Thursday, 27 February 2014

Commissioned RPG characters

These were commissioned for an urban fantasy setting, about which I admittedly know very little, except for the very detailed (and helpful) descriptions of the characters:


Marcus 'Littlepike' Coates (top), Victoria 'Threeleaf' Glyn, and Psellos Tarsitos. My favourite of the three is Coates; his description mentioned 'chill' mannerisms that I think more or less came through. By saying he's my favourite, though, I actually mean that I find the other two rather awkward. :p

Painting these characters has been an important learning experience, in that I actually tried to learn from my mistakes instead of just fret about them. I generally don't paint very consciously and tend to over-rely on what Bob Ross would call 'happy accidents', which have sometimes turned out impressive enough, but the rest of the time I find that I have great difficulty in fully directing my paintings or being accurate in depicting a vision I or someone else may have.

Mentioning these things here feels a bit like rediscovering the wheel, but someone else might benefit from reading them like I did from noting them down as I faced each hurdle (or success!).
  • Thumbnails. I'm always stingy with thumbnails and tend to jump into painting after I get a single sketch to look more or less right. I've come across professionals suggesting 2-digit numbers for thumbnails, and they have a point.
  • Find or make the right reference. Probably not necessary in concept or looser work, or if I were really confident about my anatomy skills or about how different objects and materials may look under different angles. I'm not at all confident. Reference saves my butt. I might pull things off without, but I might mess things up entirely and have to backtrack (see also point 4).
  • Set up values and colour schemes. Decide on a light source and don't ignore or forget about it during rendering. Maybe even make a silly little arrow on a separate layer and keep it there as a reminder.
  • Clean up drawing and double check for errors (flip the canvas, walk away from it for a while, show it to someone else). There are things that can and probably will have to be corrected or changed during rendering, but a solid drawing saves time - and frustration.
  • Render... but don't over-render. That last one depends on personal style, but one thing looser works have going for them is that whatever detail is not in the painting is usually mentally filled in by the viewer in the most favourable way. 
I don't see these steps as some sort of holy grail, and I feel it shouldn't all become a mechanical process; I like a bit of mess in my paintings, just not when it spills over everything I'm trying to do with a painting.

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