ToQ: Tomb of Haakuhl

Tomb of Haakuhl
On windy nights, when thick low cloud rolls in off the sea and settles into the small valleys surrounding the tomb, a shape in the form of a man wearing a long cloak, is occasionally seen drifting silently around the immediate area of the Tomb of Haakuhl. The cloak itself appears to be formed from the twisting fog tendrils that cover the ground, his long white hair glows with a radiant intensity, and his body and face are said to be of a limitless blackness. This unsettling figure causes no physical harm, and has never attempted to approach any witness, but all reported sightings tell of a strongly emanating feeling of distress and desolation as the lonely apparition keeps silent vigil of the family tomb.

A quick piece for my Tales of Quahnarren project. Illustration completed in Painter and Photoshop.

Scuttlepig’s classic Metal Mascara album

Scuttlepig – Metal MascaraIn 1982 hard rock gods Scuttlepig released their most ambitious album to date, the now classic, Metal Mascara. Taking new inspiration from divergent genres such as lipstick pop, disco beats, and hardcore metal, Scuttlepig produced a breakthrough sound that quickly became the defining shift in 1980’s popular music.

Featuring the worldwide hits Insanity Reigns, We Ruled Without Fear, and A Welcome Defeat, Scuttlepig’s greatest album is an inspired masterpiece loaded with complex, yet accessible, power rock anthems. Hailed by critics and fans alike, Metal Mascara continues to be acknowledged as one of the most significant releases in popular music during the 1980’s, and features prominently in all industry lists naming the important and influential albums from the decade.

Tales of Quahnarren: Trial of the Alvaiser

Trial of the Alvaiser

Those few that have survived an encounter with an Alvaiser claim to have been generously granted a second chance at life, and speak earnestly of the tremendous awe and humility they felt during what is now commonly described as the ‘spirit judgement’ – a personal trial of the soul.

Alvaiser are supernatural woodland spirits, keenly watching all who venture into their forests. They are guardians and protectors of the natural world, seeking without compunction to redress the actions of human weakness and violence. They are primarily found in areas where trauma and death has affected the natural balance of the environment, and therefore take what is necessary to achieve the required equilibrium within their individual location.

Appearing in human form as beautiful semi-transparent goddesses, they float amongst the treetops, glowing majestically in flowing white gowns that separate into ribbons below their waist, where no further human form remains. Their long hair radiates a warm and enveloping heat, and their hands emit a vaporous blue energy that silently flashes with arcane potential.

All who gaze upon the Alvaiser find themselves stupefyingly transfixed and unable to turn away. Reaching down to touch the head of their target, they communicate solely through direct thoughts and images into the mind, prompting powerful sensations of extreme loss, confusion, and submission, and decisively searching the soul to determine a suitable sacrifice for their needs.

Victims of an encounter with an Alvaiser are never seen again – they magically cease to exist and no remains are ever found. Those who pass judgement however, continue on to live with a new appreciation for the world they share, and believe that their personal destiny is favourably altered forevermore.

• • •

A potentially fatal encounter for travellers in my ongoing fantasy project Tales of Quahnarren. The Alvaiser are equally feared and respected, and feature heavily in the folklore and historic fables told across Quahnarren.

This illustration was created in both Painter and Photoshop, and is one of the enjoyable quicker pieces I’ve completed recently using a palette knife style. This image was initially produced in Painter, only in black & white, and then coloured and altered within Photoshop. This technique allows me to firstly concentrate solely on the complete composition, values, and contrast, before progressing on to determine a final colour palette, add/delete/alter any details and textures, and to fully develop the atmosphere I wish the subject and overall image to convey.

Below are a few small sections of the illustration showing the differences between an unfinished early black & white version, and the final coloured piece. The advantage for this particular image of using individual programs for separate stages of production, was the ability to work with a specific brush style within Painter, and then import that base art into Photoshop (a program I have considerably more experience in using), where I could easily add the required highlighting effects onto my existing art.

process_head_stripprocess_hand_stripprocess_gown_strip
As part of this personal project I’ve been compiling various notes and descriptions of the people, creatures, historical events, customs, and spiritual beliefs of all those that play a significant role within this fantasy world, and will continue to produce new illustrations of a diverse selection of these elements as I move onwards in the creation of this world.

Three Kings from the East

Three Kings from the East

I’ve never illustrated anything with a religious theme before, but felt that this idea would suit my favoured palette knife technique, and would also be a perfect opportunity to create something a little different for Christmas.

This piece was initially created in Corel Painter 12, in black & white only, as I focussed on the overall layout and the specific look of each camel and their wise man. It was then imported into Adobe Photoshop where the colour and some texture overlays were added.

Merry Christmas to you!

Tales of Quahnarren: Buhldaag of the Northern Scourge

Buhldaag_The Northern Scourge

From the wild northern regions they came – determined men with empty hearts and pure uncontrolled fire in their hateful eyes. They flowed unhindered into the settled central areas of Quahnarren like a breaking wave eagerly seeking the shoreline, intent only on reaching its destination without hesitation or pause. Their tumultuous wailing attack cries struck a cold paralyzing fear into all peaceful inhabitants south of their homelands, and they created confusion and disharmony amongst normally calm men, who dishearteningly understood that they had neither the strength, nor will, to halt the plundering advancements of the accurately labeled Northern Scourge.

Their raids had quickly become more numerous, more murderous and increasingly uncontrollable. No longer content to just take what they desired, whole villages were now burned to the ground, simply in spite, for sport, and to feed a destructive longing. These men of immoral and vicious temperament were also acquiring a fondness for taking gruesome souvenirs, and reveled in the violence and chaotic mayhem created during their southern incursions.

Chief tormenter amongst them was their unscrupulous leader, Buhldaag – a fearless and driven character, who commanded a horde of easily fooled lesser men, deceitfully misled to serve his own egotistical madness.

• • •

A new piece for my Tales of Quahnarren illustrated short story collection. This black & white character illustration was completed in Painter 12, using a smeary palette knife in a similar style to The Dreamer.

Sketch of the day: Bowled

Bowled

The nervous batsman awaits the demon bowler. The scoreboard details uninspired performances from those proceeding him this innings; his team needs solid runs from him now to avoid an embarrassingly heavy defeat. He taps his bat on the crease, organizes his racing thoughts, and concentrates on the approaching delivery.

The death rattle is the last thing he wanted to hear…

(inspired by a song)

Tales of Quahnarren: The Dreamer

Tales of Quahnarren: The DreamerThe Dreamer

The Dreamer is the latest addition to my Tales of Quahnarren illustrated short story project.

This character went through an interesting visual development process, during which he transformed from a troublesome outlaw into a civilised musician and entertainer – quite a switch!

As is my normal working process, I saved many stages of completion whilst producing the illustration, which captures the evolution of the image over time. Below I’ve set up four individual versions into one image, which tracks development (top, left to right, then bottom, left to right) and shows the way I like to work on specific areas of importance, before making balancing adjustments or detail improvements across the overall piece.

The Dreamer: development steps

This illustration initially started with a loose sketch drawn directly in Painter with my Wacom tablet, which at the time was little more than just a head shot without any preplanning for a particular background design or treatment. A key element for this particular character was to capture an expression that matched his nature, which partly explains his personal change in destiny. This pose presented a nice faraway look, which helped to solidify the character in my mind and brought forth the idea to place him in an outdoor setting, suggesting his travels through the countryside as a wandering entertainer. As the focus was purely on the main interest area of the face I only needed to suggest organic shapes and continued to blend his form with the background itself.

As can be seen I wasn’t originally working with any colour, and was unsure until almost complete about changing it from a duotone to a colour piece. I regularly import my finished Painter files into Photoshop for final colour, contrast and saturation adjustments, so after completing that stage added some colour overlays to decide if a suitable effect could be achieved without losing the simplicity of the piece that I favoured. Introducing a light brown for the character of Leahslee and supporting that with a blue-green background added a bit more mood and interest, so I was happy to finish with the final version you see as the main image.

The illustration took about 8-9 hours to complete and is a welcome new part of my Quahnarren series.

Tales of Quahnarren: The Battle of Velkonnen Plains

The Battle of Velkonnen Plains

These expansive grassed plains could not speak – however, they had their own violent tale of misery to tell any who would care to listen. Scattered across this recent battlefield lay the butchered remains of many men, their bodies destroyed by weapons fashioned for savage destruction, brutally wielded by murderous men possessing souls touched by an unfathomable darkness.

Reason, respect and any sense of justification departed in this theatre of war, by the hands of a callous and disreputable horde. Flesh ripped, bones were broken and crushed, and copious blood splattered and pooled over these plains. The air and earth had thundered with the tumultuous immensity of human slaughter and malicious intent, and billowing dust clouds, formed by the struggles of man and beast, had rapidly filtered the light from the bright midday sun.

An overwhelming and uneasy presence of death lingered and haunted this land, a location forever marked by a terrible and significant event, and the final quiet resting place for many souls.

* * *

This is a newly created piece from my ongoing Tales of Quahnarren series of illustrated fantasy stories.

The written concept came firstly to me some time ago, and I had originally intended to show a much wider view featuring many visible human remains amongst the grass. But a chance viewing of an image showing a crow sitting on a soldiers helmet made me realize that a tighter focus would portray the scene in a more impactful way. This illustration came together relatively easily and completion time was somewhere around 15 hours. All the original painting for the vulture-like bird, skull and grasslands was completed in Corel Painter 12 using oil brushes, with final grass detailing and overall editing finalized in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

To the skies, boys!

Flyboy is a personal design project, so far featuring the identity (previously posted in December) and the above poster design. This is my spin on the old ‘hero’ style recruitment and support campaigns seen during war years, and has given me an opportunity to experiment a bit further with digital brushes. This illustration was mainly created in Painter 12, using a chalk and a round soft pastel brush, and the typographical elements and final poster layout was completed in Photoshop CS5.