Today, I am happy to share the process and steps for one of my contributions to the Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Spelljammer Adventures in Space. This is one of two contributions to the book, both depicting Aartuks. The Aartuk are a plant monster that can be found in space, as these things typically are. Here is the final painting for the Aartuk Elder.
The Aartuk are established Spelljammer monsters, but this time around, they were getting reworked and updated. Most of the design work was already done when I received the assignment, but with all of these, I am given the room and freedom to flesh out the creature and add some RAWR to it. The Aartuk Elder was described as:
This is a Large creature, about 10 to 12 feet in diameter. Let’s see the creature standing on the tips of its branches. Aartuks are intelligent vegetables. An aartuk’s body has the general shape of a five-pointed star and is covered with thick, flexible bark that can be white, tan, brown, or green. The aartuk needs three or more of its branches to walk, while the tips of its branches end in suction cups that allow the aartuk to climb vertical surfaces and along ceilings. Each suction cup houses a cluster of three retractable pseudopods that can be used to handle and manipulate small objects. The head of an aartuk surmounts
This all sounds like a fun monster to work on. As I was working on two of the same creature, I needed to make sure they looked the same and different from each other as individuals. So their poses needed to be distinct from the beginning. Here are the thumbnails that I submitted.
I have mentioned before that when it comes time to do one of these process posts, I often see all of the supporting art for the first time in a year, two years, and even longer. Often I reflect on the thumbnails and how I now understand why they picked the ones they did or lament the ones they didn't. A little time away from the drawings allows you to see them with fresh eyes. In this case, I am so happy that they picked 'A' from the submitted thumbnails. Looking at the three of them again now, I don't really like 'B' or 'C' anymore, and I am glad they weren't chosen. Also, unlike some of my recent assignments, no revisions were requested on the thumbnails. The first one I did was selected without comment, which pleases me. I always like a 'one and done'!
I always do a final traditional drawing for every project to work out the details and to give myself a tangible product from the assignment. Here are the two stages of the Aartuk Elder drawing, the mid-stage line art and the final rendered drawing.
As with the thumbnail, the drawing was approved without comment, and it was time to start on the final painting. Here is the painting of the Aartuk Elder taking shape.
There were no significant changes or revisions along the way, I sat down, and over a few short sessions, I completed it. I had my color and texture reference already selected, which meant I only needed to be in the chair, and eventually, the piece would be done. Within the past year, I have been trying to make more of a note of how long I spend painting on an assignment. The thumbnails and drawing are part of the process. The most significant time commitment for me is the painting. After all these years of painting monsters, I have gotten to wonder how long it actually takes me to make one of these. From what I can determine, a standard quarter-page isolated monster takes me about five hours of work. Mileage may vary, but from what I have been able to tell from recent assignments it that if I am uninterrupted and have a plan going into it, I can have a finished piece in the five hour range. Not too bad, I think. Much improved from my early days as an artist when it took me a week to do some pieces. Here again, is the final painting for the Aartuk Elder.
That's all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog. See you back here on Friday! Until then...
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