Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bestiary: Ye Olde Creature Catalogue - Process

Back in December I shared with you the piece that I completed for Bestiary: Ye Olde Creature Catalogue. Today, I have for you the process breakdown for the wily and very tentacled Decapus. Let's start off with having a look at the finish piece before jumping into the process...

© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

For this assignment I was asked to update and illustrate the Decapus, an somewhat wacky (not that it is a bad thing to be wacky) monster from the early days of Dungeons and Dragons. Its key features are ten tentacles with suckers and a barbed tip, large mouth filled with HUGE yellow teeth, white eyes with black pupils, and sparse course body hair. All of these are key monster attributes!

As always, thumbnails started things off. I needed to be depicted in a tree and reaching out towards the viewer. A classic 'RAWR' moment. I was still feeling out what I and production wanted to do with this piece so I submitted my loose thumbnails and awaited feedback.

Decapus - Thumbnails
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

It turned out that the art folks liked "C" but the other folks were leaning towards "A" and "B". Art department won out and I was asked to give the thumbnail another pass to include some tweaks. I needed to flip the piece horizontally since the final art would be left justified and the creature needed to look into the page, turn the head slightly, and show more tree so that you could see the tentacles wrapped around the tree. I was good to go and got stated on the new thumbnail for the Decapus. It should noted that between these two sets of thumbnails I went out and shot some tree reference. Due to timing I was not able to do so before I started.

Decapus - Revised Thumbnails
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Right before I sent the updated thumbnail in I stopped myself. While "A" was good I felt I could push it more. I stopped everything and made a option "B". Good thing I did this because "B" was selected and approved! Make sure you stand behind everything you send to a client and make sure you are happy with the thumbnails and drawings, you will be the one who has to take it to a completed painting.

Decapus - Drawing
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

Thumbnail approved I move forward with the final drawing of the wily Decapus which was approved with out any changes... though I was asked to make sure the tentacles remain PG and are clearly tentacles. I was ready to move onto the painting and I got all my pixels ready and mixed into the proper colors...

Decapus - Process Progression
© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

This was a very straight forward piece and it moved along quickly and without too much fuss. ALWAYS nice when that happens. I just needed to balance the light and color to make sure everything was happy and working together. You can see some of the main shifts in the background between steps 5 and 6. The background was originally a lot warmer which was not working for me.

There was one thing that about this painting that caught my attention when I was putting the final touches on it.. the background details...

 Balancing that background

When I was making the uneasy and fraught transition from someone that likes to draw monster to a monster illustrator I have A LOT of trouble with background. Everything was hard about backgrounds... designing them, drawing them, painting them, making sure they didn't feel like they were DIRECTLY behind the subject... EVERYTHING about them sucked. But over the years I slowly did more and more of them and made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot more about painting and illustration. When I was giving last looks at this piece before submitting it the above pictured area of the piece stopped me dead in my tracks. I obviously painted it, but I was reminded how beyond me this was just a few years ago. The amount of detail and the amount of ambiguity all wrapped up in one. It is color and form more then lines with lots of layers and with a lot implied. It was just one of those moments that reminded me how far I have come, how it was not so long ago that I was a lot less experienced, and how there is so much more to learn!

 The tree of inspiration

HEY LOOK! A TREE! I mentioned earlier that I took some tree reference for this piece, here is the winning image that was used more then the rest of my photos to inspire this piece. This is a tree I pass all the time while mountain biking and I really like it a lot. I would have liked to have had all the fern, vines, and lichen in my final painting, but the piece was about a green monster hanging onto a tree and it might have gotten to confusing with all the extra plant details in there.

Here are the final painting one last time so that you can see how it turned out... RAWR!

© 2012 Wizards of the Coast

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

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


  1. I really like the way the freaky tentacle pad is reaching out at me. You could have titled this piece Hook, Lines, and Sucker :)

  2. now thats a monster that really gets wrapped up in in it's work, ;P