23 November 2012

Notes from the Book of Work-Doodles

Sketchbooks save minds. A quick dash in the sketchbook can help keep you sharp on days that you can't devote a lot of time to finished pieces. Its also a great opportunity to work out some design problems, wrestle with difficult subjects, and prepare for executing fully-informed larger pieces.

Sketchbooks defy sacredness. Sketchbooks should be foul, nasty, scribbled/painted-in, bloody, imperfect spaces where your job is to experiment and screw up as much as possible. No blank sheet deserves the deference given to a blank canvas. A good tip for breaking ones' habit of fearing the blank page of the sketchbook: draw only in pen for a month, working as quickly as you can, and do it every day for that month. This will help you grow comfortable with screwing up, building the confidence to roll with mistakes. Ink may be unforgiving in its permanence, but your design mind will find ways around even the worst screw-ups if you let it.

I thought I would post a few sketchbook drawings here with the hope that other folks making art in the gaming world would be willing to share some highlights of theirs as well.

This is a sketch I made on some downtime at work for Robert Parker's adaptation of the Beastmaster class for his game world, Krul. The following sketch came from the shape of my boss's nose, and from there I imagined a space-faring religious zealot. I think the vacant/reverent look captures the idea pretty well for a sketchbook entry.

Also, I like to throw in some acid-tinged idea collages together with some watercolor and ink, like this:

I like bug people - here's a digital mash-up of three bug dudes from the sketchbook that I drew in the same afternoon using a Pilot V-5, a white China Marker, and some saliva:

I also like to keep it pastoral, in this case using the same tools as with the bug people:

Some sketches demand more time, some only a few minutes. Every one of these has mistakes throughout, but the sketches still come out all right, and more often than not I end up learning something or plotting a better way to draw something in the future. If you have some pieces to share from your sketchbook or happen to know someone who does, let me know! Dig.

15 October 2012

Open Source Solutions and a Couple Tutorials

All hail! I've been working hard lately on a number of freelance projects as well as making headway for the Arcane Knights video game. All my output for these projects is executed in open source software, and I am but one of a growing crowd of artists choosing this path as opposed to using proprietary programs. I would like to speak briefly about my work flow for a typical project and what would be analogs in the proprietary world.

For most illustrations I start out by using MyPaint, which is somewhat equivalent to Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro or Corel's Painter. For a lot of digital artists, the process begins and ends with Photoshop, which is an admittedly badass program, but I prefer MyPaint for its highly flexible brush engine and infinite canvas. It supports decent layer functions, outputs to a growing variety of formats (.png - solid and alpha, .jpg, .tiff, .bmp, and the powerful .ora), and eliminates distractions from the task at hand - creating. The hotkey system is a cinch, customizable, and can be assigned to buttons on your Wacom tablet or a number of supported off-brand tablets. Needless to say, I rely on this smooth program as my primary.

For image editing, I will bounce my paintings into the GIMP. Thousands of folks have posted useful blog entries about various flavors of the GIMP in the past, so I don't intend to speak too much here. Its the Photoshop equivalent in the open source world, and it stands out more and more as newer versions of P-shop slowly remove various functionalities that were once assumed to be universal and basic components. Moreover, you can download a plug-in for GIMP to support the .ora format native to MyPaint, which is HUGE in terms of manipulating heavily layered paintings generated in other open source programs in a standardized format.

Third, I use Inkscape for my vector work. Tracing raster images, building clean and/or complex layouts and logos, or designing and outputting web graphics are the key tasks for which I deploy Inkscape the most. It has a little way to go before it catches up to Adobe Illustrator, but it supports layers, swatches, channels, tight node editing, and so forth - and it plays well with tablets to boot. You can output to darn near any file type imaginable, including a lot that I've never heard of, and I've had considerable success importing .ill files from Illustrator!

If you have any suggestions or ideas on 2D work flow in open source software, feel free to email me or comment below. Meanwhile, I've assembled a two-part tutorial on Youtube detailing some speed painting and rendering techniques, please check them out! Audio was recorded using Audacity and video was recorded using RecordMyDesktop and edited with OpenShot. Cheers!

Speed Painting Demo - Part 1
Speed Painting Demo - Part 2

10 September 2012

Like So Many Monks Ablaze . . .

As a long-time participant in and recent refugee from the rock scene here in the Northwest, I sit in a unique position to be able to make artwork for a number of my friends' various musical projects. Of particular interest here in Missoula is the band Monks On Fire. They won the local college radio show competition and as a result get free recording time to finish up their second 7". I am working on completing the album art for both recordings as well as a number of other, more hushed projects for these gnarly dudes, but for now I would like to showcase the poster and sticker art I've made for them in the last couple of months.

Being the first poster I made for the Monks, this was a blast to design as well as an enjoyable bit of exploratory illustration. Prog rock's longstanding love affair with fantasy art made this an obvious match, and the Monks' bombastic drummer, Dylan, who commissioned the art, pretty much let me have free reign. After constructing the basic scene I used a little force perspective (read: took liberty) to get the assassin leaping down from the ceiling. I don't always use warm colors up front and cool receding, as it sometimes doesn't make sense depending on environment, but I felt the reds and purples put the assassin right where he needed to be when I squinted my eyes. I also kept the drafting lines a little loose, allowing some of my 'inking' to show - a practice I rarely use in digital paintings, but one which seems to function well for simplifying figurative work.

This piece was done for the end of August, when MOF played with another proggy, keyboard-laden post-rockish band called Modality (they kill it, three times over). The idea was to contrast the Monks theme with technofuturism. The result was a meditating colossus of fiberoptic cables, laser beams, and (of course) a human skull. I kept the base painting abstract, with patches of light to hint at searchlights in the night sky. Also, the ink lines were made most prominent, gestural, and simple. I dig pursuing a cartoonish feel now and again, and Dylan appreciated it as well.

I love drawing predators. I love drawing women. And I always enjoy the opportunity to render in black and white. This piece speaks for itself and will make for a wonderful sticker when they get back from the printer. I can't wait to put one on my laptop!

Monks On Fire have an upcoming show with a band called Reptillian Shapeshifter, so this image practically drew itself. Hazy atmospheric lighting, mountain lake background, and the dead tree add up to complete the intended menace of the lizard man's assault. I backed off the linework for this one, keeping a bit of the pencil work but mostly rendering with softer paint strokes using the round brush.

There are more Monks On Fire pieces scheduled to post this month, but before that I will post some about Arcane Knights and talk about process for the Zoetic Moon paintings for The Savage World of Krül, which were recently displayed over at Rogues and Reavers. Thanks!

30 August 2012

Krül images of Violence and Conquest

I've been busy since my last post at the beginning of July, wrangling concept art and illustrations for a variety of clients. In the near future I'll be discussing what I can about the Arcane Knights video game, for which I am the 2D Lead right now, but for this post I want to talk about cruelty. Or rather, Krül thoughts . . .

Punning aside, Robert Parker runs an excellent game design blog Rogues and Reavers, where he actively develops The Savage World of Krül as a campaign setting and more. While we aren't discussing the full spread of media through which Krül will grow its cancerous tendrils, Robert has green-lighted me the opportunity to discuss some of the concept work I have done for and with him.

First up: The Barbarians of Oxala!
This piece started from a combination of Popular Mechanics covers from the 40's featuring monowheels and an excellent post on the variety of lizard men floating around the gaming world, which you can find at MonsterTV's Bleaklands gaming blog here. So there's that - Robert's barbarians, absurd military vehicle design from PopMech, and Lizardfolk! Cyborg barbarians are a full go on Krül, so how could I resist meshing all this together?
(Total time: 4 hours)

 A few weeks ago Robert and I were cooking away on some dev for the setting, and a grand giant figure was mentioned for a particular desert scene under work. After soaking up some inspiration from Kirby's mutant monsters, Thaggy was born. Check out this repository of giants for more. I decided to use the exaggeration of the great ape's figure as an indicator of form, then apply the craggy rock textures and turtle-backed silhouette to the figure. Knowing that the Thagster had to possess both receptive and intimidating qualities, I opted to soften the facial expression a bit and counter it with the craggy, violent peaks on his back.
(Total time: 3 hours)

And finally: The Abandoned City of Izuma!!!
The Skardi octopi beings dwell deep beneath this pipe-riddled temple city, with the upper levels often inhabited by wandering tribesmen, barbarians, and creatures less savory. This was a great opportunity to explore mixing neoclassical architecture with some subtle sci-fi rumblings and a ruined fantasy finish. I imagined the tubes functioned as two-lane streets for the Skardi to navigate the levels of their city.The bylaws of this image: scale and description.
(Total time: 6 hours)

If you dig the concept art I generate for The Savage World of Krül, or if you would like to commission some work for your blog or campaign setting, feel free to comment or drop me a line! Thanks!

01 July 2012

A Pic for the Gamer Inside

Well, I can't help but draw barbarians scaling improbable waterfalls to invade alien-god hive lairs. Of course! So here it is:

Someone ought to use this somewhere in an OSR supplement. Just sayin'.

25 June 2012

Throne of Lies, or black metal goes Montucky Mountains

Erin Gillett can shred. And shred and shred and shred. He shreds more upon waking up than most rockers do when fully warmed up, onstage in front of  a packed house, and 3 shots of whiskey into a hard rock tunnel. Which might be why I like him so much, enhanced by the fact that this Montana boy does Black Metal like nobody's business. I wrote a year-end review over at the Modus Operandi zine blog featuring some of my favorite local bands this year. I hadn't met Erin yet, but I had to mention Throne of Lies out of respect for their sheer radness.

Later I was lucky enough to be approached by Erin at a show and asked to whip up a Throne of Lies band logo. Apparently, Rachid from Zebulon Kosted had told Erin that my design work might be up his alley. Lucky me! I busted this puppy out during a week in which I had 4 other deadlines, but I believe it came out more awesome than it would have on a quiet week. I have included both raster and vectorized versions for your perusal, although the vectorized piece is actually just a .png of the vector itself.


and vectorized:

You can notice some subtle differences in cleanliness and detail, so there you go. I would like to link to Throne of Lies website, but alas, there is none to be had yet. I will, however, post more about them as they expand their empire of villainy. Hit me up if you like what I'm doing, need a logo made, or would just like to talk about, you know, things 'n' stuff. Peace!

23 June 2012

Regicide and the Wandering Monk: Shramana Album Cover

My good friend Reggie Herbert started a band a couple of years ago called Shramana, which is a special kind of anti-superstitious wandering monk, here in Missoula. Reggie rocks guitars and sings the songs while Levi kills and kills the drums, and they've written a killer/sick/rad album called 'Dreaming As Punishment.' They've got tight grooves and bring forth mountains of sludge and dirt from the underbelly of the Rockness Monster.

At their inception, Reggie was awesome enough to ask me to print their first round of t-shirts and patches, and we spent an awesome afternoon getting those done. Fast forward two years, and Reggie asked me to bust out the album art and a revised logo for 'Dreaming As Punishment.' Of course, sir! Would love to! They put the image on both the album and some full color pins, which was a great bonus! Here's the original art for the cover:

My god, this one was fun. All crit and feedback appreciated as per usual. You might want to check out Shramana's band page or Reggie's local music blog to get a good feel for these rad dudes. Thanks!!!!!!!!

22 June 2012

Opius - alt metal friendship and the Art/Rock Nexus

Years ago, my friend Scottie Matthews taught me about rocking a guitar nice and hard, Black Metal, noise rock, and a bunch of other skills and ideas that fall squarely under the heading, 'Radness.' Scottie has always been, and will continue to be, a thunderbolt of guitar prowess and metal erudition. Since those fateful days of my early twenties, Scottie has moved his family to Madison, WI, put together a truly talented group of dudes to form the band Opius, and has almost finished his full length.

Scottie needed artwork for the full-length, and I had waited the better part of a decade to make him some rockin' images for whatever band he was steering. This included front and back art, as well as developing their logo. At some point I would like to post an in-depth process of illustration for this, but for now the final pieces:

Opius official band logo, painted in MyPaint (I only rock open source these days). Next, the album cover:

And finally, the back cover:

Once again, any and all feedback is greatly appreciated! I will do my Montana best to address all comments posted. Thanks!

21 June 2012

Elephantitus of the Punks

Missoula=music=bands. Simple equivalencies aside, I have to give props to my friend Joey Running Crane - who, if more bands = more radness, would have to be a giant playground of raditudes for the number of bands he fronts or plays in around town and indeed the country.  The list:

Goddammitboyhowdy!, Gretchen, Holy Family Mission Band, Bird's Mile Home, ex-Bridgebuilder, and now King Elephant!!!!! I'm sure I missed some other bands in there, and he jams a mean one-man banjo band thingy as well. When does he sleep?

King Elephant has everyone's overalls in tight, excited twist with the rockrockrockpower they bring to both their live shows and recorded material. Also, for having been together such a short time, they've wrapped their tentacles all around the US, having already toured, recorded, gone to New York (New York City?!?!), and finished a Kickstarter project to tour again with a documentary filmmaker!!!

Here's the humble logo, expressly done black metal style at their request:

I can't wait to wear this t-shirt (hint hint, Joey). I wish them all the best of luck, the finest of gas station hot dogs, the least amount of van troubles, and the most fun out of anything ever.

20 June 2012

Foul Beastie for a Good Friend

Here's a piece of concept art I rendered back in March for Robert Parker's "Rogues and Reavers" blog, where he simultaneously dives off the deep end into the Old School Gaming Revival (OSR) and builds his own swords & sorcery world called Krul.

Mr. Parker has lived and breathed gaming and weird fiction for the better part of his life, and when he asked me to develop a critter for Krul, I happily accepted. You can check out his full description of the Varmints here; for now, gaze your eyes on this nasty little nightmare-eating beastie.

If you'd like me to mock up some monsters for your campaign world, game development, or story ideas, just drop me an e-mail; I would be happy to work within your budget or for trade. Check out Rogues and Reavers for a dose of pop culture sword & sorcery analysis and some old school gaming. Thanks!

19 June 2012

Attack Formation Delta: Iron Image Retools Its X-Wing

All hail! I've decided to take Iron Image in an entirely new direction, seeing as how my livelihood has shifted from screen printing to illustration, graphic design, and concept art. I hope you'll follow me down this new hard rock tunnel,  as significant advances have been made in a short amount of time.

The screen printing biz here in Missoula, MT, has been heavily overloaded due to two factors. 1) The pro market is saturated in the valley, with more shops and indie printers springing up than any one of us cares to admit, and 2) low-tech screen printing methods have spread like wildfire across the DIY community, meaning that anyone you meet has an equal chance of owning a guitar, a screen printing rig, or both! I love printing; however, I don't think its in my best interests to run this particular rat race, as fancy and as talented as the cute and fuzzy rodents (me, too) might be.

Instead, I have chosen to take the plunge and teach myself how to generate concept art. I started walking down this road in February, and have already come into some modest success! I intend to publish finished works here, discussing methodology and ideas while presenting some of my more successful pieces. Feedback, discussion, and critiques are all welcome in a constructive environment, and I expect my abilities to continue to grow and evolve. Thanks again and stay tuned for more - this blog is about to blow up activity-wise.