Thursday, October 31, 2013

Agents: Who Needs Em?

-By Lauren Panepinto

Helping me with this post is one of my favorite artist agents, Alan Lynch from Alan Lynch Artists. I've worked with him on many cover projects for Orbit Books with John Harris, Nekro, Mélanie Delon, and Alejandro Colucci. I consider him one of the good guys, and he always helps my projects with his artists run more smoothly. If you are on his roster, you're a lucky artist.

I'm going to be honest. I told some people that I was working on an article about agents, and almost universally I was met with groans. Artists either complain that they can't get into an agency, or that the agency they're with isn't doing enough for them. Art directors complain that agents mostly get in the way and muddy up the AD process. Agents complain that artists don't hold up their end of the bargain but then call them bad agents. But through my own experience, and through talking to many people in the field, I believe this is a situation where some poor communication, unfair expectations, stylistic mismatches, and a few bad apples have soured the topic entirely.

When the Agent-Artist-Art Director flow is working, it's really a blessing. Artists can focus on making art, ADs get what they need with a minimum of fuss, and agents, the experts on the business side, take care of all the marketing and contracts and finances. A good agent protects both the artist and the art director. A good agent will bring artists work they would have never been able to land through their own connections, and gives an AD options they often would not have thought of on their own.

Not every artist needs an agent, and we'll get into that in greater detail below, but if you have taken a look at your career and your strengths and feel you'd like to explore finding an agent, then there's no better advice I can give you than Do Your Research. Much like I have described when researching potential clients to make sure your work is a good fit, also take a close look at an agency - if they work mostly in fashion, and you are an illustrator working in gaming and genre, then don't even bother applying. They shouldn't take you on, but if they did, they'd very likely not be very good at finding you work. An agent might take you on with the best of intentions, but still not be a good fit. An agency might also be too large for you (if you're establishing yourself and get lost in the shuffle) or too small for you (if you're already established and are trying to widen your market). Also, there's a lot of unscrupulous people in the world, and talking to other artists, and art directors, will give you a clear picture of who to stay away from. Just remember to get multiple opinions. I have often heard "best agent ever" and "horrible experience" said from two different artists about the very same agent. It's all about finding the right fit.

I wanted to get an Agent's POV on these issues, and Alan was kind enough to answer my questions in great depth:

1—When should an artist consider working with an agent? 

When an artist is starting out there are a lot of unknowns. How does the business work? Am I good enough to turn professional? How do I position myself? What promotions will I need? Who do I send work to? Does my portfolio need editing? And on and on....It can be quite daunting as well as bruising. 

Artists should try and determine as early as possible whether they have an interest in, or an appetite for, dealing with the non-artistic side of their career. If the answer to that question is a resounding NO then developing a relationship with an agent will serve them well. There are also established artists whose careers have begun to take off, but they are finding it difficult to manage the business side. They’re double booking, missing deadlines, forgetting to invoice, etc. This is a good time to consider an agent: better s/he take care of the contracts and paperwork, leaving the artists to do what they do best.

Foreign markets can also be a big consideration. Working in a foreign market can be challenging for many reasons: language barriers and time differences being the most obvious. An agent familiar with the international marketplace would be an advisable option.

An agent is also a great asset if an artist is looking for a change of pace, is facing a dwindling client base, or wants to get out of one market and into another. The thought of starting again from scratch in a new market can be overwhelming for an artist but an agent, with access to hundreds of clients, could make that transition seamless. 

2—Does an artist find an agent or does an agent find the artist?

Both. When artists seek out agents it's usually based on an agent's track record, word of mouth from other artists, or looking for an agent that specializes in a certain style or market the artist fits into. 

I review hundreds of portfolios every year—whether formally at review sessions, or informally when I'm sent work directly from artists to consider. About half of the artists reviewed have some quality that makes me think I can see them doing greeting cards, book jackets, other commercial commissions. Then the hard part is when I have to consider if they are exceptional. Will they contribute and complement my present roster of artists and are they capable of consistently doing work that I feel confident selling?

Now I’m down to about 10% of those original portfolios. I have to figure out if I'm being completely objective and whether or not this is a wise, pragmatic decision. Is there enough work out there for the artist? Am I sure the artist is professional enough to work with? Many times I’ve taken on an artist just because the work is so different. I’m sure I speak for art directors as well on this point: there’s nothing like discovering an exceptional talent and then accepting the challenge of finding the right project or niche market for him or her.

Occasionally I will actively look for a certain type of artist. An agency usually develops a certain look or character based on the talent it represents and the markets they work in. My agency specializes in a combination of adult genre work, along with teen and children’s publishing. If we notice an uptick in a certain market or style then we will look to fill that space with an additional artist.

3—What are an agent's responsibilities to the artist? 

An agent has multiple responsibilities in representing an artist but primarily the focus is on securing assignments.

But before that ultimate goal, portfolios need to be designed and edited, promotional materials printed, trade campaigns devised, email marketing planned, and then art directors called and canvassed about the possibilities of working with the artist.

Then there's the pitch: Say an art director approaches you with a paranormal vampire adventure romance cookbook that they're not quite sure how to package. One of your artists comes to mind. That might mean reconfiguring the artist's portfolio or finding a sample piece he did three years ago that has the perfect tone. Showing enough work that makes the art director comfortable and confident in her decision is paramount.

Once the artist gets the assignment, the agent shifts into a different gear. The project might be cover art or an entire graphic novel. Regardless, a schedule has to be arranged that suits both artist and publisher. Devising a comfort zone for the artist and publisher is key, approximating how long the artist will need to execute the work and making that jive with the publisher's ultimate deadline. Other gigs might have to be moved around. Rights have to be negotiated, contracts read and changed, and fees agreed upon. Each stage requires negotiation and discussion, nothing is standard in the art business.

Once that's all in place the agent is responsible for coalescing as much information as the artist will need to competently create the art.  Some artists don’t have time to read a whole manuscript, so the directions needs to be distilled down and massaged to appeal to their strengths. There can be doubts at any stage and an agent should instill confidence that the project is going to work and the piece will be great.
There are usually bumps along the way and the agent must be an advocate for the artist: but not blindly. The agent has a responsibility to calm ruffled feathers on both sides and create conditions that will result in the best possible work.

When the job is complete (assuming final approval and not the dreaded kill fee) the agent must do the invoicing and include any additional expenses. With a little prodding, and sometimes a little praying, the check will be in the mail.

4—How can an artist tell the difference between a great, ok, and bad agent? 

That’s a really interesting question. Having been an agent for 30 years I’m fully aware that our reputation precedes us. Unfairly for the most part, I hastily add. (Lauren: I say well-earned)

There are only a few boxes that need to be checked in order to establish who you should consider as a great agent. And after all they are the only ones you should be focusing on when considering joining an agency:

—Take a look at the talent they represent. While you may not like the style of some of the artists in their group try to set that aside and form an objective view of the quality. Are these artists in the upper echelons of their respective markets or genres? Are they artists who have awards and are featured often in industry publications? If you can establish objectively that this is a group of talented artists then it stands to reason that the quality of representation must also be at that level.

—Ask Artists. Talk to artists who have representation and try and gauge how happy they are with their agent. If they have been with the same agent for a long time then that tells you something. They’ll give you some insight as to how the relationship is working. They might have some gripes. No one is perfect. But listen closely. Separate the minor complaints from the larger concerns.

There are going to be artists who have had bad experiences with agents and they are not going to be shy about vocalizing these bad experiences. And rightly so. While absorbing the negative anecdote about the bad agent try to remember that it would be good to have a second opinion: it’s a relatively small business and not immune to personal attacks. Try to get verification from another independent source. Common sense will prevail. If you hear twice that the plumber left both jobs and the pipes were still leaking then you’re not going to use that plumber.

—Ask Art Directors. They work as closely with agents as artists do so they’ll have an opinion. They are unlikely to say an agent is bad but they will politely nudge you away from agents they don’t like to work with or consider unworthy of your talent.

5—What is the one thing (or more) that you wish artists would do more frequently?

Missed deadlines cause me to lose sleep. In general not getting work in on time creates more stress than almost anything else. There are dates that need to be hit and while there will likely be a small cushion around those dates, at some point the finished art needs to be delivered. This can be as simple as an error in communications, as in, "Oh, you meant this Monday," while some artists are inveterate procrastinators who live on the precipice. Often it's not the artist's fault in that there are contributing factors, both professional and personal, but it is the agent who faces the wrath and it always reflects poorly on the artist.

Additionally artists should consider producing sample pieces in their down time. If they are fortunate not to have down time then this is a moot point, but most artists will have a spell when they have finished a job and are waiting for the next one to materialize. An agent continually needs new work to show. Often times an agent can't use a recently finished piece, whether it can't be shown legally or out of courtesy to the client. Any new quality sample is going to be helpful and no one will be the wiser that it wasn't an official commission.

I also want to give a big thank you to Tim Paul, who volunteered these awesome illustrations custom-created for this post. Which is a good case of working for spec not always being the wrong choice, if it's for a cause you care about, and Muddy Colors is a great cause! Thanks, Tim!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Life in Art - Arnold Friberg, Part 1

-By Howard Lyon

It isn’t often that you get to meet one of your childhood heroes. I grew up with my walls covered with paintings by Arnold Friberg. I had the chance to meet Friberg in 1997 while I was attending school at BYU. It was a great meeting, with lots of the illustration students in attendance. He gave a great presentation and spoke about many of his more famous paintings, including his official portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, as well as his experience working with Cecil B. DeMille. Afterwards, students could go up and shake hands and chat. Friberg was nice, but wasn’t engaging in a lot of conversation. He was cordial to be sure, but a little distanced.

I knew that he was from Scandinavia (his father was Swedish and his mother Norwegian) and I had recently lived in Norway. I also knew that he grew up in Arizona, my home state. So, when I approached him, I said “Hi Arnold, my name is Howard Lyon and I have lived in Norway and grew up in Arizona and I want to be an illustrator!” I must have struck a note with him because he spent the next 30 minutes chatting with me. I will share more of my conversation as we look at some of his paintings.
Friberg was known for his extremely masculine and stylized figures, painting subjects of men’s adventure as well as military and sport figures. He also did a lot of western work, expressing great admiration for the Native Americans and historical figures. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were also among his favorite subjects. He painted them so well, and did so many (over 200) that he was made an honorary Mountie, the only American to receive that distinction.

In 1940, Friberg moved to New York where he studied with Norman Rockwell and Harvey Dunn, a well known instructor, illustrator and student of Howard Pyle. When WWII came around, Friberg joined the army and headed to war. Because of his background, he was offered a safe position creating art for the War Department, but instead chose to go fight on the front. After the war, he quickly set about working as an illustrator.

Enough biography, lets look at some paintings. I am excited to share these because I think for many of the Muddy Color’s readers, Friberg might be a new find.

Part 1: Religious Work

Friberg was approached to do come conceptual work for Cecil B. DeMille’s movie “The Ten Commandments.” He did mostly character design, but also some set and stage design. He ended up winning an Oscar for his efforts.

I thought the lettering in this painting was really cool. You will see this throughout his work actually, lots of beautiful hand-painted lettering.

I really like the use of big dark shapes in the composition below. Also, notice some nice little dramatic touches, like the obelisk being raised in the far background. It looks like one of the guide ropes has snapped loose. The thousands of extras for a scene like this were par for the course in Hollywood in those days.

Here is Moses defending the daughters of Jethro. As a kid, I always loved the massive, stylized figures. Their physiques are almost more like a superhero. Looking at some of Friberg’s work now, I see a little more stylization than I care for, but it still inspires.

You will start to see a signature in the faces as you view more of his work. Strong chins, narrow but strong noses and a heavy brow, even in the women.

I love that this is essentially concept art. It would be a neat experience to do some large scale oil paintings and costume studies for a video game these days. Studio AD’s, let me know if you are interested!

A close up of the brushwork and texture

This next painting was pretty epic to see in person. Quite large and full of great action. The colors are really intense in this painting. I love how all the lines and figures are leaning to the right of the piece, mimicking the wall of water behind them.

Friberg’s framing of Moses, his white hair against the dark background and his red robe, really catch your attention in person.

I love this next painting. This might seem out of left field, but it really reminds me of Brom’s work, which I also love. There is a restrained use of color and values here that is shared with some of his work.

How epic is that hair!? You would have to have hair like that to defy a Pharaoh I think. The Pharoah would be thinking, “Man, didst thou see his amazing hair?!?” while all the Hebrews are sneaking out the front gates. If they ever have a good cure for this shiny head of mine, I am starting day one on this hairdo.

The next few paintings are just a few of about a dozen paintings of real actors in potential costumes for the movie. Charlton Heston as Moses

Yul Brenner as Ramses II. This painting is just awesome. Very powerful, great costume design and really captured a great likeness.

Cedric Hardwicke as the Pharaoh Seti.

I started to notice something interesting in Fribergs work. He has a definite and unique texture quality. Almost like the paint is put on when it is just starting to dry, but then the varnish and glazes give it a jewel/enamel like quality. On top of that, sometimes there is a transparent resinous texture on top of the paint. You can see it here. It is almost like amber. That glob in the middle had no pigment in it, just clear texture.

I love greyscale paintings. I fell in love with Edwin Austin Abbey’s black and white illustrations for various Shakespeare plays. These next few pieces have a wonderful dramatic feel to them. The subtle temperature shifts of warm and cool greys are very satisfying. Look at the gold necklace on the figure in the foreground. Just a small hint of warmth in the metal makes it feel like gold.

Look at this great close up of the shepherds feet. I love the quick and aggressive brushwork here. The illustration board these were painted on has since yellowed, but I like the effect.

That's it for Part 1. Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Ents Almost Finished...

I have been back to work on the Ents marching on Orthanc!

I have been adding colors in glazes recently using mostly just oil with a bit of Walnut Alkyd Medium when needed. The next step is to go in and recapture all the shadows again.  After that, it's final highlights and a unifying glaze and we're done.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weird Science

Ink on bristol board, 13 × 19.

Mondo Gallery in Austin, Texas is hosting a show that honors EC Comics and Tales from the Crypt. "It Didn't Rot Our Brains" runs from October 25 through November 23 and I'm happy to be included among the many artists. Although I've always been a fan of the Crypt Keeper (who is rumored to be based on a RISD professor) I went the sci-fi route and did a tribute to Wallace Wood, one of my favorite comic book artists. I like to think that, like him, I take draftsmanship seriously (and little else).

I inked this cover myself since it was for a show and they needed it quickly (my Dad, Joe Rivera, usually inks my work). That being the case, I "penciled" it digitally in Photoshop and printed it out in blue-line, then went straight to inking. I used a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #6 brush for everything but the lettering, which was penned with a Speedball B-6 nib. Holbein Drawing Ink is my ammunition of choice, which provides a rich black and dries to a waterproof finish.

blue-line print of digital "pencils"

Pictured above is a darkened version of what I actually inked over. Converting to blue-line is easy with an adjustment layer in Photoshop set to "Colorize" — this turns every layer below to the same hue, which can be then be adjusted according to taste. Below is a screenshot of my typical setting: Hue - 196, Saturation - 100, and Lightness +94.

HSB adjustment layer

Prior to that is the rough sketch stage where my primary concern is composition and legibility. I always distribute the main elements to separate layers so I can nudge them into position, or scale them if need be. This is also where I lay in a perspective template that helps keep all the technical aspects aligned. Since this was a tribute cover (with the full support of the Bill Gaines estate) I used the trade dress from an actual Wood cover to frame my own work. Their only request was that I use an issue number that wasn't already taken.

digital sketch with trade dress

Since this was not for publication (and only pays if it sells), the approval process was pretty lax — and so I dashed off a few rough layouts with quick descriptions of what was going on. Of course, now that I did them, it makes me want to draw an entire series.

The whole process, start to finish, took 30 hours, half of that being inking. Because of the tight schedule, I didn't have time to color the original, but I still hope to color it digitally at some point. Of course, if the art doesn't sell, I'll just get it back and finish it up with watercolor and touches of gouache.

In space, no one can hear you sigh.

The New Year isn't looking so good for our commander.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The White Test

This post is already a few years old now, but it seems to be making the rounds again, and rightfully so.

Before Muddy Colors existed, artist Jonathan Linton posted an article on his blog detailing the results of his 'White Test' experiment. Jonathan sampled dozens of different brands of white oil paint, let them age for 5 years, and then rated them on much they yellowed over the years. The results may shock you!

I, for one, am changing my brand of white immediately.

Want to know what the best white is? The worst one? Read the entire article, and see the results at Jonathan's blog HERE.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy Birthday To Us!

Muddy Colors turns 3 years old today!

Over the past 3 years, we have never missed a single scheduled day. That's more than ONE THOUSAND posts detailing our paintings, our process, our failures, and our inspiration. Somehow, after all that time, this amazing group of contributors still manages to share something insightful week after week.

There have been some real gems scattered throughout the last 3 years of posts. How many of the 1000 have YOU read? Here are some of my favorite, and some of the most popular posts, you may have missed:

Our very first public post on October 25, 2010, by Arnie Fenner:

Greg Manchess' first "10 things" post, which has since turned into one of my favorite recurrent posts on the entire blog:

The inimitable Adam Rex tells us how he crafts one of his award-winning picture books:

Serge Birault gives us tips on how to make your digital paintings look more like real paint:

The introductory post to 'Dragon Fortnight', 2 weeks of nothing but dragon-themed posts:

How to build a free website in less than 10 minutes (seriously!):

The ever aloof, and amazingly talented, Paul Bonner graces us with a guest post:

In one of my favorite posts ever, Chris Moeller talks about those incredibly difficult years immediately following art school:

Jesper Ejsing shares his entire process in an in-depth 2-part post:

One of our most popular posts of all time, Jordu Schell proves that nothing goes viral quite like Star Wars fan art:

Eric Fortune starts a great dialogue asking if Art School is even worth it any more:

A quick rundown of some of my favorite art books from 2010:

Arnie Fenner gives us an inspirational glimpse at what some of our favorite artists were doing BEFORE they were our favorite artists:

Our very first "Crit-Submit", where we revised our reader's art (which I promise will make a return someday soon!)

Todd Lockwood does a 2-part guest post, and blows us all away with his comprehensive understanding of Curvilinear Perspective:

Justin Gerard, always in search of better methods and mediums, shares his experiences with traditional oil paints vs. water soluable oil paints:

A posthumous homage to one of the greatest fantasy artists to ever live:

10 different artist's takes on the same subject, shows us that even old ideas can still prove innovative:

A comprehensive step-by-step on how to professional photograph your artwork:

Donato instills us all with a little bit of hope, as he shares the progression of his work from age 10 and up:

Paolo Rivera discusses one of the most important, and under appreciated, aspects of any painting, Presearch!

Last but not least, the last known videos of Moebius drawing:

So what were some of your favorite posts? Please share with us in the comments section!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Huor and Hurin Approaching Gondolin - J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion

-By Donato

Ever since I was handed The Hobbit to read as a 13 year old, the world of Middle-earth has been at the core of my imaginative being. J.R.R. Tolkien's writings and epic trials of his characters have been much on my mind these past years as my skills have grown, my aesthetics matured, and my thoughts turn to those stories which transcend time. I am now at a phase of my career where I have the technical ability and emotional sensitivity to make real those visions which normally confound and frustrate a young artist. I have become a bit more fearless in embracing major projects and revel in the challenges they present.

Niagara Falls  Fredrick Church
This painting speaks to many passions I hold, from that of being an artist, a dreamer, a story teller, and a fan of Middle-earth. Drawing on my love of the Hudson River school landscape artists, it was pure pleasure to undertake this monumental work both in homage to the art of Albert Beirstadt and in celebration of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. I could not have stepped into this realm of landscape work without the sublime discovery of Fredrick Church's Niagara Falls at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC years ago.  I will never forget walking into that room, transfixed by the painting on the wall.  It was the first time I really saw a landscape painting and the emotional weight it could deliver.  Church displayed such beauty, awe, and technical brilliance in bringing that geological wonder to life through oil paint. 

Lander's Peak  Albert Beirstadt
Those emotions were a part of why and how I wanted to tackle this commission, and a reason for its scale - my image is nearly identical in size to a masterwork of the Hudson River School, that of Lander's Peak by Albert Bierstadt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Specifically, my mountainous scene comes from The Silmarillion and features a forefather of Elrond, Huor, rescued with his brother from the minions of Morgoth and transported to the hidden realm of Gondolin by the eagles.  An act of kindness, discovery and wonder all wrapped into one!

It was only through working upon a painting of this scale that I could really appreciate the accomplishments of what those landscape artists achieved in their work.  I will be forever humbled by this journey.

The painting is my largest to date in an attempt to convey the wonder and majesty of Tolkien's Middle-earth, but it will certainly not be my last. Keep your eyes open here and on my website for more epic interpretations of Middle-earth to come in the future!


P.s Prints are now being proofed for those Tolkien fans who want a piece of the hidden elf kingdom.

Huor and Hurin Approaching Gondolin   Oil on Linen   112" x 77"   Donato Giancola

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Advocate of the Beast

-By Jesper Ejsing

This is a magic card artwork for a card named Advocate of the Beast. The assignemnt asked for an elf riding a giant beast off panel. He should be agressive and determined.

I made a couple of thumbs with way too much beast included, and ended up with a sketch that focused mainly on the elf. I sketched to figure more detailed concentration on the pose, the expression and the equipment. I was quite happy and started to transfer it to watercolor for painting. I went for a cup of coffee and when I returned and looked again I got that strange uneasiness in the stomach, not from the coffee, mind you, but from doubt. As soon as Doubt stuck its ugly head up and announced himself a player, there is no turning back for me. The only way to stuff him back down into the mud is by starting all over. The reason I started doubting was because of small unclarities in the pose. He was turned away from the line of action of the beast. It looked like he was tilting out of balance. I did the only right thing: acted the pose out on stage. In this case, stage is the studio floor. My roommate took a fuzzy photo and I resketched the pose. I noticed from the photo that the torso needed better foreshortening to make him more hunched and I changed the hand holding the staff to be more dynamic. Also the face pointing in the direction of the chest helped to show him more solid standing, less dancing, if you know what I mean.

The final grey version here is the one I was painting on top. My idea for the armor was that most of it was made or material from the forest like bark strapped together like a Duffel Coat. The staff is made from a large leg bone of a giant animal and the morningstar-like balls is made of bones too. Keep it all naturell. I also gave him a little flute-mouthpiece that he could use perhaps to control the beast by sound with. The “Rope” he holds as reins is made of his own old braids.

I spend most of the time on this painting on shifting the colors around on his face. Somehow it constantly skewed around for me. One eye dropping or seemed to small and then all of a sudden he squinted. I do have a mirror on the top of my desk in which I hold the painting once in a while to see it in revers. It is the analog way of “Flipping image horizontally”. Usually it is enough for me to hold it op once in a while to spot the mistakes you make from painting something you know. The image in your head is clear and somehow it cheats the brain to not carefully look at what you are actually painting, cos the brain knows better. Flipping makes the mind reboot and forcing it to see the image anew. It has really saved me a lot of skewed faces.

I deliberately chose the colors to be very warm and yellow greenish. But to avoid it becoming too flat I had a cold blue tone to bounce of his chest and in the shadow part of the hair rope.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Harry Dresden, Part 2

-By Dan dos Santos

In the first part of this series I shared with you the initial sketches that I gave my client. When I work for a Publisher, I typically do just 3 sketches, and email them to the client. But because my client was actually commissioning an original work of art to hang on his wall, I did things a bit differently.

Firstly, I did a LOT more sketches than usual.  Secondly, I mailed him printed copies of the sketches. Mailing versus emailing some sketches may not seem like a big deal, but it actually makes quite a big difference. Because I was sending him print outs, I was able to enlarge them to the actual size I had planned on painting them. Looking at a life-sized painting in person is a completely different experience than seeing a small image of it on your screen. This way, the client could tack the sketches up on his wall, sit back, and see which one he liked best, taking their intended size into account.

My client got back to pretty quickly, and said he liked sketch #3 the best.

Now that I knew which sketch he liked, my next goal was to find out WHY. We emailed back and forth a bit and discussed what he liked about the concept and why he selected that particular piece. He said he liked how resolved the scenario was, and that the image seemed more like a movie still, rather than a 'pin-up'. He also liked the idea of adding the demon Lash I included in a previous sketch, and wondered if there was any way I could add her to this image as well.

From there, I went about revising the sketch, and offered him a variety of poses to choose from. I also made two notable revisions in these sketches:

Firstly, I turned Harry's chest toward us in two of them. I did this for two reasons. One, I wanted try to show Harry's pentacle pendant, which is an important part of the story. Two, I felt it would be better to have the warm light of the fire, and the cool light of Harry's shield on opposing sides of the figure. That way, the colors would compliment the form, rather than compete with each other.

Secondly, I slipped the visage of Lash's face into the flames, whispering in Harry's ear.

Because this painting is ultimately a portrait of Harry, I wanted to make sure I refined his actual 'look' a bit more in this second round of sketches. To help me do this, I shot some reference of a toy model. I also purchased a head specifically for this piece that I thought was close to how I envisioned Harry looking.

I really love using miniature models for reference. Not only is it pretty fun, but I feel that it helps me explore more options, and break away from my usual solutions. Rather than just imagining a pose, I was able to physically place my toy model in a variety of real poses. This helps me 'act out' the scene in my head a bit, and quickly eliminate, or expound on, any silhouettes and lighting schemes I find interesting.