Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia - Process

On Monday, I shared with you the newest addition to the Grand Bazaar of  Ethra VanDalia, the Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia. Today I am sharing the process and steps that went into creating this drawing. This piece has been in my head for a while now. I knew it needed to be completed for the book, but it remained a rather daunting feat that I continually kicked down the road. Once I had plans to attend the Fantasy Art Workshop Illustration Intensive, I knew the opportunity to tackle this drawing was finally at hand. Not only would I have a week of unobstructed work time, but I would also be surrounded by friends and peers in the industry that I could turn to for advice. I think it is safe to say that my plan worked out, and I was able to successfully finish this drawing, in record time, thanks to beginning it at the workshop. To get things started, here again is the completed drawing.

The Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia
30 x 20 - Pencil, acrylic paint, and ink on paper
Original - Available!
© 2019 Christopher Burdett

The challenge of completing a drawing of this size and complexity was not the only reason I kept postponing starting it. I needed to make sure that I had everything that needs to be in the Bazaar when it is being depicted so that nothing is forgotten. While I most likely will not be directly indicating what everything in the image is, I personally needed to make sure it was there for my peace of mind and storytelling. I maintained a list of the critical elements that need to be included. To be honest, with the sheer size and quantity of the megastructures in the Bazaar at the period depicted in this drawing, most of the key locations mentioned in the book can not be seen in this map. More on this another day. Like all of the other environmental pieces created for the book, I started with pencil thumbnails to work out the rough ideas and to begin to lay the Bazaar out.

The Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia - Thumbnail
  11 x 8.5 - Pencil on paper
© 2019 Christopher Burdett

Once I had the thumbnail more or less where it needed to be, I scanned it and began the digital sketch to work out the larger elements and details. The Bazaar finally started taking shape at this point. From the megastructures, the port, and the very landscape, I needed to make sure they were arranged and depicted for aspects of the story. Some of these aspects are not for this book, but for later stories. Here is the final digital sketch for the Bazaar.

The Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia - Sketch
  11.2 x 7.5 - Digital
© 2019 Christopher Burdett

Now that the digital sketch is complete, it was time to upscale it, reduce the opacity, and transfer it to the paper. I have a large format print shop in town that helps me with that. I had initially planned to go to the workshop with my sketch and blank paper. I would discuss the drawing and make any needed changes, at which point I would transfer the sketch to the paper by hand using a projector. That is the way it SHOULD be done. The only issue is that I would lose a LOT of time and spend a LOT of energy transferring a sketch containing many elements that can not be changed. The goal and purpose of programs like the Fantasy Art Workshop Illustration Intensive are to take your ideas, push you to make something better and beyond your current skill set and have you leave with something greater than you arrived with. I was coming with a piece already planned out, that was for a book I have been working on for years, containing a LOT of content and details that are not up for revision. I was in no way against edits, changes, and modifications, but there were limits to what I could do to this piece and still be what it needs for the project. At the end of the day, I weighed my options, and at the last minute, I went ahead a had the sketch printed on the paper so that I could more effectively use my time at the workshop producing this piece. During the critique, I did get some critical feedback. I needed to adjust the perspective of the aqueducts and the farmlands. Both were a bit wonky in the sketch. I needed to be sure that the exterior wall was taller and more extensive in the foreground than the areas of the Bazaar in the distance. It was suggested, by someone not even attending the workshop, that I better emphasize Ethra's tower to make it more prominent and to create a more sizable landmark in the skyline. I am sure I forget one or two other pieces of feedback, but these were the main ones. These revisions were quickly addressed as I began working on linework and made a significant difference in the final drawings. Here is the final line work that I scanned before starting the rendering.

The Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia - Drawing
30 x 20 - Pencil on paper
© 2019 Christopher Burdett

The rest was just hard work. The linework came together rather quickly and was a lot of fun. The black render pass always takes the longest and is the hardest part of making one of these drawings. It is, after all, when all of the form, lighting, and detail takes form. When I arrive at the white render, paint, and ink passes, the drawing quickly comes to completion. Laying down the white pencil and paint is also a lot of fun. Here are some images of the drawing taking shape to showsee how I move around the paper to complete a drawing of this size and complexity.

The Grand Map of the Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia - Process

Here are all of the monsters appearing in the first volume of The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia: Aberrant Stilter, Belled Kreep, Corrupted Knight, Dight-Kin, Eau-de-nil Elder, Ethra VanDalia, Footman, Gray Wanderer, Gullet, Humgruffin Mother, Irritated Girasol, Judicator, Kiplorbic Animal Dealer, Lammergeier Transport, Myopic Riflemen, Nimsbane Curse Victim, Ophiomornous Bureaucrat, Petrous Blacksmith, Quincaillerie, Rapacious Guttersnipe, Saint Marque, Smokestack, Thrice, Uncanny Scribe, Virulent Artificer, Woven Egg, Woven Shaper, Xandrell Tree, Yote Arms Dealer, and Zombic Spore.

Here are all of the environmental pieces appearing in the first volume of The Grand Bazaar of Ethra VanDalia: Air Shops, Busy Streets, Hollow Alley, Keeper of the Clocks, Sunken Stalls, The Grand Bazaar, The Seated Dead

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. Abssolutely amazing! I love seeing the process and I am just bewildered by your creativity and talent. Keep up the fantastic work.