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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Postmortem - Veranthea Codex Part 2 - The Pantheon

Continuing my postmortem look at my portion of the art for the Veranthea Codex, today's focus is the Pantheon. Now, I'm a little fuzzy on the background story for this - I think someone else was originally slated to do the Pantheon, but regardless, eventually it was given to me to create. Originally it was meant to be two eight-person pieces, but as we moved forward with it, it made more sense to do them separately, and ultimately, the separate pieces were used. 

There are sixteen gods and goddesses of varying races, classes, and alignments in the Veranthea Pantheon, and they were a challenge! The briefs were all very descriptive and very specific - and any changes made to them would directly impact writing, so I had to be careful. It worked out great that I am a bit of an overcommunicator since issues could be pointed out quickly in the dailies. 

Now, again, as VC is still in the process of finalizing and should be printed in a few months, I'm not going to share full pieces, even though I'm pretty damn proud of a lot of them. There is a preview of unreleased VC art at our patreon page: www.patreon.com/tortoiseharecreations, but otherwise, I'm only sharing small snippits of the pieces to point out things I learned or things I particularly liked, in keeping with making 2015 a positive-outlook year. So, let's get started!

I'm going to go through these alphabetically, mostly because I don't remember in what order all of these were painted. At one point I had a bit of an assembly line of gods going - one sketch, one flats, and one in-progress piece all in for approval at the same time - and all different gods or goddesses. I would have to say the largest lesson I learned during VC was speed. I simply had to speed up my processes, or I would have never even approached being "on time."

Aleana is first on the list - she's one of the few human goddesses in the list, so it was relatively familiar territory. I actually recorded the entire process from sketch to finished painting and uploaded the (heavily sped up) video to THC's YouTube channel. Speedpaintings are something I'd like to do more of, but my computer doesn't always enjoy running a 50-layer Photoshop painting and recording at the same time.  I was pretty happy with her face, especially her lips. She's got sass.

This goddess I won't describe much, since you'll see her in the final VC book and here I'm only sharing a tiny piece of her weapon. I can't actually tell you how many different types of weapons I learned during this project. A lot. I enjoyed the coins marking the edges of her armor, but mostly, I was pretty happy to have figured out how to make spikes that looked equidistant and equal sized that were sticking out at different angles. This is pretty basic, but it made me happy.
Arcanalus. He was the first god I painted, and one of the most challenging, which is why I chose to finish him first. He's a constantly-shifting mongrelman, and I was given freedom to choose whatever monsters/animals/things that he was currently comprised of. There are also orbs of varying kinds/elements. The orbs were surprisingly easy and I really like how they turned out. Also, I'm pretty proud of the lizard skin. I know it's damn near impossible to tell what's going on here in this tiny piece. It's a chaotic painting.  

Arenathi - an Elven child-goddess. This one was fun, but a bit of a challenge since the color palette was intentionally very simple - she's almost entirely painted with blues. This should have been very easy, since it's really no different than painting in grayscale, and I'm super familiar with that. But for some reason, especially toward the beginning of this project - I was scared to just go in with color and trust my eye. This got easier (and better) toward the end of VC.

This is a dwarven adventurer god, very well described. I initially read the art brief and laughed at it - you want me to fit FIVE (FIVE!?) mugs of ale in his grip (one handed - the other hand is full of other stuff) and make that look okay? FIVE?

Everything turned out better than expected! :)

Earkenta - I struggled with which portion of her to share, but for a good reason - I like the whole piece! She's a dwarven goddess of Earth - entirely made up of different stones and gems and covered in runic carvings. I was ecstatic with her from initial sketch all the way through to finished painting.

I did use texturing for many of these pieces, something I am actually trying to get away from - I prefer using a combination of soft and hard round brushes to create the textures the old-fashioned way - like I would with a "regular," i.e. non-digital, painting. However, when speed is a concern, textures are shortcuts that most freelance artists use, I've found, and I had to rely on them to cut my per-painting time. I couldn't afford to spend a week on each to get it perfect, or I'd still be painting until March. The entire project was an eye-opener for me in terms of when to sacrifice things I normally do for speed.

Elaith is a perfect example of something I mentioned at the beginning of this article - the fact that everything I painted mattered, since each piece was full of necessary religious symbology for that particular deity.

He's an orcish barbarian god, savage as the day is long, and so I decided to sketch him with a bearskin over his shoulder, the giant skull of the bear serving as his belt buckle. This was well-received - except that the bear had no place in Elaith's symbology. It was requested that I make the bear a jabberwock instead - and I sweated through the sketch, sure it was not going to be recognizably jabberwocky. But I finished, and it did.

I also happened upon a manual way to paint fur that was really easy. I started from the edge of wherever the fur would end and work backwards, building up each "layer" of fur with tiny hair strokes, working from dark to light. It's a technique I've already been able to reuse in another painting, so this piece was a real teacher for me.

This piece was a gnomish god of deceit and trickery, and while there were a lot of lessons from this brief, I'm going to only focus on my gemstones. I got significantly better at painting glowing gems. I really like painting glowing things. Also, I'm still using the feather techniques I picked up from Fern Sea Chronicles, THC's very first comic from several years ago. Every project has lessons - hell, every piece has lessons. Artists get just a little bit better with every piece they finish - which is why we tend to look at old stuff with a super-critical eye.

(I'm pretty certain the Nightmare Gods have been shared in their entirety, so I'm including a much larger slice of that piece than the others)

The Nightmare Gods. I loved this piece, and not only because I was able to knock out three of the Pantheon in one piece. The descriptions were vaguely Lovecraftian, so I took that and ran with it. This is the first piece where I was perfectly content with the spittle and ooze that I painted - something that is harder than it looks. It's also the painting that is closest to the initial sketch - pretty much identical except for some additional eyes painted on the hand (not included in the slice). I love it when I get it right the first time, that is such a good feeling.

There are things I'd like to have done better on it (and every one of these paintings), but that's not the focus of this piece. Overall, this was a success for me, from the ridiculously bright red tongue, to the bizarrely eyed/mouthed tentacle monster, to the creepy purple hand. Each abominable god had its own disparate color palette, but they came together in the final, with all three holding their own against the others.

I painted an orange goblin literally covered with gold. Gold everywhere. I drew as much gold on him as I thought I could in the initial sketch, and was told to amp it up and double it! Gold on gold on gold. I got plenty of practice doing gold.

Actually, I'm pretty comfortable with all metals now. That feels good to say.

This is a halfling bard-type goddess, playing a lute. I'd never painted turquoise before and decided to give it a go, since it is one of my favorite stones. I loved the warm feeling of this piece after it was done, with the warm reddish leather of her armor and the cool stones making their presence known. Fun times!

I actually wanted to share Tristanaleus' kilt, since it is awesome, but this piece was - by request - the darkest of all of them (he's a shadowy god) and it was a little hard to see in the cutout. So here's his eyes and a bit of his horns.

And finally, here is a tiny portion of the god of the sea, but mostly I just wanted to share the badass sea serpent rising from the depths behind him in the print version's background. :D Sweet.

That's it! That's (just about) all of the pieces I did for Veranthea Codex and a little bit about what I learned during each. I hope you enjoyed reading this postmortem as much as I did looking back on the project. Great people, and a great project - check them out at www.verantheacodex.com if you haven't already, and watch out - I'm pretty sure there will be more from them in the future!

- Indi

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