More Hobbit Stuff

Bard_12b

Bard the Bowman

I’m back!

I have a couple of new paintings I did for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth by Kabam.

Like with the other paintings I did for Kabam (more here, and here), these were painted on a transparent background so that they could be dropped directly into the game. This time they requested full figures, so no sketchy legs!

I was actually working on these paintings while I was sitting in the hospital waiting for my wife to give birth to our son. We were in the hospital for 4 days, so I had plenty of time to work on my freelance. Good thing I have a Wacom Companion!

It’s pretty hard to believe that I’ve been doing paintings for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth for more than two years now. I think so far I’ve created a total of 38 paintings, not counting a few head changes. I ended up painting two different heads for Legolas and Elrond.

Master_of_Laketown_13b

Master of Laketown

The Master

The Master of Laketown was fun to paint, but it was hard. There aren’t very many high resolution images online of his outfit, so I couldn’t go into as much detail as I could with the other characters. With the other characters I actually received high resolution production images from the film, which was great. This time I didn’t receive any production images of Bard the Bowman or the Master of Laketown. Google was my friend.

It’s funny because after I turned in my painting, they said that the style of their game assets had changed and they needed something more loose and less detailed. I ended up going back through my old iterations (luckily I keep them all) and used some of my looser WIPs to create a less refined painting.

These are the more detailed versions because I like them better. I think they match my other paintings better than the loose versions, which makes sense because they are all part of the same game.

Ok I lied, these are actually a hybrid of the more detailed version and the less detailed version. I liked some parts of the looser version and some parts of the more refined version, so I just masked out certain areas. Sometimes you can add too much detail. I think I got carried away in some areas.

Vastriel_Upper_Body

Vastriel

Vastriel

Vastriel is a new character Kabam wanted me to create for the game. Creating a new character for an IP like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is incredibly daunting. It is a great opportunity to expand the universe, but you might end up upsetting the fans. It is even harder when creating a female character, especially in a fantasy genre.

The designs in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are definitely more historical than fantastical, so I didn’t want to go into too much high fantasy. Of course there is always the problem of female armor too. You won’t see any mail bikinis in The Hobbit, so you won’t see any on Vastriel either. I also didn’t want to take the route of boob armor.

I painted Vastriel back when I was working on the first paintings I did for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth, so she is probably about two years old now. I posted the avatar I painted of her a long time ago, but I never posted the full painting. Her legs aren’t painted because you will never see her legs in the game.

Here is the description I was given.

Vastriel is a Rivendell loremaster who has armed herself with artifacts. Long red hair, pieces of armor over an elvish gown or robes, attractive, appears about 30. Sword and shield. She’s driven, almost obsessed — with finding artifacts, protecting her people, and killing Orcs. 

 

She needed to be armored enough to look like she could take out some Orcs, but not so big and bulky that she lost her femininity. Of course she also needed a book since she is a loremaster! I didn’t want to add too many artifacts and knickknacks to her belt since that might get too much into high fantasy, but I thought one book would probably be ok.

Stealing the Arkenstone

Stealing the Arkenstone

Smaug

This was the last painting I did for The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. Maybe they will hire me to do some more paintings in the future, but as of right now, this was my last painting.

When they asked me to paint Bilbo stealing the Arkenstone, I think my eyes glazed over. All I could think about was “how in the world am I going to paint all of those coins?” I didn’t think about how I was going to paint Bilbo or Smaug or the environment, no, only those cursed coins.

I think I ended up trying several methods. A coin brush didn’t really work and photo textures didn’t really work, so I ended up just painting them all by hand. They are all really loose, so it wasn’t like I was spending hours and hours painting each coin. I think trying to decide how refined to paint the coins was also a problem. How big was this painting going to be seen? Would I need to render the coins out or just hint at them?

This actually isn’t the version that was released. After I had painted this version, they had asked me to remove the Arkenstone and make Bilbo bigger. I’m not sure why they wanted me to take out the Arkenstone, but I think the painting works much better with it. Not only does it help guide your eye, but it is also an important storytelling element.

Well, it has been a great two years. Hopefully this won’t be the last you’ll see of me when it comes to Middle-earth.

Kabam Stuff

Ravenmarch Poster 16

Ravenmarch: Empire in Flames

I have a few new things that came out recently for Kabam. By recently I mean they probably came out a couple of months ago; sometimes it is hard keeping track of when my paintings have been released.

The first is a poster for the game Ravenmarch: Empire in Flames. It is a free-to-play game, so go check it out!

The turnaround for this one was fairly short. I think after I turned in my color comps I finished the final in a week. I was given reference for the character designs, so I can’t take credit for them.

I left the top and bottom fairly open because they needed to add the title and credits. I also wanted to leave the bottom fairly dark so that you could read the text.

The next two paintings are for the games The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age (browser) and The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth (mobile).

I had already painted Gandalf before, but they wanted a new version. Originally I wanted to paint his face in a different angle so that it wouldn’t look too much like my first painting, but they ended up wanting another 3/4 view.

The entire time leading up to and after the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I avoided looking at any images of Smaug. I didn’t watch the trailers, I didn’t look anything up about the movie, nothing. I wanted to be surprised when I saw him for the first time while watching the movie.

Of course I then received an email from Kabam asking me to paint Smaug. Noooo, spoilers! It was funny though because they kept asking me to make him look like he does in the movie, but I had no idea what he looked like. I also didn’t know anything about the fire effect on his neck before he spits fire, so I was a total noob when it came to Smaug. Luckily they were able to give me some reference.

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age

orcreaver

Orc Reaver

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age, by Kabam, is now live! I played the game for a bit to see which of my paintings are in it that I haven’t already posted. There might be some more in the game that I haven’t posted, so if I ever see those in the game I’ll be sure and post them as well.

Looking at my files, I think there are at least 10 more paintings that I haven’t posted yet. Well, there are actually a few more but I’m not as happy with those so I probably won’t post them. :O

If you play the game, you might notice that a few of the paintings look different in the game than what I have posted. After my paintings left my hands, a few of the concept artists over at Kabam made some changes so that the paintings would fit better with their game.

Sometimes gameplay or designs change, so it isn’t uncommon for video game companies to change your art after you turn in your finals. Unfortunately I don’t have any of the changed files, so I can only post the images I created. I think they did a great job changing my paintings! The artists over at Kabam are awesome.

Azog_11

Azog

One interesting character is Azog. Back when I did the painting, he still had both of his arms. He also had some scraggly hair in the original concept that was given to me. I think a few of the costume details are different too than what was shown in the movie.

Now that I think about it, I think when I was working on the painting they still hadn’t nailed down the face. I remember leaving the face blank and just adding a smiley face as a placeholder because they wanted me to hold off on the face. If you see him in the game, you’ll notice they changed it so that he has his fake arm and no hair.

Most of the other characters I worked on didn’t have very many changes. I know for Yazneg I had to change his skin color a bit, but other than that, there weren’t very many big changes.

I hope you enjoy the rest of my paintings and be sure to play the game! Thanks!

yazneg

Yazneg

orcwarlord

Orc Warlord

elfwarden

Elf Warden

elfsentinel

Elf Sentinel

dwarfcaptain

Dwarf Captain

Dwarf Badge 01 01

Dwarf Avatar

Elf Badge 01 11

Elf Avatar

The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age/Kingdoms of Middle-earth

Kabam has announced their new game The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age! You can sign up for beta if you visit their site. The mobile version, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth, is already available from the app store for the iPhone and iPad.

I have been working on this game for the past couple of months now, so I’m really excited that some of my illustrations are already showing up on the web. It is actually pretty insane how talented the art staff is at Kabam, so it is an honor to work with them on this game.

So far from the screenshots I have seen, 8 of my illustrations have been released: Gollum, Gandalf, Legolas, Thorin, Elrond, Bilbo, Galadriel, and Kili. I also saw a few other character portraits I did, like Vastriel and the Dwarf and Elf faction portraits during the race selection screen. I’m sure there are more, but I am only posting paintings I know for a fact that are already out.

When I saw the announcement on the official Hobbit Facebook page, it was funny to read all of the comments. People kept arguing back and forth over whether or not this was Legolas or Thranduil. If you go to the game’s site, it says “Control the greatest Heroes of Middle-earth, including Gandalf, Legolas, and Thorin Oakenshield in fast-paced, tactical combat” yet people still insisted that this was Thranduil and not Legolas. Other people argued over whether or not Kili was Aragorn. Good times!

I remember back when I painted Form of the Dragon for Magic: The Gathering. People also argued over whether or not it was Sarkhan Vol. Some people said they knew for a fact it wasn’t Sarkhan Vol, I guess you can’t always trust the internet! The same thing happened when I was working on Warhammer.

You might be wondering why some of the paintings are only partially finished. The reason that some of the legs on certain characters aren’t rendered out is because my client didn’t need them to be. The asset would only ever been seen from the waist up, so there was no need for me to paint the legs. Each character also needed to be painted without a background so that they could be masked out and used on any background.

Like with my Warhammer covers and my Dungeon Command covers, some people might feel that this makes the painting look less aesthetically pleasing, but you have to remember you are working for a client and you have to meet their needs.

What I noticed while working on these paintings is that whenever I was painting a character, certain lines they said in the movies kept echoing in my head. For example, when I was working on Gandalf I kept hearing him say “Ooohhh really?” You know, the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo first meets Gandalf and Frodo says Gandalf has been labeled a “disturber of the peace.” I think I would actually say it out loud too…

Anyhoo, here is a detail shot of Gandalf’s mug. I painted these fairly large, I think the height was around 7.6k pixels at 300dpi.

For those with a keen eye, you might have noticed that a few of my paintings look different in the game than they do here. For example, in the game Gandalf’s arms are switched. His front arm is holding his staff while his back arm is resting on his sword. Legolas’ face is also a little different in the game (I think they made him look a lot better than my version).

People might not realize that having other artists change your painting is fairly common in the gaming industry. Most students or novices might balk at the idea of another artist touching their precious painting, but that is all part of the process.

You have to realize that your painting isn’t yours, but rather a contribution to a greater whole. Creating a game is a team process, not an individual process. The faster you realize this, the easier it will be for you to understand that it isn’t personal.

This seems to be especially true when game companies hire freelancers to create assets. It is far easier and cheaper to have an in-house artist make minor changes to your art instead of having the outside contractor make the change.

You might say “how are they allowed to do that?” Well, when you create assets for a video game, you don’t own the rights, the company that hired you does. Therefore they are allowed to do anything they please with your painting, which includes making any and all changes they deem necessary.

I think the artist did an excellent job with the changes, and at this point in my career I’m not really surprised anymore when I see changes made to my final illustration.

I hope you enjoyed my paintings! I’ll be sure to post more as they are released to the public. I haven’t played the game that much yet, so if you see more of my illustrations in the game that aren’t posted here, please let me know! Don’t forget to go sign up for the beta for Armies of the Third Age and download Kingdoms of Middle-earth!

Thorin

Elrond

Galadriel

Bilbo

Dwarf and Elf race selection

Vastriel

evolution of an artist

Someone was asking me to post some of my very first paintings and drawings so that they could see what my beginnings were like. I thought this was a great idea and I actually found some of my old work when I was packing and moving earlier this month. It is always fun to see where an artist came from and to see their progression throughout their career. I remember back when I did some of these I thought “hey, these are pretty good.” Now when I look back at them I realize how horrible they were. It is funny how one’s perception changes over the years.

You might notice a bit of a backwards progression in some of these due to the fact that copying art (or doing master copies) is a lot easier than painting from your imagination or painting from life. The process of converting a real 3d object into a line drawing is also much more difficult than copying someone else’s drawing from life. They already figured out all of the problems, so all you have to do is copy their solutions. I guess you can kind of think of it as baking something from scratch. It will be much harder to create your own recipe from your head than if you find someone else’s recipe in a book and you just follow the steps. You aren’t really doing any of the problem solving that they had to go through.

Hmmm, maybe I should give a bit of background on my family history before I continue. Both my parents and both my sisters are very artistic. My mom used to create amazing architectural drawings and drawings of animals. She also used to paint scenes on my wall when I was a kid. One time she painted this Drew Struzanesque movie poster composition of a race car, a spaceship, and a bunch of other very “boyish” things on my bedroom wall. She also makes her own quilts and clothing. My father, who is a doctor, is also very skilled at drawing and painting in watercolors. One of my sisters is a fashion designer and she also used to draw and paint a lot in school and in college. My other sister is also very good at drawing and photography and creates her own jewelry. Was I born to be an artist? I dunno, maybe.

There is a big debate over whether or not people have a natural talent for things or if people can simply learn to be good at something. I think there is a bit of both. I definitely think natural talent can be passed down from family members, but that doesn’t mean you will be good at something without working hard and without many, many years of work and dedication. I think everyone has a natural gift for something, but you will never know what that is unless you try it and work hard at it. I know some people think “oh not me, I’m not naturally talented at anything.” Who knows, maybe that person would be a world-class oboist, but they would never know unless they tried it.

1984 (3 years old)

For some reason in my early works I had an apparent fascination with belly buttons. Nothing like a squiggly armed person with a belly button. Hmm, not much else to say about this one other than I am highly amused by this drawing.

I must say, my niece was much more skilled at the age of three than I was. In fact, she was better at three than I was at six. It will be interesting to see if she is an artist when she grows up.

I always find it a little funny when people ask an artist how long they have been drawing or painting for and their answer is “since I was three” or “since I was a little kid.” Practically every single little kid draws when they are young. I haven’t met a single kid who didn’t draw something when they were little. Heck, half of kindergarten is all about making art.

It just seems funny to me when they consider their art career starting at the age of three.

1985-86 (4-5 years old)

I almost left these behind in Anaheim because they were on a shelf and you couldn’t see them unless you jumped or stood on a ladder. Luckily I checked the top shelf.

Ahhh yes, the humble beginnings of Daarken. Apparently I really liked using highlighters. I was 4 and 5 when I created these drawings. Thanks Mom for thinking to date them!

According to these drawings my Dad drove a medical rescue robot and my Mom flew a spaceship. I’m not really sure what is going on with the pyramid-tractor-bunny-dead potted plant man drawing. Actually I think that might be a rattlesnake…oh, and there is a chinese man next to the pyramid which I can only guess is my Dad. Slanty eyes ftw.

Just to put these in perspective, my niece’s drawings from when she was 2 were 10 times better than the drawings I did at the age of 5. It will be interesting to see if she turns out to be an artist.

1987 (6 years old)

I guess I found the watercolors in 1987. As I look back at the things I drew and painted as a kid I can’t help but notice that everything is nice and happy. I painted flowers, smiling people, snowmen…all things that clearly go against my “Daarken” persona. Sorry to disappoint my fans!

According to the first piece my Dad’s hobbies include Chess, eating peas, and eating pie? Or is that pizza? It has to be pie.

My Dad sent me a bunch of these while I was away for my Singapore-Japan-Kansas City trip, so I figured it would be fun to add these to the post. Several of the painting he sent consisted of helicopters, so I am  just posting one of them. I guess I was really into helicopters, tanks, and spaceships as a kid. Go figure!

I must say, the farmer with a space car for a body is pretty ingenious.

1992 (11 years old)

Let’s fast-forward to the year 1992. You remember 1992 right? When Mike Tyson was convicted of rape, Windows 3.1 was released, and a pound of bacon was $1.92? I don’t either, but apparently those things happened.

What also happened was that I started doing master copies of comic book drawings, complete with a signature on a scroll. I was 11 years old at the time. I remember the comic store I used to go to ended up hanging these on the wall, kind of a big deal I guess for an 11 year old boy. I’m sure the customers probably thought “what the hell are these things?”

1995 (14 years old)

<insert fast-forward noise here> The year is 1995 (O.J. found innocent, Toy Story is the top grossing film) and I stepped up the game a bit by making master copies of comic book covers and interiors using Sharpies and Microns.

I know the first image is from 1995 because that is the cover to Spawn #32, but I’m not quite sure what the year was for the second image. I am guessing around the same time. If anyone knows, please let me know.

This was the time when Image comics came out and I was flooded with awesome artists like Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell, Marc Silvestri, and many others. Many of them were around before Image, but this was the time that I really started to take notice.

At this point I wasn’t drawing anything from life because I thought that was boring. I only drew things from comic books. I remember doing some of these drawings in class during high school. Well, the only class I was able to do them in was Astronomy class, but that was only because our teacher was busy playing Spades with the other students. Yeah…we didn’t do anything in that class.

Unlike an article, which shall not be mentioned, no I did not barely pass my classes because I was too busy drawing. I was in the top 3% of my freshman class and by the time I graduated I was still in the top 10% of my school. Guh, I hate journalists that don’t do their research and only base their articles off of stereotypes…but anyway, we won’t go down that road.

1998 (17 years old)

In 1998 I won my first art competition, winning a nice crispy $100 bill. My winning piece was a scratchboard piece I did of a comic. I was pretty surprised that I won because I never win anything.

Hmm, is it just me or do I look really tiny in that pic? I am the one on the first row on the right. I am half the size of those other two guys. Oh, and they spelled my name wrong in the caption but got it right in the article. Good job Mr. Editor.

I had always been known as “the guy who could draw” back in high school. I just did it as a hobby, I had no idea I would ever grow up to be an artist. It was simply something I enjoyed doing. It’s funny when I talk to friends from high school and they say “I always knew you were going to be an artist.” How did they know!? I didn’t even know.

1999 (18 years old)

These master copies were created back in 1999, right after I graduated from high school. The pencil drawings were done back in 1998 I think, but inked and colored in 1999. I was 18 at the time when I colored these.

Both were created in Photoshop 5. I scanned my pencil drawing and then I inked and colored it with Photoshop. I actually didn’t really do any “painting” in Photoshop, but rather I inked it using the pen tool since I only had a mouse. I would then flood-fill sections with the paint bucket. This was before I went to art school, so I taught myself digital. I was actually going to school for computer science at the time.

2001 (20 years old)

In 2001 (1 pound of bacon increased to $3.22. Curse you inflation!) I moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University after realizing that computer science wasn’t my cup-o-tea. As you can see, my figure drawings were horrible compared to the master copies I used to make. I always grew up using the direct drawing technique, but when I went to art school they told me never to direct draw, but rather to use construction lines and bubbles and whatnot. I really struggled with that since it went against everything I knew.

At the same time I was really into Anime, so most of my own personal work was Anime. I should also mention that in 2001 I was completely emo, so most of my personal stuff was about death and dismembered people and sad people that sat in corners contemplating how horrible their life was.

Oh god, the horror. Still fumbling with life drawing and the stupid construction lines. I can’t remember when, but I think around 2002 I started to hit up the free figure drawing workshops regularly. I know the first year I didn’t really go to any of the workshops, and it showed.

After becoming a workshop regular, I really started to see improvement in my work. If anyone is going to art school, please, please take advantage of figure drawing workshops. You will be amazed at how much improvement you will see.

Oh, the other awesome thing about the figure drawing workshops was that the fashion students were always required to attend, so the workshops would always be full of hot girls. I must admit, that was a big part of the reason why I attended the workshops, hah. Hey, I was 20 years old at the time, give me a break! That aside, I really did enjoy figure drawing.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t one of the reasons, but rather just an added bonus.

2002 (21 years old)

As you can see, in less than a year there was a huge improvement in my figure drawings. I was still drawing Anime regularly on the side.

I always tried to keep it a secret because everyone in art school, especially the teachers, hated Anime and thought of it as “lesser” art…if they thought it was art at all. It was like I was trying to keep some weird fetish a secret. I felt bad that I liked anime, like I was doing something wrong or naughty.

I had one teacher who flat out told me that anime wasn’t art and that you can’t learn a single thing from looking at or watching anime. Yeah, the hatred for anime ran deep within the walls of the Academy. To be fair, not all teachers felt that way about anime, but many of them did.

I blame America. America tends to take things and exploit them until they are destroyed. That is basically the story of King Kong right? We take something, make it ours, and exploit it until we destroy it. Or the radio. They take songs that we like and play them over and over until they become mainstream and you hate them.

This painting was from my first figure painting class, also in 2002. I think I was taking this class at the same time as my still life painting class, so this was the first time I was using oils.

Sorry for the tiny picture, but it is the only one that I have. During the first few weeks of my figure painting class we focused on painting individual body parts. I think this was the only painting I took a picture of and I don’t think I even have that painting anymore.

I tend to throw away my old drawings and paintings. At the time you always think “man, these suck, I don’t want them.” Years later you look back and wish you had kept some of your early work. Maybe for nostalgic purposes or maybe so you can keep a physical record of your journey, or maybe so that you can post them in a blog post!

I think these master copies were also from 2002. The first is a Boris Vallejo master copy done in graphite on bristol paper. The second is a pen and ink master copy of Frazetta. I didn’t use Sharpies for this one, instead I used crow quill pens with actual ink (getting fancy!).

2003 (22 years old)

Another year and more studying. Around this time I started trying to just draw and paint how I wanted to draw and paint instead of trying to force myself to draw and paint how my teachers wanted me to. At the figure drawing workshops I started doing more direct drawing instead of the stupid circles and cylinders.

The crazy self portrait was for my Heads and Hands II class. We had to make “crazy expressions” of either ourself or a friend. I didn’t really have anyone to take a picture of, so I used myself. This was also around the time that I was doing a lot of self portraits because of Andrew Jone’s self portraits on conceptart.org.

This self portrait was actually the first oil painting I ever sold. That story is actually pretty funny and interesting, but I might have to save that for later. I wish I had kept the guy’s contact information.

2004 (23 years old)

2004 was my last year of art school. I only went to art school for 3 years before getting my BFA in traditional illustration because I had transfer credits from UT and CSUS. From 2003-2004 I really started going to figure drawing workshops regularly. I think I went to probably 3-4 per week. I affectionately became known as the guy that liked to draw deltoids, and soon after, they coined the phrase “daarktoids.” I dunno why, but I liked drawing deltoids. Yeah I know, I’m weird.

About three months after I graduated I was contacted on the phone by Fantasy Flight Games and Wizards of the Coast. They wanted me to do some freelance work for them, so I immediately agreed before even hearing what the project was, pay, and deadlines.

My first commissions were so horrible that I don’t even have the files anymore, I had to google them. I swore these would never see the light of day again, but I must submit to the horrors that once were.

I have no idea why people hired me back then. Looking back at my old art I realize how lazy I was as an artist. It is funny because back then I thought my art was really detailed and refined, but now it looks so loose and unfinished.

Again, it is crazy how your perception of things changes over time. The first painting was for Fantasy Flight Games for A Game of Thrones, and the second was for Wizards of the Coast for the D&D book, Heroes of Horror. Horror indeed.

At the same time I also got a full-time position as a concept artist at a small gaming company called Mind Control Software. The games I worked on there were not the type of games I liked or played, so I don’t have any samples of my work. Probably for the better.

Even though I felt my work was very subpar, I still got regular freelance work from several different companies, and soon I was able to completely support myself on freelance work alone. The reason I was able to get work without having to go out and find it for myself was because I had a very strong online presence. I posted on many different art forums, I had a website, a blog, and I made a lot of friends and contacts in the industry. Since I started working in 2004, I still have not had to go out and look for freelance work, clients always contact me.

2005 (24 years old)

In 2005 I think I had my first “breakthrough” in terms of creating a painting that propelled my work significantly forward.

I was studying Craig Mullins and trying to figure out why his paintings look so realistic, but at the same time they are incredibly loose. I realized that he achieves this because his shapes and lighting is spot on. In “The Park” painting I tried to use those same techniques.

After that I started doing cityscape studies from photos I took around my apartment. Most of these were really quick, maybe 2-3 hours each. I was also still doing studies from photos of people, places, architecture, you name it. Before this I hadn’t really painted any buildings before, so I took it upon myself to improve upon an area that I had little experience. Going out of your comfort zone is another necessity if you want to be an artist, especially a concept artist.

As a concept artist you need to be able to paint anything. If someone asks you to paint a wolf, you need to be prepared to do it and not say “well, I don’t really paint animals, sorry.” Sure there are some concept artists who specialize, but if you have a bigger bag of tricks, you become more valuable to the company.

The third painting is a master copy I did of a photo I found on the internet of Aya Ueto. I had made a little animated gif of the process of the painting, but I don’t think I have it anymore.

As you can see, my studies were still ten times better than my imaginative work. My imaginative work hadn’t caught up yet, and they wouldn’t for another year. It was definitely frustrating that after all this time, my imaginative work was still miles behind my studies.

2006 (25 years old)

Even though I had been out of school for 2 years, I was still going to workshops fairly regularly. I got a part-time position at the Academy teaching digital painting workshops. This allowed me to attend figure drawing workshops since I had an ID. I also went to several of the conceptart.org workshops. These first two drawings were done at the San Francisco Conceptart workshop.

If you want to succeed as an artist, never stop learning. Always push yourself to be a better artist and make time to practice. Even professionals need to practice their craft in order to stay on top.

Yup, the Daarktoids were still there! Actually, after everyone started calling them Daarktoids, I ended up drawing more of them just because it became my signature style. In reality, the reason I usually only rendered out the deltoids was because most of the poses were 2-10 minutes long, so I only had time to focus on one or two things and deltoids were always the easiest thing to render in that amount of time.

Korlash_Blackblades_HeirAfter working on D&D for almost two years, I decided to ask my art director if I could work on Magic: The Gathering. They put me in contact with Jeremy Jarvis and I got my first Magic: The Gathering gig. Even though Future Sight didn’t come out until 2007, the illustrations I created for it were done in 2006.

That is the bad thing about doing art for movies and games, it can take anywhere from 6 months to several years before you are allowed to show your work. Your “new” work quickly becomes your old work. In fact, I just posted some of my old Warhammer Online concepts the other day, and those were originally painted 5-6 years ago.

2007 (26 years old)

In 2007 I received an e-mail from BioWare Mythic (Mythic Entertainment at the time) asking me if I would like to be an in-house concept artist for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I flew out for an interview and I was hired shortly after.

Warhammer was something that I had always wanted to work on, so it was a great opportunity and one that I couldn’t pass up. Being a concept artist on a AAA title really opens your eyes to the industry. I had to quickly learn to paint anything and everything.

I ended up concepting a lot of environments and interiors/exteriors, something I had little experience with. Unfortunately most of my work can’t be shown and probably will never be seen, which sucks because I don’t have a lot of environment samples in my portfolio even though I created a lot for Warhammer Online.

The other thing that being a concept artist taught me was to pay attention to the details. My work became much more detailed after working for Mythic. The reason being is because modelers have to build models of your concepts, so I couldn’t leave anything to the viewer’s imagination. I know some people criticized our concepts because they were “too detailed,” but it was a requirement of the job, not personal preference.

In addition to starting at Mythic, I also started freelancing for Blizzard, working on their World of Warcraft TCG. I was already a WoW player, so it was really cool to be able to create illustrations for Blizzard.

2009 (28 years old)

While I was still at Mythic, I landed a job creating Warhammer illustrations for Fantasy Flight Games.

They were coming out with a new Living Card Game called Warhammer Invasion. At the time I didn’t realize that I was about to embark on a Warhammer cover journey that would last 2 years, and is still going.

I think so far I have already done 16 covers for them. Almost all of the covers are large battle scenes with many figures, something that was always a challenge for me. Not to mention I still had a full-time job, so I had to work on these illustrations after I got home from work.

The first cover I did for them I only had a two week deadline from start to finish. Working on these covers has really helped my painting speed. A lot of people ask me about the white background on some of my Warhammer illustrations, and those are there at the request of the client due to the packaging design.

This was also the first time I recorded my painting process with Camtasia. I had originally recorded the process for an in-house EA demo, but that ended up falling through, so instead I released it as a free tutorial on my YouTube site. This tutorial ended up paving the way for many more tutorials to come.

Unfortunately I didn’t know much about recording tutorials and the only version that survived was a really tiny low res video. My mic was also pretty bad, so the audio wasn’t that great.

I have four full length tutorials available for purchase from my store and many more free tutorials on my YouTube site. I also did a bunch for 3dTotal which are slowly being published on their site. I will probably upload them to my YouTube site in a few months.

2010 (29 years old)

In May of 2010 I left BioWare Mythic to pursue a full-time freelance career.

I started working for more video game companies as a freelance concept artist and continued to work on Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft, and Warhammer.

The first painting was done for Wizards of the Coast for their Dark Sun D&D line. I grew up reading Troy Denning’s books, so having the chance to work on Dark Sun was like a childhood dream come true. Especially since Brom was the original artist for the Dark Sun books and D&D game. It was also a good opportunity for me to work on a brighter painting since it takes place in a scorching hot desert.

The second painting was for Fantasy Flight Games for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I actually did this painting while my wife was in the hospital after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fantasy Flight Games ended up calling the expansion “Signs of Faith,” sort of fitting isn’t it? Before you say “Hey! You should have been in the hospital with your wife,” I wasn’t allowed in the hospital at the time, so I worked on this painting when I wasn’t at the hospital.

2010 Was also the time when I started trying to make time to create personal pieces. For the longest time I didn’t spend any time painting for myself because I was so busy with work. When I did have a spare moment, the last thing I wanted to do was paint more. Plus having carpal tunnel in both wrists and cubital tunnel in my left arm didn’t help any.

2011 (30 years old)

Whew finally, 2011. This ended up being an epic post. I only intended to post a couple drawings I did back in school, but it kind of grew into an unstoppable monster.

It is really interesting to see how far you have come and how you have changed over the years. I have been working professionally for 7 years and I still feel like I have so much farther to go. I wonder where I will be in 10 years, or in 20?

The first painting was a magazine cover for Big Huge Games for the game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. This piece was challenging because I had to keep each element on a separate layer, which is not the way I am used to working. The turnaround time on this painting was pretty fast too.

The second painting was a personal fan art piece that I did of Nicodemus from The Secret of Nimh, one of my favorite animated movies when I was growing up. I noticed that I work much faster when I am working on something I like, or painting for myself. I ended up painting Nicodemus, Justin, and Mrs. Brisby in two days.

I hope you enjoyed taking this trip through memory lane with me. The best advice I can give to anyone who feels that they aren’t good enough to work professionally is to never give up. You won’t get anywhere without a lot of hard work and dedication. If being an artist is something you truly want to do, be prepared to put everything else aside in order to achieve that dream.

2012 (31 years old)

I’m back! I was taking a look at this post again and I figured I should update it since 2012 is almost over. The funny thing is, the paintings I planned on showing all ended up being painted in December of 2011, so I had to go back and pick some different ones that were actually painted in 2012. Part of the problem is that I can’t show some of my newer paintings because they haven’t been released to the public yet.

Much of this year has been spent working on three different Lord of the Rings games: Guardians of Middle-earth, The Hobbit Armies of the Third Age, and The Hobbit Kingdoms of Middle-earth. It has been a great ride and I feel very lucky to be able to work on an IP like Lord of the Rings. I don’t really want it to end, but I think I am about to finish up all of my Lord of the Rings projects in the next week or two.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t worked on very many actual illustrations this year. Most of the illustrations I did were for Magic: The Gathering, but almost all of the 2012 paintings haven’t been released yet. I did a few for 5th Planet Games, Applibot, and Warner Brothers Games, but the majority of my work this year has been character concept work.

A huge chunk of my time during the first half of this year went to finishing up my art book, so it almost feels like I don’t have as much to show this year, at least not in terms of paintings that are public.

I’ll try to keep this post updated over the years to come, it should be fun!