Today, I am happy to share the process and steps for one of my contributions to the Dungeons & Dragons supplement, Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse. This second contribution is the Star Spawn Mangler. The Star Spawn are established monsters, but I was asked to give them a little bit of a new polish and a little bit of new life. Here is the final painting for the Star Spawn Mangler.
While these are established monsters, and I was asked to update them, there was still a bit of direction from production and a lot to work with. It was described as:
"It has a bipedal, vaguely humanoid body and an elongated blueish-purple torso that resembles a CENTIPEDE. From its shoulders it has six clawed arms instead of two. Its figure appears emaciated. Its face has humanoid features, but it is narrow, giving it an aerodynamic feel.
The star pawn is in a hunched posture, appearing shorter than it really is. It looks like its coiled, ready to lunge at an offscreen target."
You had me at centipede! I do love a good insect or reptilian monster. It was time for some thumbnails, so I made my best Star Spawn Mangler impression, and my wife took lots of images of me. I knew what it needed to look like. The photoshoot allowed me to work out the physicality of the monster and figure out how it acted and took up space. Here are the thumbnails that I submitted.
Not sure I had a favorite with these thumbnails. They all have the potential to be cool monsters. There is something about the arms in 'B' that I still like. I imagined them pinwheeling through the air as they slashed at the players. Needless to say that 'A' was the winner, though I was asked to make some changes. Production preferred the nose slits on the other thumbnails, and they wanted the arms to be a bit thinner. I made the requested modifications and submitted a revised thumbnail.
So close. The revised thumbnail still wasn't perfect. Production asked that the monster didn't skip leg day and bulk out its lower appendages. It may be thin, but it can run and jump if called for. Here is the updated revised thumbnail.
The third time is the charm! This updated revised version hit the mark and was accepted. It was now time to move closer to the painting. 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 Star Spawn Mangler drawing, the mid-stage line art, and the final rendered drawing.
With an approved drawing, it was time to start painting. This was another of those paintings that, in my head, should go quickly and be relatively painless. I was a little concerned about my color choices. While I was mindful of what I was asked to do, I also wanted to have some fun and do something interesting. In the end, I did all of the above. Here is the painting for Star Spawn Mangler taking shape.
I typically look to nature when selecting colors for a piece. Even when you want to make something acid blue, there is plenty to look at when searching for reference. One of the significant issues I had to overcome, and in some ways, I am still working on it, is the battle with local color. Even if something is BLUE... it is not really, or at least not completely blue. The world is full of color, and those colors are constantly interacting with each other as light bounces, reflects, and is absorbed by objects. It might be a blue monster, but I am adding green, purples, reds, and more to make it more complex and visually interesting. I make sure the hands, belly, and face have contrast and interest. Does it make a difference? Maybe, or maybe not. I know I have a more enjoyable artistic experience when I do this. My art directors are generally happy too. I have so much more to learn about color. That is why I live in a world of blacks and whites in my work. Here again, is the final painting for the Star Spawn Mangler.
That's all for another exciting Wednesday on the blog. See you back here on Friday! Until then...
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