Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Smaug the Golden - Process

Back in March I shared with you the two Smaug pieces that I have in the second Hobbit themed expansion to the Lord of the Rings living card game, On the Doorstep. Today I have for you the various production steps and process progression for the first of my two Smaug pieces, Smaug the Golden. Before we get started on how I went about creating it, here is how the finished piece turned out...

Smaug the Golden
© 2013 Fantasy Flight Games

When I was first contacted to design and illustrate Smaug I knew I had to take the assignment and I also knew I had to NOT think about the fact that I am designing and illustrating Smaug... There is just so much baggage and history associated with certain projects and subject matters. For me to get through them it is best to not think too much about them and focus on making something 'cool' rather then making 'the MOST recognizable dragon in popular culture'. I needed to paint a really awesome giant red dragon laying on a pile of gold... okay, I can do that. The fact that it is Smaug with all his history and the various interpretations is not unimportant. I will make better work when I am concerned about the composition, light, color, and mood rather then worrying about the fact that this is Smaug from the Hobbit.

I went into this project with some thoughts and ideas about what I wanted to do with the look and feel for the dragon - much of which I would later go onto flesh out and build upon when I later worked on the three Smaug pieces for the Battle of Lake-Town deck. As always, I stated with some thumbnails. I was trying some things out and seeing what works and what does not at this point. There were several versions that were deleted before these three were submitted...

Smaug the Golden - Thumbnails
© 2013 Fantasy Flight Games

As you can see there are double crop points on the images. The square is for the client use and the larger rectangle is the size I will creating the art for myself... and for the client if they want to use if for additional purposes. There is no point in doing paintings of Smaug if I can't get something that will be usable beyond the life of the trading card. Option "B" was picked and I moved forward with the drawing...

Smaug the Golden - Drawing
© 2013 Fantasy Flight Games

I did just a little work on the drawing... This is where I finally worked out all my idea and decided on a final look and direction of my interpretation of Smaug. From this point on all my other Smaug work will refer back to this drawing and the eventual painting. I turned the drawing in and it was double checked on the card template to make sure I was good to go for the final illustration...

Smaug the Golden - Drawing mock up in template
© 2013 Fantasy Flight Games

Check twice, cut once...  Looks like I was not looking closely enough at all the chrome that these cards have and to make sure Smaug's nose was not hidden the art had to be shrunk to a smaller size then I anticipated. Move forward I needed to add the appropriate amount of additional image at the bottom. Remember kids, your art director kills a kitten every time you don't use the supplied templates! Think of the kittens and use you templates...

Now that I have an approved drawing with the caveat to add additional imagery to the bottom I moved forward with painting the final piece...

Smaug the Golden - Precess progression
© 2013 Fantasy Flight Games

It has been a while since I did the original for this so I am not really sure how long it actually took, but it feels like it went really quickly all things considered. I remember doing a lot of sitting and staring to make sure it was working and read well. Enough can not be said for simply sitting and reflecting on the piece. Not all the work is done with your hands. That stuff between your ears has a lot of work to do on a painting too. Sitting, staring, reflecting, and thinking are all important steps in the painting process. ...for me at least.

Here is how the final art turned out on the card...

Smaug the Golden in hand card form!

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. Alright got a specific one for you this time Chris, what method (how do you) set up your line drawing so that you can color "under" it, coloring so that the lines are not covered up, if that makes any sense. I see underdrawings used all the time by artist in Imagine FX, but NO ONE describes what settings, masks, layers whatever they do so that they are not painting completely over the image. Sorry if I sound frustrated, as some who is self-teaching themselves photoshop (having never had a computer art class in college) it's annoying in full printed tutorials that most of the writers assume people know certain things.

    1. I will do a post detailing what I do with the drawing and under painting very soon. Hopefully this will clarify what I do! THANKS!

    2. I have addressed you question, here is a link to the related post...