DnD Female Mage
D&D 3.75 Sorceress 2012

Depth. That's what I think when I look at these new renders and compare them with their old counterparts. The originals look flat as if they're every bit a part of the pages they're drawn on like the embellishments found on an ancient Egyptian artifact. But more and more I'm pleased to note my work takes on a three-dimensionality where the paper becomes a window into the imagination.

The Mage always had a name, Mara, as she was a Non-Player Character (NPC) in the Dungeons & Dragons game I ran at the time; however, the original entry did not mention it—I'm guessing because I was disappointed in that render, and also she had a key role in the plot that I didn't want to give away (as if anyone looks at this crap.) In the original entry I wrote, “I actually had a particular face in mind when I put the pencil to the paper” but I'll be damned if I could remember whose because, as that same entry pointed out, “it never really developed” which is the polite way of putting it (seriously, what happened? I had a front view eye on a three-quarter head. The hell was I thinking?!).

Mara is an Aasimar which is something of a catch-all distant descendant of humans and celestials (for direct descendents, there's the half-celestial template), so in the 3.5 core materials their appearance isn't really nailed down the same way, say, Orcs, Dwarves, or Gnomes are. So, I gave Mara slightly pointed ears because I wanted a fairly obvious (but still subtle) trace that she's not human, and interestingly enough by rendering a more anatomically correct pointed ear, I think she balances exotic and attractiveness better than most renders of, say, Elves who are supposed to be these unbelievably beautiful creatures who just look overly exotic to the point of awkwardness (okay, Aribeth de Tylmarande from Neverwinter Nights is crazy hot, but other than her ...)

Like with Chivalry 2012, I pulled up the original and read over my commentary to solidify what I wanted to do with this update, what issues I wanted to target (the flatness, generic lighting, a landscape-oriented composition squeezed into a portrait orientation) and went down the list knocking them out. I also referenced a photo for her hair as the original's looks like she just got out of the shower. I've always felt like I've fallen short when rendering women's hair with all the interesting possibilities out there.

And actually, this drawing was started first (much earlier than Chivalry) but finished the same day because after initial lines I set it aside, forgot about it, and Chivalry 2012 reminded me. “Um, wait a minute, didn't I have another one of these laying around here? Aha!”

Despite seven years worth of advancements which allowed me to capture far more detail on a page nearly half the size of the original (8.5X11 versus 11x14), I can't help but notice there's a few mistakes in common. Her hand is off (it's a little misplaced and misproportioned ... leaving and returning to the frame still gives me problems.) Also her shoulders don't look quite right (I clearly still haven't drawn that angle enough to quite get it right sans reference). But, at least they're not as bad as before. Anyway, I really like the lighting on her skin, the highlights, and the overall flow of this composition.

Interestingly, her tattoo has changed (it's barely visible in the original ... good luck spotting it) because when writing sometimes ideas and descriptions don't translate as well into visuals (probably why I didn't bother darkening the old tattoo.) Both versions of her tattoo, the stems of the roses are supposed to go into her hairline and re-emerges behind the ear, flowing down her body; however, I didn't draw the latter part because I was timid about messing up what'd already drawn (yet another example where concept sketches come in handy). Oh well. It gives me something to do for D&D Female Mage 3 when I reveal Mara's last name and Charisma modifier.

—Jay Wilson

Seven Years Earlier: D&D Female Mage, Take One