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Work in Progress: Welcome to My Humble Abode

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I’ve been digging into my first full scale GFB illustration, “Welcome to My Humble Abode.” This illustration is for a “Manor” card, in which a wealthy patron is welcoming a player to his country estate.

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The original sketch for “Manor”, above has the patron standing in front of his house as though about to welcome a guest inside. While this got the point across, I took a second look at how I had designed it and realized that his posture was a bit stiff and puppet like. I went back to the drawing board and came up with a new concept of the patron much closer to the viewer and gesturing to the countryside beyond as though he is showing off his lands and property.

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Going back and reworking ideas at this rough stage is so important. I think that when I first started out as an illustrator, I was loathe to re-conceptualize an initial idea, no matter how flawed that idea might have been. It just felt like a waste of time when I could have been painting! But, over the years I’ve come to realize that these thumbnail scribbles are little creative nuggets of their own, meant to be turned over, inspected and improved. Painting is always my favorite part of illustration, but I’ve learned to savor the freeform nature of thumbnailing for its boundless creative potential. There’s something wonderful about the open endedness of a thumbnail sketch before reference and realistic detail get involved and gum up the works!

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Next, I proceeded to shoot some reference of myself for the patron character. I took around 15 photos, found the best 3 and photoshopped them together. Yes, the goofy looking wig I’m wearing for the shot is actually really helpful! These 18th century characters had incredibly huge wigs, so having at least a small one to look at and see in a lighting context is really handy.  Fun fact: I’m actually wearing two coats, one inside the other. After doing a lot of fashion research, I discovered that these men almost always wore a really large vest/waistcoat inside their outer coat. In order to get this look of volume, I just wore two coats inside of each other and it has worked out pretty well. Also, the cravat around my neck is actually one of my wife’s blouses. It had the right lace material, so I folded it up and tucked it inside my collar and it replicates a fluffy cravat quite nicely.

I also modeled the manor house in 3D. I’ve mentioned this before, but it it still surprises me just how much Blender has become part of my reference workflow. I knew I wanted a country manor at sunset for this illustration, so I built and lit one of my own creation in about an hour. In the past, I would have spent much more time trying to find just the right photo of a particular house online, then doing a bunch of jury-rigging to get that house to look the way I wanted. Such a game-changer!

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A whole lot of painting later and we get to this current work in progress. Still a lot of work to do, but the majority of the early work in establishing the forms, values and colors is done. I shared this on Instagram, but in case you haven’t seen it, I created a very quick 1 minute timelapse video of some of the work I did on the character’s face, here: https://youtu.be/OwyR9WSclJ8

Can’t wait to jump back into this one, I’m having a lot of fun with it!