Sky Raider

September 18, 2013

So It’s been almost a year since I’ve sat down and painted on a fantasy/sci fi illustration. I’ve taken this time off from my main passion because over the past ten plus years I’ve ground myself into the dirt with it and couldn’t even see my own right hand objectively.

I took the past year and spent a lot of time working on children’s book illustrations and cartoons. I discovered that these things come very naturally to me and seem to flow effortlessly from me. While cartoons are still a lot of work, there is something different about working in a way that intentionally abandons realism and focuses more on character and expression.

I realized that my fantasy work needs to feel effortless and not overworked. So now the time has come and I’m ready and able to get back to it. I’ve decided that my portfolio doesn’t have enough dragons, and it certainly doesn’t have enough bad ass hobgoblins riding dragons.

With this illustration I am trying to focus on a few things that always seem to allude me: good strong silhouettes, smooth gradated blue skies, and effective composition.

Initial Sketch

I started by doing a quick pen doodle based on a few other sketches that will never be allowed to see the light of day. For me the challenge of this kind of subject always comes with joining the two figures and making them look like they are actually interacting comfortably with each other. A scribbled pen sketch allows me to put things down with out being able to second guess them.


After I finished the pen sketch, I scanned it in, grayed it out and printed it on copy paper so I could work over it in pencil. This allowed me to really work out where everything belonged without having to commit to it. As you can see I over committed to the dragon’s head which ended up being a bit on the large side. So I shrunk it in photoshop.


Next I scanned and re printed the image and inked over the top of it to create a clean layout for the final art. I made a few more changes such as adjusting the size and placement of the wing behind the hobgoblin. The advantage of working up the sketch in this way allows for revisions at each stage while also allowing me to keep what I like about the drawing.Sky Study

Because I always have trouble painting gradated blue skies, I decided it would be worth it to take the time to do a real study first to see if it was even possible. I discovered it is. I just have to be patient and work in layers and not be too heavy handed and use a hair dryer between layers.


Next I decided to do a quick color comp. I inserted my sky study as a background and quickly added some other colors in photoshop to give me a rough guide to work from once I start with the real paint.

Hopefully this more methodical approach will allow me navigate the perilous waters of the creative process without ending up on the rocks and ultimately having to use photoshop as my life boat as I have so many times in the past.  I’m hoping to have this done by the end of the week… because speed is also something I need to work on.


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