Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shielding machine

This magic card is an odd card size. It is for the Archenemy Theme Decks and they are all printed in oversize.

I was asked to do a wizard in some kind of artifact shielding machine. How I wanted to portrait him was up to me as long as he looked, like his defenses was the top of the top. In the first versions I tried different orbs and spheres of energi, but they all looked too science fiction. So my last 2 sketches was these; with the wizard actually operating a real machine with a lot of shields. Quite basic and simple but right to the point, I thought.

Jeremy, the art director, liked the one with the little machine body and that one I took to final. I was thinking of an old typewriter when designing the legs of the spider-like machine and its arms.

The lightning was done as a means to get some dramatic light source and to add tension and movement. Also the shield in front has a shadow that suggest a foe in front of the machine.

Friday, September 24, 2010

PROCESS : Black Blade Blues

About a year ago, I was asked to do the cover for a novel called 'Black Blade Blues'. As usual, I asked the Art Director to send me the manuscript so that I can get some insight as to what the book is about. Upon reading it, I was really excited to discover that not only was the story well written, but that the subject matter could not be cooler. Here was a story about a rugged, female Blacksmith, with a white mohawk, who dons a black sword as she slays dragons in modern day Seattle! Very cool. Pleased as could be, I went about doing sketches.

As usual, I did my sketches in Photoshop. At this point, I do not use any reference. I am merely trying to convey a concept, and am not overly concerned about anatomical accuracy or realism. If the AD can tell what's going on, it'll suffice. Of course, it doesn't hurt to polish up those sketches that you really want them to pick.

I typically do anywhere from 2 to 4 sketches for a job.  In most of them, I kept exploring the idea of these glowing runes that have mysteriously appeared on the heroine's face and sword. The Art Director and I both had favorites, and deliberated over the phone as to which would be the most appropriate for the cover. Eventually we concluded that even though we felt some sketches had stronger compositions, it was sketch #3 that would sell the story best. Which brings us to Fantasy Marketing Rule #1: If there be dragons in the story, there better be dragons on the cover. Unfortunately, both the AD and I felt that having the Heroine's back turned toward the viewer gave the dragon more importance, and took away from the character driven aspects of the story. The AD requested that I do another sketch, similar to #3, but this time depicting the woman facing the viewer. I quickly got back to work, producing another sketch composed of bits and pieces of unused sketches and paintings from old jobs. The result is a bit 'frankenstein-ish' (as well as derivative), but it meant I could do the sketch VERY quickly, and email it to the AD before the work day ended. Slapdash or not, it got the idea across, and I got sketch approval before the weekend, giving me substantially more time for the final art.


Once I have sketch approval, I then book a model and proceed to shoot all the reference I will need for the painting. Having the approved sketch as a guide, I can shoot very efficiently, since I do not have to shoot a whole lot of alternate concepts. Rather, I focus on the pose, lighting and little details like the subtleties of her hands and facial expression. For things like dragons, where models are not an option, I often times build crude models out of a piece of Sculpey, or even my kneaded eraser, so that I can get a rough approximation of the lighting.

Once I have all my reference, I recompose my sketch in Photoshop and begin to draw in all the elements that are missing or no longer work because of a perspective or lighting shift. When I am happy with the results, I print out my new comp and begin graphing out the final painting.


I use Strathmore 500 Series Illustration Board, which I lightly gesso 3 times on each side. I do my final drawing directly on this board. Unfortunately, this process means that I have no original drawing left preserved. On the upside, I can get a very fine level of detail that will help me immensely when I paint the image. By doing a rather refined drawing, I can apply the oil paint very thinly, permitting the pencil to show through and do a lot of the work for me. This is particularly helpful when painting things like wood grain and denim jeans. Just a little glaze of color, and it looks completely done. Things like the face also start out very thin, as to preserve the drawing for as long as possible, but eventually become opaque as I grow confident in it's accuracy.

  

Once completed, about ten days later, I had the painting scanned and submitted it to the client. In this case, the AD didn't feel the dragon looked mean enough, so I had to alter it's head a little in Photoshop. I gave it horns, added some decay, and altered it's facial structure a bit to make it look less dinosaur-like. I later decided I liked it better that way too, and decided to revise the original painting to match.


"Black Blade Blues", for Tor Books. Image ©2009 Dan dos Santos
For more information on my oil painting process, as well as a hi-resolution wallpaper featuring this art, check out my website HERE.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dragon Magazine

This is a precious illustration to me. It is one of those where I took a step in a new direction. Where I took a chance and dared something out of the comfort zone, and also one , where I diverted a lot from the art description and hoped that they would go for it.

Jon Schindehette had just a week ago written an article in his blog Artorder, where he said that a good way to not get hired again, would be to stray too much from the art description. So when mailing him the sketch for this one, I was crossing my fingers that he would like the new approach...well he did, and I picked up the brushes.

In this painting I tried for the first time a zoomed out scene with smaller figures than what I am used to. I almost always focus on a main figure making a heroic portrait with a semi detailed background. I was in the mood for doing a more complex painting. also I wanted it to be more of a scene than a portrait. That is ofcause a lot more difficult, but I am glad I did. The painting shows a female wizard being hunted by Wyvern riders. ( there is one more on the rooftop ) I wanted to capture the moment where the hunter and the hunted sees each-other and the last fight begins. this is the moment that are always the most intense in roleplaying. I cannot count the times I have been in the situation where the pour wizard girl is, wounded, out numbered and without the equipment, that could safe you.

Notice the reward posters on the wall with her picture on them.

When painting the fighter I focused on making him a solid muscular guy leaning toward the heavy site, ( kind of like myself except for the muscles ) thus making him seem more real and dirty.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Multiples

A few rough drawings from the sketchbook.
Donato

Whydah Progress

48" x 96" Oil on panel
Large format selection