Photoshop Painting Catchup #12: Skyfire


  • Skyfire resembled a normal blink dog, but as we're almost epic level, he's partially fused with a dead deity's (homebrew deity called Set-Osir, a good-aligned death god associated with the moon, and appeared to his people as a ghostly white jackal.) power. His fur is now glowing white with a full silky tail, with bright blue eyes. He wears a long silk-like scarf that is flame-colored. Skyfire is very kind and gentle and caring, and like all blink dogs, he's lawful good.

I'm going to share something unsurprising with you: I love animals.

I particularly love dogs. I've spent a lot of time with them, and I've come to the conclusion that they are a species full of zen masters.

Sure, there are some anxious ones, and some needy ones. But if their needs are met, and they aren't damaged by circumstance, they have an amazing ability to both live in the moment and draw happiness from simply existing.

With Skyfire, I knew that I somehow needed to convey that lesson-by-example, that joy, that dogs are trying to teach us all the time. Because it is the kind of lesson a god of death would try to teach.

And on a practical level, I was intrigued by the challenge of drawing a character that is a light source. (The requestor mentioned in discussion that the character's 'glow' had occasionally been a problem during gameplay–makes it hard to hide!) I had to think ahead of how that would work, but I think I nailed it: Ferns behind and under him are lit, and the ones in front of him are no more than silhouettes.

What I did not nail was the scarf. I wanted it to feel a little heavy instead of gauzy, but it came across stiff instead. I clearly have to work on draping, and research how that works with different weight fabrics.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #4

Larger version.

Okay, so before we talk painting technique, clearly I need to give you some context for this... silliness.

A pack of Orcs were captured by the fallen angel Bwana, the one responsible for minotaurs and owlbears. Using the corpse of a captured rabbit, he twisted the orcs, making them somehow more grotesque than they were previously. They thanked their maker, and dubbed themselves "rabi-tork".

That, plus a few details from the poster about weaponry and faces, and this is what happens. It's not my fault. 

Now then, on to business: If you go back and look, something changed since my last painting.

It doesn't have much to do with the nitty gritty of painting. My brushwork is basically unchanged. (Although I did do a little texture experiment with the fur on the legs, it wasn't really worth the amount of effort it took for how it turned out.) I think the real difference is composition. This is a full, of-a-whole piece: Not a figure by itself, and not a subject on a consistent but essentially irrelevant background. Here, things flow together, so the eye makes the rounds of the whole thing.

Part of that is the placement of the components– the mountains and the Rabi-tork themselves. But this is the first time I've really done anything resembling lighting. I try from time to time, but rarely do I actually make myself to a full range from almost white to almost black... While I'm working in color, at least. (Looking back on it now, I do wish I'd been more bold with the highlights on the bodies, but it's not bad.) When working in black and white I have no problem, which is possibly why I haven't been paying enough attention to it in color. 

Mello the Molekin


This mole brought to you by morajel over at the character drawing subreddit. He asked for a mole monk, complete with cassock, holy symbol and snow goggles, and I did my best to not make it look like Redwall.

Items of note- doing better with contrast (having a good range from brightest to darkest) in this, but haven't got it arranged well to good effect. The lighting isn't wrong per se, but it just isn't helping anything. It's not dynamic.

I used texture overlay layers here, and I don't think I'm doing it right. The cassock is ...passable. It's clear what I meant to do, I just don't think I did it. The fur texture works better, it really helps the transition on the nose and adds a sort of stumpy fluffiness to the head/neck, but it's not quite as good on the extremities.

I'm pretty proud of my solution for not knowing what the 'holy symbol' was supposed to look like. Though while I enjoy his giant mitt hands, and I think I didn't do them justice. Too flat, and I'm not sure how to fix it. Probably just draw them better in the first place, but ain't it always the way. :D



Stag Beetles

stag-beetles Prompt: Bug Brawl

In one of the many nature documentaries narrated by David Attenborough,  there's a slightly silly scene of beetles battling on a branch. These are not those beetles exactly, but who needs realism when neon orange will do?

The beetles take the business quite seriously of course, but given that they look silly doing it and that the loser is unharmed (he is flipped off of the branch and suffers an extremely long fall, but due to his exoskeleton and low weight he's not the worse for wear) the deadly earnest attitude just makes it funnier.

This is the beginning of the fight, from the point of view of one of the combatants. I wanted to draw from a bug's eye view to show that they consider this serious business. The godlike top down view trivializes the business too much.

Regarding the nuts and bolts: From the start I wanted this drawing to be in a photographic narrow range of focus style, reflecting the bug's priorities in that moment. In retrospect I wish I had used some sort of motion blur, because while the narrow focus does the job of making the picture emotionally immediate it also really immobilizes the whole scene.

The texture on the bugs is wrong, but I'm not sure what would be better. The problem is exacerbated because the texture on the branch and the blobby leaves in the far background are both pretty excellent.  I'll need to find something shinier and less blobby next time.


Comfy Chair

comfy-chair Prompt: Anthropomorphization. Which doesn't sound like it's a real word, but apparently is. It turned out a bit 'Brave Little Toaster', but that's kind of hard to avoid when you put eyes on furniture and then try to get it to not be creepy.

This one's a bit autobiographical, because we just bought a big sofa-chair thingy. It's huge. And squishy. And occasionally prevents me from getting work done by virtue of its sheer comfyness. The fringed blanket actually exists, although it's usually on the back of the couch. I moved it to give the chair a hairline to help define the face.

On a nuts-n-bolts note: I discovered brush settings. Texture incoming.



Dance Party

dance-party1 An update of some really old linework. In the linework I was trying to recapture a bit of the attitude of a certain series of drawings I made in highschool, but add some definition. Turns out that was a bit paralyzing when it came to coloring it, so it sat in the figurative drawer.

But recently I've been really working on this 'colors' thing (you may have noticed) and have managed to uncramp my hand a bit when it comes to getting things just right. I still sort of want to make a background for it, but it's really time to just get this one out of the 'waiting' drawer.



Absolutely awesome prompt from sketchdaily: Draw yourself as a pokemon! Now I will admit, I never actually played pokemon myself (a little too old to have caught that particular wave) but doing a personality portrait of a person by drawing an animal? That's one of my favorite things. Plus the 'evolving' aspect really appealed to me.


Sketchdaily Roundup 4

Prompt: Scene from a Book. Watership Down is sort of a major book for me. It was one of the first books I can remember being read to me, and when I came back to it as an adult I was pleasantly surprised to find that it holds up. It's actually sort of two classically structured myths in sequence: The Journey, and then The War.

This is a scene from the Journey portion, and I won't tell you any more because it's dear to my heart and SPOILIES.


Prompt: Self Portrait.

I will explain... no, is too much, I will sum up. I am in the process of doing a moderate personal overhaul, both of physicality and personality. I'm hoping these will be my before and after pics.

Prompt: Insects

I think mantises are cute.

Prompt: Illustrate a Recipe.

I didn't finish it, but I do think it has potential so I may at some point finish it. It's also one of the least intuitive and most difficult prompts I've done to date, so I may not finish it. I may just eat the damn cookies.

Sketchdaily Roundup 3

Prompt: A Trip to the Playground. All that sprang to mind was this.

Prompt: Deities.

I was late to the party on this one, so first thoughts like Artemis and Thoth had already been done. So I went with Miyazaki style Kodama.

Prompt: Personification of Subatomic Particles.

Quarks. All I have to say is that particle physicists must have very interesting dinner parties.

I would have liked to develop this in a watercolor style, but I just didn't have time this week.

Prompt: Goats.

Since I did quite a workup on goats not too long ago, I kept it simple this time.


A memorial drawing for one of the first dogs I was privileged to have as a daily dogwalking client, Miss Princess Polly-wog Molly Dog. She always did love the snow.

Not sure it's my best work, but I couldn't seem to do any better. (And I tried.) Sorry 'bout that Miss Molly.


Literate Minuteman

Once again, my webmonkey has afforded me an opportunity to pay him back for his monkery.

This time, he wanted a logo for a neat little tool he wrote.  This tool works with a Goodreads 'to-read' list and a local library system to give you a nice clean list of books you actually intend to read that are currently available at various branches of your library system. Well, our local library system. If you're in the greater Boston area and use Goodreads, give it a whirl.

This is the cutest robot I have ever drawn. I'm not big on robots so it's not a particularly broad selection, but still. Lookit his little underbite. D'aww.

The lines of this piece were not particularly difficult (thank you Netflix, for having Iron Giant available for inspirational purposes) but I am pleased by my integration of revolutionary war and robotic elements. Although on review I think I should have added a glow to the eyes.


Character Sheet #2: Eris

Eris-bodies Eris-faces

Having already done one character sheet, I had a pretty good idea of how this one should go. Which was a good thing, because children are hard.

Particularly this one. Eris is in latest, most gangly childhood, which I think makes her about eleven years old. This is the skinniest she will ever be, but she also has an adult-size head on a child-height body. Which kind of makes her look like a pez dispenser.

But the challenges I've set for myself don't end with Eris being a child. I've also made her mixed race.

Comic artists handle racial indicators in different ways. The simplest is of course just to use color. But I want my comic to be done, oh, this decade, so I'm mostly going to be sticking to black and white.

In black and white, there are three options: Blackface (awkward), hashmarks, (which generally looks like some kind of skin condition) and actually being goddamn good at your job and drawing faces with a specific shape to them.

So... I'm trying to go with that last one.


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!


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.


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.

Dragon: All Done!

So I gave in to my tendencies and made a very, very blue dragon. Well, I guess he's sort of violet, but it's balanced by the super-cute teal belly.

And he has pads! Eeeeeeee!

*Cough* Sorry. Regulations require at least one squeal per use of adorable paw pads.

Dragon: Red

Okay, so I'm probably out of inventiveness as far as titles go.

I'm playing with texture a bit here. It's subtle (and what do we know about subtlety?) but I like the concept anyway. I was trying to get the skin of the body to have a different taste than the armor scales. ( Due to my synesthetic brain, taste, textue and color are all very closely intwined. Actually, there's a sound component too, but when I get that far in a discription most people start to get incredulous.) I don't think I quite have it here, but it's an interesting thought anyway.