Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Dreamblade that never was - "Bound Cleaver"

I produced a lot of work for the Wizards of the Coast miniatures game Dreamblade and I have mentioned it MANY times here on the blog and elsewhere. It sometimes feels to me like this blog is just full of nothing but post about Dreamblade and yet there is work from the game I have never shared here. There are many reasons why my work from a now long gone miniatures game has never appeared here but more and more the main reason is that I am embarrassed by the quality of the remaining pieces (but not always). As the work on the game becomes 6 - 8 years old, it is hard to not see a widening gap in the quality level of the work compared to my current work... and maybe that is the perfect reason to share it.

Today I have for you a piece that was never actually released as a miniature. It was a design I came up with on my own that production purchased for me around the time I was working on the second expansion of the game in late 2005. I titled the piece "Bound Cleaver" and it was a appropriate name seeing how the figure was bound and had a big axe...

"Bound Cleaver"
© 2005 Wizards of the Coast LLC

I can spend a lot of time going over this old drawing tearing design, anatomy, and technique apart but that really won't accomplish anything. I drew this in late 2005 and it is what it is. I remember working on this drawing and the other from this expansion very clearly and I was trying to do the best I could as fast as I could.

Jump ahead to 2013. I revisited the "Bound Cleaver" design so that I could have content to post here on the blog - one of my personal assignment to work on my design skills, give me some perspective on my work and progress, and to make sure I allow myself time to draw on my own time. This new version came together rather quickly, probably quicker then it took me to create the original to tell you the truth. Here is my updated concept for the "Bound Cleaver"...

"Bound Cleaver" Redux
© 2013 Christopher Burdett

If you take anything away from this post, and it is the thing that I am trying to force myself to take notice of and remember... No matter what skill level you are at, if you want to improve, YOU CAN. It just takes time and hard work. There are no shortcuts. It takes everybody different amounts of time and different amounts of hard work, but it can be done. Here is the evidence...

"Bound Cleaver" comparison

I think I can now talk a little about some of the changes and some of my thoughts on this piece. The original idea behind this is sound and I am still excited by it, but I did not push it far enough in the original version...

First off, DESIGN... The straps in the original are all uniform and generic, and frankly look like rubber bands. This can be fixed by making the straps more diverse in size, direction, material, and detail. If this guy is bound up why does he not use that free hand holding the axe to unstrap himself? Good question! Strap his hand down to the axe. The locks are a great idea and detail, move them around the form for interest to make it look and feel more secure. That axe... add  a bit more style and look at some actual axe reference before just making marks on the paper. Also, make sure you are consistent with the perspective on the axe so that the axe head and handle are not at different angles. Lastly, You have a monstrous abomination that is strapped and bound tight hopping around on one leg with a huge axe in his massive arm... why not add to it by putting the salvation to his torture in sight with a ring around his arm containing all the keys needed to free himself... yet he has no way of doing anything about it... 

Second, ANATOMY... This is a lot more straight forward... look at and practice rendering more interesting and believable anatomical forms. Push the anatomy to give a much bigger threatening arm for the axe. Broaden the chest to show strength and make it a more threatening form. Better realize the face and provide more form and correct anatomy - look at reference. Why not show ears and hair from head as the skin is pulled back and strapped around the body. Give everything more of a bend and twist to make the entire form more interest and flow. Knees and elbows can bend, locked joints make things look stiff.

I know improving is hard work. It has taken me a lot of time and work to get to where I am and I know I have plenty of room to keep pushing and growing and it will take more hard work and time for me to get there. Keep up the fight and keep up the drawing!

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. Yep it takes a really long time to assimilate averything (anatomy, composition, light,etc...) it is a work of a lifetime.
    It is the only way and it's a notion beginners have difficulty to apprehend.

    1. It is the hard reality of any skill based activity or job. Time and hard work. I just wish that fact was pushed more in schools. Might be a good wake up call for folks that might be better served finding a different path as well as bracing others that they are just starting on the life long road. ...but you kind of need to come to this realization on your own when you are ready.

  2. I like how you explained exactly what you did to improve the image.

    1. Good to hear, glad you liked it. I wanted to show that while a big part of a better design is better rendering skills, it is also VERY important to be smarter about the design as well. I idea behind the design, the story or narrative involved with the character, monsters, or concept is also EXTREMELY important. I hope I showed that asking questions from the design and answering them to tell a story really helps makes a better design too.