Sylvannas Windrunner: Photoshop Painting Tutorial

I've already done two color studies of this character, but while Sylvannas in her Undead Queen persona turned out really well, the younger Ranger General Sylvannas was, um, bad. (For one thing, I misread my reference picture and made her hair blue. In my defense I was playing a blue-haired elf at the time, so it didn't seem weird at all.) So when I needed a subject for my adventures in painting faster and with less useless detail, I thought I might give her another chance.

The bones of this painting come from an old sketch that had never been finished, in part because there were some underlying proportion issues that I just couldn't seem to resolve.

We'll start with an unadulterated scan of the real world sketch, which formed the first layer of my Photoshop file. Problems that need solving: Head too big. Torso too long. Anterior pelvic tilt over-exaggerated. And, y'know, no feet.

Problems fixed using copy, paste, scale and rotate. Not too hard, right?

With a little increase in contrast, I can select everything close to white and delete it. This leaves me with something vaguely like lines. Then I need to add more lines to finish the form.

Referring to the lines throughout the process is useful, but once the color is well established I try to use them as little as possible. I paint under the lines, and use them as a guide for now. First a broad underpainting just to lay the colors down in approximately the right place, and then a bit of refinement on another layer. (Note the palette in the corner. Start with limited colors, complicate them later) Also I need to put in an estimated placement for the background.

Now she needs some background. Given that she is primarily blue, I wanted something in the orange family, for the pleasant complimentary relationship. I wanted to imply ground and foliage without going into too much detail, so I used a large brush and just tried to lay out a tree-like structure.

Now the hair is a problem. The color is sticking out in the bad way. Using a low opacity brown I need to bring it down to a strawberry rather than a true blond. It's also now time to trim the colors to the body shape, and complicate the colors by using a brush at about 50% opacity, then selecting colors from areas that have already been painted to continue.

Time for some details. All the metal bits, and a little refinement of her face and hair.

Finally, copy all active layers into a single layer and drop the brightness way down. Then go in with the erase tool set at 25%, and create highlights. (Depending on the picture you can also create a 'bright' layer and erase away the shadows. The layer on top tends to be dominant, so it just depends how dark you want the final piece to be.)

When you're happy with that, you may want to run a filter or two to help break up it up. In this case I used watercolor and film grain.

Also her eyes need to glow.

And here's my final. There are still things that need doing (the front boot cuff has blue where there shouldn't be any, her near eyebrow has a squiggle in it, and I'm not sure I like how the 'frame' around the background looks with highlighted bits in it) but at some point you have to just say 'good enough' and move on.



Welcome to the final Other Guy! (Other Guys? Others? Hell with it.) I was really, really looking forward to this one, and not just because it's the last. A color palette I like, a species I like (with spots!) and I get to play with glow-y effects? Oh hell yeah. sporeling

The water doesn't so much look like water, but there's a limit to what you can do when it's supposed to look flat, muddy, and purple. The little green mushrooms could use more definition (aka darker shadows... again. I swear, I'll learn one of these days.) and the balloon-tree thingies in the far background have neither treelike or ballonlike qualities. I am however happy with the misty effect. Given that the balloon-trees came out a bit weak, I sort of wish I'd made the mist more impenetrable.

But this is one of those times where the figure came out much better than the background. I gave him deep enough shadows, the skin color variation all makes sense, and his little whiskers are pretty freaking adorable. I had to re-do his toes and hands about three times. They aren't great, but they don't stand out as bad anymore, which I'll take.

And I'm happy to report that on the very last illustration in this series I grokked a new technique. I can reliably make things glow. Now all I have to do is resist the urge to come up with excuses to use my new skill for no reason.


Radioactive special! All commissions with a glowing element 10% off!


Now then, were where we?quillboar

Ah yes. Quillboar.

I tried something a little different here to try to save myself time on the background, and pretty much robo-failed. It took longer than it would have to just draw it from scratch, and it wound up looking like I ran a simple filter over a screenshot. Dammit.

Strangely enough, the thing I was most worried about turned out just fine. I'm talking about the quills of course. With simple color change along the length of the quill I was able to take care of the 'depth' problem without spending lots of time drawing the shade and shadows of each individual spike.

And once again my subtlety rises up to bite me. The difference between the well-lit portions and the dark bits on the figures is about half what it should be. The shadows just aren't deep enough. I could justify it by saying they're in a poorly lit space, but in the interest of learning I really shouldn't. Justifying after the fact is not the same as doing it on purpose in the first place.


Sorry for the radio silence everyone, but I have a totally legit excuse: I moved! And not just a little move, oh no. This was one of them 'buy an air mattress because the truck with your stuff on it may not get there for a week' kind of moves. So I am now officially in the Boston area. I've been told means I need to start caring about sports teams. Or at least learn to say 'Bruins' in a heavy tone and slowly shake my head at appropriate intervals.

But that shit's not why you come here! I hear you clamoring for your pretties, even through the intertubes.


Holy Backgrounds Batman!

I may have gotten a little carried away here. I was worried about the background being the weakest part of the drawing, so I did it first. By the time I was doing finishing touches on the Furbolg I was to the 'stinky thing go away' stage, and neglected the details a bit.

The cobblestones turned out way better than expected, with minimum pain. I used the stained glass filter on my roughly colored path to chop it into 'stones', and then squished it to add perspective and a bulge in the middle, as cobblestone seems to do that over time. Then I colored highlights and shadows on individual stones, using the filtered copy layer as a guide. Then I deleted the filter layer, leaving only my highlights and shadows layer and the rough background underneath. BAM.

I'm also pleased with the mushroom clusters, they provide a lot of the feeling of undergrowth without a lot of time investment. (I'll admit to a little copy/paste/flip horizontal/scale) Plus the glowing spots did pretty much exactly what I wanted them to.

I like the fuzzyness on the Furbolg, but some of my color choices are a bit wonky. His skin tone is too yellow, and the teeth-jewelry looks plastic rather than weathered. I also like how I made the band of his loincloth disappear under his fur, even if I forgot to extend the effect around his belly which leaves that part looking strangely flat.

It's one of those 'this part's good, but it's not good enough to overcome that part, which is BAD' kind of pictures. It's a learning experience. *twitch*


Despite them being, well, nasty little creatures, I enjoy Kobolds. They have simple priorities, and all the little things about their character design are consistent with the singleminded pursuit of those priorities. The backpack for holding various shiny objects they might find, (which is overfull, don't want to spend time going back to the surface until you just can't carry any more) badly patched clothes, the barely functional pickaxe, and the candle on the head, necessary for underground work when you can't possibly occupy a hand (vital for grabbing loot) with carrying a torch. As usual, I started with the figure. But I ran into a problem when I tried to make a background. I tried several different mineshaft settings, but nothing seemed to really be working. I wanted it to be dim, both because pre-industrial mines are dim, and also to keep the figure at the forefront. But then I tried to put normal shadows on the figure, and everything started to look very confused. kobold2 As usual, the solution is simplicity. Murder your darlings. (Of couse, as you may have noticed, in explaining this principle I managed to show you the full, unshadowed figure anyway.)


I'm also trying to figure out how glowing works. I've got a good handle on coloring with a directional lightsource, but the flame itself looks...solid. It would be fine if it were a lantern, but it's a shame that one of the natural focal points of the drawing came out a little awkward.


Harpies. Why did it have to be harpies. World of Warcraft harpies are considered humanoids, (meaning you can't skin them for profit. A comforting definition, no?) but otherwise they seem to be only marginally above animals: they lay eggs in nests, don't keep houses as such, and don't talk. And yet they wear metal bikinis. The resolution of this is left as an exercise for the reader.


I really, really like how this came out. Conceptually I was worried about the feathers, as detail work has a tendency to trip me up. But I managed not to focus too much on edges while giving a good amount of color variation. The placement of the feathers on the wing is only loosely related to reality, but I'm okay with that.

And this is a big step up in the background department. I wasn't sure how to integrate a character study with a full background, (and if I'm honest, I wasn't totally sure I could do a full background) so I simplified matters by using a limited and out of focus background with a border.

And yes, I'm doing the orange/blue thing. So sue me, but goddamn it, that contrast works.


I actually really like the World of Warcraft interpretation of Gnolls. There are half-human half-animal fusions throughout WoW, and I like how much screentime is given to the less popular fusions. Yes, there are still wolf men, centaurs and cat people, but there are also bird people, pig people, hinds, and in this case hyena people.

Appropriately, gnolls appear to be opportunists when it comes to making a living: You'll find them in raiding parties of all sorts, working as mercenaries, and occasionally living in small tribes and just stealing things from the more industrious species of the area.


As gnolls are clearly based off of the spotted or laughing hyena I decided to run with the somewhat manic expression. I still haven't quite figured out how snarly lips work but I do rather like how the teeth came out. They're not realistic, but they do get the point across.

Probably the 'best' part of this one is the coloring on the shoulders and 'hump'. I used about four layers (one for the actual hair, one for the base skin tone, and two for the spots) and freely eyedroppered between them to get a nice smooth transition and spots that fade out naturally.

And yeah, he's green, which isn't exactly a traditional hyena color. Sue me.

Children of Cenarius

Cenarians The colors are kinda gnarly in this one... like the Cenarians were egged with radioactive easter eggs. Cenarians do come in other colorschemes, but I liked the naturally colored fur in this palette so I was willing to put up with the pink and green.

Harder to deal with than the colors is that these forms are partially human. (Humans being really good at seeing the slightest mistake in the depiction of other humans.) Given these issues I'm really quite pleased that this came out as well as it did.

Favorite part: The female's legs. The hooves look dainty and pointy while still being weight-bearing, and the leg bracer-thingies have nice definition without looking pasted on.

Worst part: Ladies' torso. Ick. I'm really quite good at lady torsos in silhouette, but I clearly haven't figured out how light falls on them. It has to hit the ribcage and the curve of the tummy under the bellybutton, but knowing that and making it look right are apparently different things.


nerubian It's all right. You can say it.

Nerubians are icky.

They have several different equally icky body plans. So many in fact that getting them all in one illustration was a little awkward logistically, so I'm only showing two of the more common types that the average adventurer may run into.

Again, there are things I like about this one, and things that make me sigh. (I'm getting better. Sighing is a big step up from disquieting giggling.) In trying to relax about my color transitions, some things are fuzzier than they should be, which gives the whole picture a sort of dreamlike quality. Which would be cool, if I that was in any way what I meant to do.

And my color choice is too close in contrast. Again. The leg red, body brown, and purple wrappings have basically the same brightness, which makes them difficult to differentiate at a distance.

But I like the spiderlings.  They're alternately cute and horrifying, with good contrast and color. They're adorable. Just, um, keep 'em away from me.


I was looking forward to this one. Arakkoa have lovely, multicolored feathers. And I wasn't at all sure how to draw that. So perhaps 'looking forward to' is a bit strong. 'Resigned to my fate' might be more accurate. But things actually went pretty well. As you can see, I'm made real progress freeing myself from the need for lines. This is one of my major goals for this series, actually. If you look at most of the good digital painting, they define the forms without outlines. Y'know, like regular painting. But my natural mental bent is more towards pen and ink, so prying myself away from comforting lines is something of a struggle.

I'm using a higher here contrast than I've managed previously, which will I think be what eventually allows me to get rid of those sketch lines entirely. Also at least 1/3 of the feather transitions are totally awesome. The remaining 2/3rds are just adequate, but that's all right. I haven't totally learned how to do a color transition with that many shades in it, but this was very good practice.


From the WoWiki:

The arakkoa are an ancient race of bird-like humanoids native to Outland. They have brightly feathered bodies in a veritable rainbow of colors, hooked beaks, clawed hands, taloned feet, and an erectile crest of feathers on their heads. They wear ragged cloaks about their bodies. Arakkoa appear to also have "sage" (with ornate shoulder and head ornaments) and "warrior" (with a metal helm and mail epaulets) classes.

They have great magical power over the arcane, and are also as "smart as any gnome you ever met", according to Gremni Longbeard in the Hellfire Peninsula. Most are aggressive to both Alliance and Horde, although there are friendly members of the arakkoa to be found.


One of the great things (and painful things) about having a slight backlog is that when you go to post something, you immediately see everything that is horribly wrong with it. While this is good for learning purposes, it isn't terribly comfortable if you're slightly insecure. Which all artists are, trust me. ogres

I've clearly improved in some ways, but I'm also making some of the same mistakes. I'm happy with my color choices and shading, but it just isn't vibrant enough. In trying to make the skintones natural-ish, I undersaturated them. The contrast is fine, but the lighter skin and the metal bits are washed out and anemic. Annnd the overly precious monster is back. The ogre's faces are actually really cool... but you can't see them, because all that neat detail is on a tiny part of the picture. Oops.

From the WoWiki: Ogres are large, brutish humanoids originally from Draenor. They were one of the last races of Draenor's giants.

Ogre culture, such as it is, tend to revolve a great deal around warfare, violence, and acts of strength. Elimination of competitors is an accepted (in fact, it is the only) way to move up in the ogre ranks. The ogres have great admiration to those that can best them in strength or in combat, an admiration that far transcends anything else, including their hatred for other mortal races, specifically orcs and humans. There are rare but known cases of ogres bowing to the Horde when those have defeated them (such as the Stonemaul tribes) and even rarely the Alliance.

Regular ogres and two-headed ogres are not spellcasters; the ogre magi make up the smarter, spellcasting versions of ogres.


Remember what I said about brown? Here's a great example of how not to choose colors to make a brown animal. Ooops. wolvar

I mean, it's not bad. But it looks much flatter and less interesting than the Gorlock did, even though the shading technique is the same. I think the problem is that palette I chose is all midrange colors. I've touched on this idea before, but put succinctly: Limited palette good, so long as it's broad enough. White through black in five steps is good. White through black in twenty steps is less good, and only using only steps 7-12 is bad, which is exactly what I did here. If this were a black and white image, it would be nigh incomprehensible.

From the WoWiki:

The Wolvar are a primitive race of "wolverine people" that inhabit the icy continent of Northrend. They are one of the major races of the continent, and are found in most of its southern zones. Their tribes can be found in the Howling Fjord, Grizzly Hills, Dragonblight, Sholazar Basin and Zul' Drak. Though primitive, they are quite capable of diplomacy, and many of their tribes are friendly, or are open to friendship. with one tribe, the Frenzyheart tribe, being a faction in their own right. They speak low common, but their usage of it differs noticeably from that used by other speakers.


See, the reason this post is late is 'cause I got sick. Actually, I'm still sick. I sound like one of those bubbling mudpots at Yellowstone every time I cough. It's attractive. Uncharacteristically, I'd built myself up a little backlog of illustrations in case of just such an event, smiling smugly to myself about how good I'm getting at planning ahead and generally acting like a professional.

Then I couldn't sit at the computer for a week. So much for my brilliant plan.

This week we have a Gorlock, specifically one of the Oracles. I love these guys. They're cute, in a horrible sort of way. They have the personality of your three-year-old cousin who idolizes you, but in addition to the biting problem, amorality, bug eating, being generally slimy and nominally house-trained, they also... uh... Huh. I guess some of the game developers have kids.

I'm really very pleased with the color on this one. The critter is green and purple and yellow, but instead of being garish I managed all of the transitions so it just looks like a sorta greenish-brown. Which is of course how actual animals are- rarely is something just brown, it's a complicated and intense palette of colors that you're generally too busy appreciate. But you notice it when someone tries to substitute plain ol' brown.

I'm also pleased with how the sketching lines came out in the final product, even if I'm not sure I'll keep them on in subsequent drawings. They're damn useful, and add a certain character, but when I get to the final touches they seem to bring down the quality of the picture. We'll see.


From the WoWiki:

Gorlocs are "an arctic race of murloc-like creatures" that battle the tuskarr. This can be seen in the Borean Tundra.

They are said to be the "next evolution of murlocs." Lead Game Designer Jeff Kaplan called them "an evolution to the murlocs" and said they were a "complicated race of murloc, both good and bad at the same time".

The Oracles are a faction of several friendly gorloc tribes that inhabit Sholazar Basin. They see themselves as guardians of the titan technology that remains in the area (though they understand little of it). They find themselves in an escalating territorial war with the Frenzyheart Tribe of wolvar.


This series is going to be fun, I can tell. I'm flailing around madly trying to figure out how to make it do. ( 'How does make do?' is a common refrain at my house while dealing with electronics, photography, and elementary plumbing repairs.) But I'm pleased by my spasmotic twitching, because it means I'm learning. As I've mentioned before, rapid and not necessarily linear changes in style are a strong indicator of learning. (Check out the difference over a period of months between a webcomic like Questionable Content, where the artist has only been drawing these characters for a few years, and Girl Genius, where the artist has been well established for a long time.)

To bring this back to specifics: I really didn't do a good job on the areas of high contrast here. (Oops.) The fur is full of abrupt changes that aren't particularly well mapped to the topography of the surface they're supposed to be describing, and the gauntlets of the male look absolutely plastic. However, the skin shading and arm wraps on the female (the parts I did last) actually look pretty good.


From the Wowiki:

Centaurs are a half-humanoid, half- horse, war-like tribal race. They abound in central and southern Kalimdor, primarily in Desolace and the Barrens, where they engage in constant war against other centaur and Tauren tribes.

Each tribe of centaurs is lead by khan, who is generally a leader of above-average strength and intelligence. Some of the clans, if not all, practice cannibalism and will eat the flesh of other sapient races as well, such as the Tauren.

Centaurs follow a shamanistic faith, but their brand of shamanism is far different from the more gentle practices of the Horde. Curiously, most centaur shamans are female.

Filthy creatures, centaurs are always followed by swarms of flies, which are attracted by the centaur's repellent odor. Centaurs have no qualms about leaving piles of dung strewn about their encampments, and no concept of privacy.

The Other Guys

You know who I mean. All those other non-playable, yet clearly intelligent species in World of Warcraft. That's right, it's series time.

Before we get started, let me define some terms: I'm not doing demons, elementals, or anything that could be described as a critter. I'm also limiting this to things that you can speak with in game, and which seem to have a distinct culture. Plus they have to amuse me. Most likely, this means I will not be doing Quillboar. (Frickkin Quillboar. With their stupid death squeal. And you never have to kill just a couple of them, oh no, you have to listen to that squeal eleventy-twelve times.) I have not however compiled my final list, so if there's any species you're dying to see me draw, just ask.

On the subject of artistic relevance, this series will serve as rapid-fire, low pressure sketching practice. See, I'm gradually transferring my years of hard-won pencil skills to my digital tablet. Unfortunately, that transfer is not automatic. Something about not being able to see the marks on the same surface as I'm making them, plus the different biofeedback from the digital pen is enough to impede my sketching ability. So I'll do no physical sketching in this series. Additionally, all these very similar pictures will help solidify my painting process, and the unreality of the subjects will help keep me from getting too precious and narfy about it.

First up: Naga


From WoWwiki: The naga are former Highborne night elves who mutated into vengeful humanoid sea serpents....Naga culture is complex. A clear delineation exists between the sexes. Male naga are larger and more muscular, reminiscent of dragons. Naga men serve as soldiers and guardians. Female naga are more slender, with smaller scales and finer, more human-seeming faces. Naga women are natural spellcasters and rely on magic and poison to defeat their enemies. Naga men are more numerous, but as naga consider their women to be magically and intellectually superior, their society is matriarchal. Women occupy most positions of leadership, and all naga pay homage to their queen, Azshara.


Guys! Guys! Lookit, look what I did! wulpertinger

Let me explain why I'm so excited.

I have a historical problem, loosely referred to as line addiction. I draw edges. I draw them first, and hang the rest of the picture on them, like scaffolding. When my college painting teacher told me to build the image from the inside out, my first thought was literally "but- it doesn't work like that." [*]

More recently, this has meant that I've been doing line drawings before making digital color images. Which shouldn't strictly be necessary. If I'm making digital paintings, shouldn't I be able to do an underpainting as my laying out and on-canvas 'thinking', rather than a line drawing? (Trust me, this isn't through lack of trying. It's part muscle memory, part training. It's like putting an accomplished downhill skier on cross country skis and expecting them to not go whup!SPLAT. [**])

Last week, inspired by Three Panel Soul, I decided to give this 'painting' thing another try. Miraculously, something clicked. I know what I want to do differently next time (bigger brush, for one thing) but this is an encouraging start in a direction which has previously been mostly blocked to me.

The subject is a Wolpertinger. I was surprised to learn from wikipedia that Wolpertingers have a historical basis, and were not simply created as an amusing Brewfest pet. (Dear non-WoW players: Brewfest is an in-game holiday involving a lot of drinking. When drunk, you can see Wolpertingers. ) Apparently, "The Wolpertinger is not a typical cryptid, as local people likely never believed in its existence. Rather, it is some kind of traditional prank belief, as is evident from the many stuffed Wolpertingers displayed in village inns along with real hunting trophies, which have been fabricated deliberately in order to make fun of gullible foreigners who may want to go hunting for this remarkable animal." I find this hilarious. [*] Convergently, I listened to a TED talk after I painted this which suggests that edges (and motion) are the foundation of human vision. Very interesting stuff for visual artists, video here.

[**] whup!(SPLAT) is the direct transliteration of the sound you make when your skis fly out from under you for no reason, and you land on your back. For people from warm locals: Downhill skis have a rigid connection between your ski and your foot, plus your ankle is mostly immobile. You walk like a flatfooted duck, but the ski does not slip out from under you while you're standing around. Cross country skis, on the other hand, have soft boots and connect to the ski only at the absolute toe of the boot. This greatly increases your independent mobility, but also that of the ski. Which occasionally chooses to exercise its freedom when you're standing around not paying enough attention to staying centered over the ski.

Rhya and Pavlov

Rhya-and-Pav Sometimes, my fiance and I WoW together. These are our mains, gettin' down with their funky selves.

I think I'm getting a closer handle on a consistent 'WoW' style, but this one is still a ranging shot. While I like it, particularly the poses, it's too busy. I expected the shading to help direct the viewer's eye more than it actually does. I was being too cautious about contrast...again. (Can I just hire someone to hit me with a wiffle bat inscribed with 'too subtle' when I do this? Please post resumes in the comments.)

This is also the capstone to my Valentine's Day self promotion week! So if anybody wants to commission an illustration or a piece of jewelry for their significant other, drop me a line.

Troll Dance

troll-boys3 Just a couple of troll boys, playing around.

Okay, so trolls are hard. They have weird pointy faces, lanky proportions, and tusks. I meant to have the further troll have sort of a playful smile on, but there's no way that's happening with the tusks in the way. Also they have two fingers per hand, and physics-violating ears. On top of that I had a sudden attack of insanity, and thought it would be fun to draw them in a Capoeira exchange.

This was not totally out of the blue. Okay, so World of Warcraft noobs, here's a brief tutorial. Part one: There's this playable race called trolls. They have a decidedly Caribbean cultural flavor. Part two: all playable characters in WoW can dance on command, to the great amusement of the parties playing them. (And the discomfort of others, as this allows female collections of pixels to dance 97% naked on big city street corners in order to get 'tips'. *twitch*) Each gender of each race has a specific dance, and the male troll dance is clearly based on Capoeira.

As martial arts go, Capoeira is particularly hard to draw. As an outsider, it seems that the art relies greatly on momentum switching, acrobatic athletic feats, and constant motion. This makes finding good reference material extremely difficult, because paused video tends to be fuzzy and most amateurs can't take good pictures of a subject in motion.  It also makes my fallback (pressing my friends and acquaintances into services as models) quite impossible, because they don't bend that way.

Tired Tank

tired-tank I realized recently that I was falling into a familliar trap:  I've been drawing only female WoW characters.

Well, other than perhaps the murloc. But I'm not sure I want to know how to tell boy murlocs from girl murlocs. Eesh.

So I decided to fight my natural inclinations, and bring you not only a male character but a burly male character. Plus I'll admit to wanting to show off my digitigrade legs skillz.

I'm not thrilled with the shading on this attempt. I was trying to re-create the magic from the Alexstrasza drawing, but couldn't really get it back again. Ah well. This isn't bad per se, it just doesn't seem nearly as engaging. Here's what it looked like before shading.


Crap. I think I like it better this way.

I'm posting early this week because along with many people my age, I'll be visiting the outlaws for Christmas. As I'm of the Jewish persuasion I didn't think in advance to draw anything particularly festive, so, uh...


Alexstrasza and Korialstrasz

alex-and-korial2 I figured I'd do my own version of a very popular subject in WoW art. You see a lot of fan-created versions of Alexstrasza, because, well... Alexstrasza is extremely hot. Plus she's a very powerful queen, and leader of an ancient people with mysterious motivations. Also a dragon.

Korialstrasz doesn't get nearly as much airtime, and when you do see them together, he's usually in the background somewhere.


I really like this pose for them. It's your classic 'dragonrider and dragon' or 'witch and familiar' pose, and the dynamic gets turned on it's head a bit when you know who these characters are.  Korialstrasz has no official power, his title is 'queen's consort'. Plus Alexstrasza could clean his clock any day. So although he's visually in the 'power' spot, he not only takes orders from Alexstrasza (as a witches' familiar would) he also is not the most physically powerful.

I'm not sure yet about the style. The shading makes them look a bit like stone sculpture. In this case I don't really mind, because this would be an awesome thing to have in the lobby of the red dragonflight, but for other pieces it might be a little incongruous.

Edit: Hahaha, I forgot the irises. Ooops. I am too punchy to put them in now though. I guess they are stone sculpture after all.