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lure of power

Slaanesh you evil temptress of all that is bad; you proved to be quite the formidable opponent. It may not look like much, but this illustration was actually pretty challenging. Let’s roll through the checklist of not so very nice requirements.

1. Paint a guy looking into a mirror, but yet you have to be able to see his face and the face of his reflection. I heard that the theater term is “cheat out.” Basically that means that the main character should not have his back to the audience. This is always tough to do because you really do have to cheat a little bit. Battle scenes always have these problems because the client will always want to see the faces of the heroes and the faces of the villains. Creating a dynamic composition that shows everyone’s face without everything being in profile view is always tricky.

2. Make the mirror look like a mirror. Sounds simple right? Nooope. Maybe if it was actually reflecting the same person, but it isn’t. The reflection has changed to a Daemonette. Some of the ways I tried to hint at the fact that it is a mirror is by adding dust and scratches to the surface, adding a frame, and trying to make it obvious that the “picture” cuts off at the edges of the frame. The frame itself can be tricky because it might end up looking like a doorway to another room.

3. The room inside the mirror should look like a Slaanesh decorated room instead of an Empire decorated room, but yet everything should still be in the same place. Again it sounds easy, but when you have a small mirror with a figure in it and then you have to jam recognizable furniture in it that mirrors the furniture in the room is a pain. I mainly focused on changing the banners, adding some chains, and a very phallic fixture on the ceiling. I also changed the color of the candles to a more Slaanesh friendly hue.

4. Interior with stuff. Nuff said. Painting interiors with figures in them is always hard, but then adding a bunch of props compounds the difficulty. I dunno, maybe it is because I don’t paint enough interiors, but I always find it challenging.

5. Tell a story using minimal, reserved emotions on a person that is in profile. Telling a story is a large part of being an illustrator, but sometimes you have to tell a story using reserved emotions. Painting someone that is angry is easy, or painting people that are in a battle and screaming…but try painting someone that is cautious or slightly interested in another element in the painting. If you saw a scary Daemonette staring back at you from a mirror, you would probably freak out. This guy is obviously not freaking out, but rather he is curious or intrigued by the reflection. He glances over his shoulder at the reflection, considering the lure of power as he pours over his secret documents. Not only does his face inform you of his reaction, but his posture does as well. With one hand on his hilt and the other resting on the table, you know that he is comfortable. Maybe he is a little weary of the lure of power, so he rests his hand on his hilt just in case he needs to draw his sword, but at the same time he wants to be nonchalant. Will he give in to the dark side or resist it?

Now that you know some of the major obstacles I had to deal with, let’s go through my painting process. I always dread showing my sketches to people because honestly, they are pretty bad. THIS is the reason I always become frustrated when starting a new piece. I am a pretty impatient person, so when my painting doesn’t look good immediately, I begin to lose steam and I feel like quitting. Staying confident is always the biggest hurdle. I just have to tell myself that it will look better in the end and to keep going. My sketches are always super loose and many times others can’t really tell what is going on. Many times I get to this stage and I stop and wonder “how do I take this mess to a finished illustration?” It is almost as if sometimes I forget how to paint and I can’t even imagine how I would continue.

As you can see my first sketch was very different from the final. In the original brief it said there was a Captain and his aide looking into the mirror and the Captain’s reflection had changed to a Daemonette while the aide stayed the same. Again I suffered from both of the Empire characters showing their back to the audience, so that was a big no no. Plus the composition is pretty lame and boring. Too many repeating elements, the picture plane is cut directly in half, the props don’t really add to the illustration, etc. I have to agree that seeing the Empire guys from behind is pretty boring. Is it me or does that aide sort of look like Gerard Butler? Madness! Remember when I said never get too attached to your painting? Well now is the time to take your painting and throw it in the virtual trashcan of rejected paintings. *delete*

Soooo, after finding out I had to start over and that I needed to “cheat out” the Captain, I came up with this new rough. Ok, I guess I didn’t have to completely start over, but I had to change a significant portion of the painting. Now you can see the Captain’s face and the aide is gone. The Captain probably sent him out for coffee and donuts. I thought maybe I was headed in the right direction, but I was wrong, sort of. I was informed that I now needed to zoom out of the picture by at least two times and change the pose of the Daemonette to mimic the Captain. Gah. That means I have to paint more of the room! You know what that means…add more banners, a larger window, and shadows! Done.

Back to the drawing board one more time. Constantly making huge changes to an illustration is always frustrating and time consuming, but for the most part they are always worth it and make for a better illustration in the end. I always have to keep that in mind whenever I get a huge change from a client. Okie dokie. I zoomed out, changed the position of the Daemonette, added more of the room, and now there is much more room up top to allow for the title/box design. Most of the elements are in place and all that is left is to refine the illustration. The illustration was used for the Lure of Power supplement for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. You can find out more about it from Fantasy Flight Game’s site.

I am definitely glad I made all of the changes, even though at the time I was groaning because of how much time it would take to start over and how much time was lost. If you want to improve as an artist, don’t let major changes deter you from striving to make a better illustration. Sometimes you just have to put your head down and slog on. So how do I feel about the final product? I think for the time allotted and the challenges I had to face, it ended up being a successful illustration. Successful doesn’t mean I like it, haha. I dunno, I tend to be more excited about my illustrations when I see them in print. I guess it is the “cool factor” of seeing your work sitting on a shelf at a store.

For the Empire! Or Slaanesh…or donuts?

16 Replies to “lure of power”
  1. Man, that is a pretty tough ask: “Draw a guy looking in a mirror who’s not really looking in the mirror. And make everything reflected in the mirror different to what it would be reflecting. But make it still look like a reflection.” Sure, no worries!

    I really like the way you’ve kept focus from his right hand, across the front of his armour/face, then softening again to make the jump to the sharp edges of the demon thing.

    Thanks for going into detail about this job and how you tackled the technical and mental hurdles to get it done. Always good to hear about the realities of illustration work!

  2. And the guy above me is of the kind of jerks that only comment to say senseless things.
    Daarken, it is a really good illustration, congratulations for this work, and the history of all the changes you made, is quite interesting by the way.
    Hope to meet you soon in a GrandPrix or a MtG event.

    Best Wishes.

    • Chevrazaria – Lol. Steven is actually my best friend since 4th grade. He only posted that to be silly. Thanks for the comments, I appreciate it! Speaking of MtG, where do you live? Maybe I’ll be in the area one day for an event.

      Matt – Thanks! Yeah I think most artists are like that. We are our own worst critic.

      Luke – Lol yeah, it is much tougher when you sit down and actually try to paint it. I never knew it was going to be that tough when I first got the description. Thanks for the comments!

  3. Great post Mike. It’s always a pleasure to see your process, but it was especially inspiring to hear that you also have doubts in the beginning of a painting. I constantly battle my doubts while working 🙂

  4. Finished product ended up look great. Love how you explain your issues in each step. Also nice to know that even professionals get discouraged, and challenged.

  5. Hahaha, ok, sorry then 😛
    Hi Mike ^^, I’m from Granada, Spain. I liked the explanation of the steps too ^^ Quite interesting btw.
    I’ve got you in Facebook, im José Miguel Castañeda.

    Well, hope everything keeps going on ok,

    See u soon 😛

  6. Hey another great one man as usual
    really love the insight you gave us
    its really ispiering ill make sure i read it
    every time i get frustrated when i work
    on a new piece

    Thnx mat keep it up

  7. Hey man, still love seeing your work here and how far you’ve progressed over the years. Still remember you on conceptart back in 2003, i think we both were hitting it hard around that time, i think my name was scratched glass or something silly at the time. either way, shit looks great!

    Def makes me wanna work harder outside of work thats for sure.

    Dave greco.

  8. Loved this read as usual. Did you create the full box art? I really love the logo and the container for the logo, is this painted also? I love this stuff… if you did do it you should make a tutorial on how you go about making these types of things.

    • Warren – Nope, I didn’t do the box art, only the illustration. I’m guessing their in-house graphic designers create the box designs. I typically work on my tablet pc and recording on there is impossible, so it is really hard for me to record videos of my freelance work. Maybe one day though.

  9. I bought this product. It was looking into the stacked books and candles reflected in the mirror, that quite subtly revealed the story to me. Is the kind of composition I could imagine an artist becoming obsessed with repainting as there is a lot going on.

  10. Incredibly interesting to hear how you went about producing this illustration, thanks for posting.

    I think the care that you took over the composition, and content, of the illustration is reflected in the quality of the final product. I always get a little annoyed when I read a paperback and the cover art conflicts with the descriptions in the story. Clearly you work hard to avoid that situation!

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