Monday, May 7, 2012

Snake Curse - Process

I have for you today the second of the process posts for the recent work that I produced for the Halls of Undermountain. Today we turn up the gross factor with the dreaded Snake Curse!

Thumbnails started things off as always. Well... I should say reference photos really started things off, but we will get to those in a moment. Once I had a feel for the physicality of the scene in my head and in photos I got to work on some thumbnails fleshing out my ideas. The piece is really about the exploding dwarf, but I wanted to be a little more involved then just a medium shot with the dwarf spilling all over the place. I thought having a foreground and background figure could allow some nice overlap as well as place the dwarf more within a space. After playing with the elements and options I had a really good feeling about 'C', and once submitted, 'C' was the winner...

Snake Curse - Thumbnails
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Now it was time for the drawing. This piece is all about snakes, and I knew I wanted to have a LOT of them. When I think about snakes I think about scales and when I think about a lot of snakes I grit my teeth and accept there will be lots of scales. This is when a fully fleshed out drawing can really help out. More and more I am realizing just how integrated my drawings are in my final painting. The details and work I am putting into my drawings are as important to my paintings as is the actual paint work I do later in the process. I can leave the details as they are, paint over them, or emphasis them as needed. I have it before and I will say it again, the more time and effort I put into taking reference, working out the thumbnails and fleshing out the drawing the quicker and easier the painting is for me. The drawing was completed, turned in, and approved...

Snake Curse - Drawing
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Let's jump back and have a look at some of the reference. More silly pictures of me acting out the scene. I am NOT posting the dwarf pictures... I have to have some secrets, and they were just a little too over the top for me to comfortably share on the internet. I did end up piecing together three separate photos to make the final dwarf reference. The upper body, lower body and left arm were all from different photos but provided me with the pose I really wanted for the piece. The other two figures were a lot more straightforward. There was a second pose for the rear figure I also really liked, but this one was the final winner...

Props, costumes, and correct lighting all help inform the reference which then better informs the painting. Everything works together to help me understand how different materials and forms will be affected by the scenes lighting.

Now it is time to for the bulk hard work, the painting. Nothing has changed from my usual progression. Manipulated drawing, under painting, main paint level, adjustment and fix layers. You can see more detailed break downs of all this HERE, HERE, and HERE. Though the differences in some of the later steps might seem hard to distinguish, there is a lot going on to the over all brightness, contrast, and detail level of the piece. Just like magic the images appears before my unbelieving eyes...

Snake Curse - Painting progression
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

As will all my work I try to manage my time to allow me to finish the piece well before the deadline so that I can put it aside for a few days. This allows me the chance to see it again with fresh eyes and get a better look at for mistakes and areas that need to be adjusted. This use to allow me to catch some pretty big errors sometimes, but as years tick by thankfully the bigger issues are resolved long before the painting stage. Mostly these days the fresh look allows me to catch little things and to make adjustments that help the overall piece. Remember to 'kill your darlings' and if it is not working, fix it. It does not matter how long you worked on it, if it is wrong, it is wrong, make it right. And try to have some fun...

Snake Curse
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

For the record, I am very much aware that a snake either opens its mouth or sticks out its tongue, but it does not do both at the same time. If this does in fact happen in one of my paintings, this was done purposefully for my own reasons.

That is all for another exciting Monday on the blog, see you back here on Wednesday! Until then...

For more samples of my work or to contact me regarding my availability head over to my website:


  1. Sick, dude. Sick. I can totally hear the audio from this scene in my head. Squishy, belchy, hissy, screamy. Excellent!