here's a direct comparison of a Time Spiral piece “Voidmage Husher” and below that a Shadowmoor one “Advice from the Fae".

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I thought I'd put up another of the wallpapers I spotted over at the Magic web site, Shapeshifter's Marrow. This one was originally entitled "mirror image" and they wanted to have two dragons fighting, one red and one blue, the blue one was the "mirror" and I was to show that it was made of blue mana (energy). Actually here's the initial brief.

This was the second time I've been asked to paint straight up dragons, so I was pretty excited about the piece, and I had a great time thinking up ideas for what the fight might look like, heres a couple of the initial ideas, followed by the final sketch I submitted to Wizards. The final sketch is quite straightforward compared to some of the ideas I had, mainly because it keeps the image simple (this is going to be just over an inch wide when printed) and also i didn't think my abilities would stand the test of the more complex wing wraparounds.

One of the things I've tried to get into the habit of doing is building maquettes to study lighting, and that's what I ended up doing here. I have to say looking back on them now that I could have lit it much better, it's pretty pedestrian and i didn't give myself much to play with here. I should really try and rig up a little lighting booth and maybe get a couple of light sources in it...anyway, that's a project for another day.

This is the final I submitted, and it was sent straight back. All the punch of the original sketch was gone and Jeremy wanted me to get that back in. This is a real problem I have, which I'm getting to grips with now, I get hung up on the rendering of a piece and consequently the dynamism of it suffers. It's something that I'll talk about at a later point.
So I went back to the sketch and looked to see what was in there, bu not in the final. Really it's just the punch of the lighting, so it was easily fixed, along with the wings which Jeremy felt were too ethereal.

Looking back on it now, I would have loved to do the wrap around wing fight, but this one holds up the brief.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Like most people, I have a bunch of links in my bookmarks that I check every morning while I scoff my oats and banana. Right now I'm loving the Gurney Journey, it's one of the ones I read last as I like to to be mulling over whatever he's talked about in that entry as i begin to start work. He's a very industrious disciplined guy, and my vague hope is that some of it will rub off on me, as I'm the complete opposite.
My wishful thinking aside it's a great resource or pick me up for any artist.

Oh, I should add that among other things James Gurney is responsible for the modern classic Dinotopia

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The wallpaper archive at the Wotc site is a great place for seeing Magic art nice and big. While looking through there for inspiration, I noticed that my Rootcutters piece was up (always a nice pat on the back to get :). It wasn't called that when I painted it though, which is why sometimes it's hard to remember your own card list, because you usually know them all by different names. Anyway, I remembered that I still had the sketch and some colour thumbs for that on my hard drive so i thought I'd put them up here.

The sketch, for me, was really solid, normally my sketches for magic are pretty vague. I'm always thankful to Jeremy Jarvis for letting these wishy washy sketches go through, as it makes the whole process a lot less like a commission, and more like the development of an idea, allowing me to not feel overly constrained in the finished work, but like I say, this one was pretty tight.

The other thing I still have saved for this piece are some colour thumbs. I do these when I'm not sure where a piece is going colour/composition wise. I just grab a copy of the whole image, shrink it down and then make a bunch of copies of it. Then i just play about until I find something that's beginning to work. Even on the computer i find I can start to treat the finished piece as"precious" and be unwilling to experiment, so this helps break that. Reducing the size of the image forces me to work on the over all composition, as i have a tendency to get hung up on details too much (and it also helps with lag). Doing multiple versions means i can compare and contrast the experiments.

And here's the finished piece. I have to say there's a lot in the pencils I wish I'd got into the finish, I really loved that tail in the sketch.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's a Dungeons and Dragons ride...

I picked up the PHB book for D&D 4e (or Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition as it's less commonly known) last weekend on its release. So far it looks great, the R&D team have been very bold with their decisions and created something that i think is a genuine step forward for the game.
I think being a slave to continuity is bad for our industry, it became the albatross of U.S. comics, and it's great to see D&D (or WoTC) put it to the side, and do something genuinely fresh, fun, and most importantly imaginative. We've only been dabbling with character creation so far so I'll let you know how we get on as we play our first games.

I should add that Wayne's covers look great, and Ralph's interiors are epic :) they've done some great work on these books.

I stumbled on this great overview of 4e when I was looking for other peoples reviews of the core books. But you have to remember people who review stuff have an agenda...including me ;)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

art and games

So I'm going to start putting out some of my work onto the net and the sketches/processes behind them. I say process, but it will be probably be less instructional, and more of an autopsy.
I might also include some stuff about events, games and the industry I'm involved with (role playing games and card games...yay ...and sometimes computer games :)