I was contacted a short while back by my friend, Steven Creech of Dragon Wing Games, to re-visit a book cover I had done eleven years ago for his former imprint, Bastion Press.
The role-playing game book’s title is “Lore of the Gods”.
My early cover for the book featured a woman who had uncovered a book detailing the deities of antiquity across multiple cultures. Here is that original image from around 2003.
At the time, I was working digitally in Corel Painter 6.
This was the best I was capable of at the time, only a couple of years into my career and learning fundamental skills along the way.
When Steve came to me with the opportunity to produce a new cover with my current skill set and new tools at my disposal, I jumped at the chance.
The first step was to produce a new sketch that we could agree upon as the new cover.
I wanted to do something completely different in both tone and scale. While my first cover chose classical themes within mythology, I felt that the new cover could be be culled straight from my imagination without nods to Earth mythology.
Enter this sketch that was agreed upon as a good direction to play with. A strange god bursting through the rock of a mountainside in defense of a massive temple located on the slopes above.
Once the rough sketch was approved, the pencil stage was begun.
It was interesting to challenge myself with an untethered imagination.
Key features would be alien-looking armor and shield that did not strap to the body, but, instead, floated above the god’s flesh. Spinning disk-like devices with unknown functions.
A mountainside being sundered by the deific warrior.
Once the pencils were approved, I proceeded to the tonal under-painting with washes of gray mixed from ultramarine blue and burnt umber. Touches of gray archival marker were also used to help preserve the drawing when painting was begun.
After the tonal under-painting is complete, I start washing in the basic colors. This process is a series of washes that slowly builds up the colors in the piece one layer at a time. It is like watching a polaroid develop over the course of hours and days.
I work from background to foreground as I paint. This keeps me from having to re-work areas of the foreground later in the painting that might get damaged by painting into the background after working so hard.
Once all the basic elements are in place and buttoned down, I go through a stage wherein the painting receives needed detail as well as “special effects” ( highlights, spell effects).
Shadows are deepened where appropriate. Colors punched up where needed.
Of particular note to this image was the special attention given to the god’s armor where I gave the metal a strange iridescence to add to its alien appearance. That was FUN!
I also removed some of the structures in the background in favor of one large temple to simplify things and produce a more pleasing design.
Much can be done with paint when changes need to be made on the fly.
The painting was finally scanned for the publisher and varnished for presentation.
This assignment needed a rush order to be placed on it, because the deadline fell directly in the middle of my exhibiting at Gencon 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Far away from my studio.
I made the deadline for Dragonwing Games by working many long days and late nights.
Not unusual for a professional illustrator.
They were pleased with my work, I am happy to report.
We are all excited to see this book out on store shelves ( digital or otherwise).
The piece was on display at my booth in the Art Show and on Friday night of the convention, it was awarded a “Juror’s Choice Award” by Aaron Miller, painter extraordinaire!
A happy ending to an already great experience.
One can’t ask for better. :)
Onto the next assignment!
More about my work can be spotted on Facebook at The Art of Jeremy McHugh.
This painting is available for purchase.