On the Mat

 Comments Off
Mar 142012
 

So GP Seattle-Tacoma was a lot of fun. REALLY busy, though. There was very little time to just hang out chatting as the line never shrank until the last few hours on Sunday.

As well as the playmats produced for tournament prizes, people requesting sketches on their own mats has become the big thing at recent shows. Playmats have been around for ages so I’m not sure why this has suddenly become so popular but I suspect the new mats with their smooth surface that takes drawings much better has encouraged this. Just a hunch.

I lost count of how many sketches I did. Some were certainly better than others – that’s always the case – but hopefully everyone was happy with their pics. These shows can become a blur and I often worry about getting too punchy and producing crappy scrawls.

One of the most bizarre pieces done was a hodge-podge Phyrexian that came about from an impromptu jam. I had drawn the upper portion of a Phyrexian warrior but had to call it at a certain spot when I had run out of time. Later the mat’s owner brought back the mat to show me that rkpost had added a lower torso and thighs to the creature (apparently he hates to see things unfinished) and then he thought he’d leave the legs for Mark Tedin. Franz Vohwinkel was last to get his hands on the mat and managed to bolt on a rather natty mini gun – with requisite ammo belt – to the Phyrexian’s free arm.

Here’s the crazy jam for you to enjoy –

Jam mat drawing featuring Venters, Post, Tedin and Vohwinkel

After the show, Mark and I were talking about doing this again and seeing what craziness happens. Only time will tell…

Finally, here’s a look at the finished Phyrexian Dreadnought playmat with all the noodly rendering completed.

Phyrexian Dreadnought mat finished

Mar 022012
 

One of the latest things happening at Magic tournaments, especially the new slew of Grand Prix events, is the attending artists producing playmat sketches for tourney prizes.

A lot of times these are done on the day – they are, after all, just a really big sketch – but I decided to have a shot at my mat before getting to the show…

So, if you’re going to Grand Prix Seattle-Tacoma, you could win this Phyrexian Dreadnought playmat:

Phyrexian Dreadnought mat prize for GP Seattle

The Magic card is included for scale! This wide mat also gives me a chance to try out the larger image window on the blog’s new format. Mmm, roomy.

The mat’s about eighty to ninety percent done at this point. I’m sure it’ll be on show with the other artists’ mats during Saturday and possibly a portion of Sunday. Considering rkpost and Mark Tedin are attending, I think it’s fair to say there’ll be some damn nice looking mats to win.

Don’t miss out. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Jan 302012
 

Man, it’s been two and a half months since I posted here? What’s that, twenty years in internet time?

So, I’m still around, still working the freelancing gig, still keeping an eye out for new work (who isn’t?). The last few months have been filled with seasonal holiday shenanigans, training in ZBrush, swearing at Painter, occasionally dealing with a flooding basement, and trying to deal with a backlog of card signing requests. Y’know, the usual.

So, here’s a quick sketch I did one evening after returning from the upstairs room I call my studio to find my wife watching one of her perennial comfort movies, Beetlejuice…

And when I say quick sketch, I really mean quick. This took four minutes.

Beetlejuice 4 minute sketch

Those of you who’ve seen me sketching at shows, are probably not surprised by that. Attendees who want a free sketch get what I call my “thirty second goblin” which is a goblin head-shot that takes 30 seconds when I’m really in the zone, 50 the rest of the time.

Anyway, I decided I needed to do a better bio-exorcist pic, so here’s a color version I whipped up as a warm-up one lunchtime…

Beetlejuice color sketch

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Wait, damn, does that mean I should have done a third sketch? Hmm…

Oct 072011
 

Presuming the internet hasn’t crashed under the weight of people trying to order the new iPhone, I thought I’d just mention this blog turns one year old today.

Blimey.

Nope, no idea where the time went. Admittedly, 2011 has been a hellish year for us and many of our friends. Hopefully 2012 will treat everyone better (well, except the bankers) and hopefully we manage to get to 2013 without the world going and doing something stupid, like ending.

Looking back on the blog;

Well, the website didn’t get much done to it. Unsurprisingly, the blog effectively is the website and may be for some time to come. I should probably get a redirect set up.

I never got a chance to work on that Baron Sengir repaint. It kind of fell at the first hurdle as it was meant to just be an overpaint of an unused calendar piece but it didn’t take long to see the compositional problems in the image. That left me with only one option which was to start a completely new image. Hopefully I’ll get to try that soon but paying work still has to get first priority.

Speaking of which, I’ve managed to dig up enough time to clear through 90% of my card signing backlog. Hopefully everything will mail out this weekend.

I’m still thinking about doing a limited edition painting via Kickstarter. Finding time to actually do a cost-analysis on it is proving to be the major hurdle currently.

I finally completed the pdf list of all my Magic art that’s for sale. You can find my contact info on the right sidebar if you’d like a copy.

Looking ahead;

There’s a couple of Warcraft pieces to share. I eventually need to complete the big Yawgmoth Demon WIP multi-part article. I also have an armload of other goblin images most of you have probably never seen.

But until then… Booyah! Skirk Marauder sketch!

Skirk Marauder Sketch

The Skirk Marauder is still one of my favorite goblin paintings due to the sheer malicious glee and hint of sadism in his eye!

And with that, on to year two…

3D Goblin – Stage 3

 Comments Off
Oct 052011
 

I had to put the goblin sculpture aside a few weeks ago due to a new project making my schedule a little fuller than I’d originally planned. This is how far I got after a grand total of approximately eight hours work…

Goblin Sculpture Stage 3

We’re at stage 3. The significant geometry of the goblin’s head and shoulders has been done. Here’s a laundry list of the changes:

  • The brows got a little more furrowed.The nose got longer and the nostrils deeper. The flared outer parts of the nostrils got tidied up and better integrated with the face.
  • The lips and jaw had the planar brush lightly applied to them. For the lips this had the effect of creating a stronger edge to the lip line, better delineating the change from lips to surrounding flesh. For the jaw, this was a subtler change, removing a little of the curvature in the flesh, unifying the angles and giving the suggestion of bone along the jaw line.This is particularly noticeable in the middle image above.
  • The ears received a few tweaks in front and a significant amount of trimming in the back. At a certain angle (one I commonly use in goblin paintings) the upper rear of the ears had proven to be too chunky. By creating gentle slopes from the top and bottom rear of the ears that thickened toward the center I created the slimmer profile of ears I was used to but with a solid connection to the head that made it believable that the giant ears could be supported on the head rather than tear off under their own weight (ouch)!
  • The skin around the eyes was changed to compliment the alterations around the nostrils and bridge of the nose.
  • The skin of the cheeks that is forced upward due to the goblin’s smile was better blended with the upper lip. The previous version was a little too pronounced making the cheeks feel more like a significant protrusion than just cheeks pushed up and out in a smile.
  • The mouth was hollowed out more in preparation for the addition of teeth, gums and tongue. That’ll be stage four!

Yeah, even though at first glance the changes may appear to be minimal, there’s actually a lot of tweaks going on.

And there’s at least one more detail pass to do before moving on to a texture pass. Just look at this close-up to see that I’m still working on a relatively low resolution sculpt. The polygons are easy to spot.

Goblin Sculpture Close-Up

Finally, here’s a color test I tried out. This is just a proof of concept; a rough pass to see how a colored version might look. The eyes are especially bad at the moment as I’ve yet to learn how to use more than one material in a sculpt. The eyes obviously need to be more reflective as they’re currently quite dead which makes them bloody creepy, but not in a good way!

Goblin Sculpture Color Test

Sep 062011
 

While 99% of the stuff I’m working on at the moment is either not ‘ready for primetime’ or secreted away under an NDA, I continue to dink around with ZBrush, trying to add 3D modelling to my skill set.

You might ask “Why”? Well, having a broader skill base never hurts. Also, sculpting is fascinating to me as I’ve limited myself to 2D works up until now.

And that’s the primary reason for tackling a goblin head; I’ve drawn goblins in Magic for 15 or more years and while I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on how a Venters-style goblin looks (presumably better than anyone else!), it’s fascinating to test the nebulous 3D object I hold in my mind against the hard reality of a 3D sculpture.

It’s been especially interesting seeing how the over-sized nostrils interact with the giant nose and the minimal upper lip. And the ears continue to be a warzone of polygon brutalization to achieve some of the shapes found in the soft tissue.

Goblin Sculpture Stage 2

Anyway, this is not quite the goblin head you saw last time. I encountered some issues that couldn’t be fixed without generating bad polygon distortion so I took it back to the initial Zsphere sculpt and rebuilt. At this point, the sculpture is significantly more developed than the last one you saw, with more shaping and detail. Also, eyes and eyelids have been added and the mouth has been opened a little further to allow for an upcoming display of some damn-ugly teeth.

Prepare your scrolling finger… NOW!

Goblin Sculpture Stage 2

Oh, the other reason for all of this… ZBrush is a blast.

Aug 232011
 

I’m still grabbing time to try out Zbrush when I can – which isn’t much – and Eric Keller’s book continues to prove to be invaluable for navigating my way through the complex interface.

Well, I just got to try out ZSpheres and ZSketch and the appropriate tutorial is about creating a new dragon and I thought, “Hey, I like a dragon as much as the next artist but I think I want to try something else.” And of course, being me, that ‘something else’ had to be a goblin.

This is about 90 minutes work, so very early stages and a lot of screwing around trying to work out what certain things did. Consider this stage one and hopefully I get to show you a stage two and three later on…

Goblin Sculpture Stage 1

Aug 172011
 

Sage from Antiquities

Continuing the previous theme of cards from Antiquities, let me tell you about the Sage of Lat-Nam…

The Sage was the first human I got to paint for Magic and his card was my first taste of the off-beat groups of gamers growing up around the game: It was at the Essen toy fair in 94 or 95 where I met a young French guy who not only collected dozens of the Sage of Lat-Nam, but the card had become the official mascot of his gaming group who had named themselves “The School of Lat-Nam”. He was delighted at the opportunity to get a boatload of Sages signed.

I’ve no idea what became of that group but I did think about them when I was working as story lead on Alliances, where I reintroduced Lat Nam. Hopefully it gave them all a big grin.

Anyway, jumping to 2005, I did a private commission of the Sage and this time I got him up out of that seat. I figured he’d be grateful after being stuck in it for twelve years. This piece was done entirely in pencil. Scanning and making the image look good for the web makes the pencil work look darker than on the original piece.

Sage of Lat-Nam Sketch

Here’s a nice close up of his face. I think that facial expression tells you all you need to know about the wisdom of pestering the Sage while he’s reading… several books… simultaneously.

Sage of Lat-Nam Close Up

Aug 122011
 

In what time I can grab, I’m trying to learn the amazing 3D app ZBrush. Just follow that link if you want to have your mind blown.

When I can, I’m digging through the tools and the (intimidating) interface via a book called Introducing ZBrush 4 by Eric Keller and kudos to Eric because the very first tutorial is making a dragon head!

So, here’s my first ever ZBrush sculpture, a dragon head. It’s probably 50% done; it’s lacking real detail and textures. I won’t be going any further with this version as I ran ahead of myself and made some errors which, frankly, it’s easier to start over than to fix. But hey, it looks cool.

3D Dragon Turnaround

I really like the way that he looks like he’s smiling until he’s looking straight at you then he looks really pissed off!

3D Dragon Turnaround

One more thought. 3D printing is getter better and better. Hmm…

Jul 292011
 

CCG Artist proofs are special version of the cards that have a blank white back. Each artist receives roughly fifty of these for each card he has published. Usually they’re sold at shows as a collectible.

Occasionally people pay extra to get a sketch put on the back.

And every now and then, someone wants something completely crazy…

Phyrexian Dreadnought on four A.P.s

This was a special commission and the Phyrexian Dreadnought shown here stretches across four Dreadnought APs.

These days, I recommend if someone wants something this crazy, they let me just put it on a piece of art board because I can do a better job on a surface that isn’t four cards trying to shift out of place as I’m drawing on them. Still, if that’s what they want…

The person who commissioned this was also going to buy the Dreadnought original but had to back out. His loss as there was someone else eagerly waiting to nab it.