I used to take on projects for other people so that I can get experience drawing a variety of things. Although, in truth, most of my friends are into fantasy or D&D or something of the like which translates to people wanting me to draw swords/armor/stuff etc (some of the most boring things to draw realistically, IMO.) But, never mind.

This render was of a friend’s character in a D&D campaign. Being a writer, Mark wrote up a prologue and, if memory serves me correctly, he also sent some reference pictures for the sword. I did a series of very rough sketches to give a few possibilities so he and I can shape the character visually—a couple ideas for the sword, for the armor, etc. I don’t think we ever discussed what the pose/background would be, but I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do thanks to the material that Mark had written. And, funny thing, if you work with someone who can articulate their ideas ... you don’t really need to ask.

This was a landmark drawing for me in several ways. Some of the drawings leading up to this one had given me ideas on how to render hair (more) realistically, and this one pretty much solidified the technique. I wanted to focus in on the textures so that the cloak would appear to be made of fabric, which should look different than flesh, which should look different from hair and so on.

But the effect that actually intimidated me was the background. I wanted the image to appear like a composite. Kind of a still shot version of a movie montage that would suggest the spectrum of the character’s personality and history ... and I wanted to do it by hand and not cheat with Adobe Photoshop.

It intimidated me because that meant 1 - I had to draw the figure in the foreground (which, I’ve never been too strong at profiles) and the background, 2 - I had to draw the sword, 3 - I had to overlay the flame texture so that the designs underneath were still visible and distinguishable, and 4 - the image still had to remain balanced, have the correct focal points, and flow.

Like all of my drawings (especially from that era), lots and lots and lots of subtle mistakes (most natably the arm extending to the guitar and its lack of a wrist, the clothing doesn’t quite flow like fabric should, etc). But considering how ambitious the drawing was—the fact I was taking on way more then I knew I was comfortable with—they really don’t bother me at all. It could have turned out a lot worse. All things considered, it’s probably the best drawing I did at the time.

Going back to a statement made earlier—the nice thing about doing renders for other people is that you wind up doing images you wouldn’t do on your own. I don’t think this montage effect is my style. It’s not something I would have done then nor is it something I’d do now. However, now I know that I can do it, so my style is a little more shaped by choice rather than it being the only thing I can do. Also, I still draw upon the lessons I learned from this render in the stuff I do today. So, thanks Mark.