The Importance of Reference

Last week I finished the drawing for The Bone Oracle. This the second phase of an idea that came to me in a daydream months ago. I'm planning to translate this idea into a painting later this year. Sometimes an idea has a life of it's own from the start, but more often than not, the artist must work to develop an idea further with the help of reference photos.

I had an idea and then I shot the reference for that idea in our spare bedroom, with my daughter as the model. This isn't the first time my daughter has modeled for my reference photos, but it is the first time I kept her features mostly intact. Most of my paintings you'd never know my daughter was the original model.  When using reference it's important to remember you don't have to stick to the photograph. It's not a copy, but a guide. 

Though I kept my daughter's likeness, I wanted more hair (a lot more hair) and claws instead of nails.  I narrowed her forearm to accentuate the clawed hands, but kept her muscular shoulder. The Bone Oracle is after all, descended from the Harpies. In the reference photos I placed long sticks around my daughter. I'm not sure what I was thinking there, but it's obviously an idea I trashed in favor of more skulls.

You can never have too many skulls right?

When I begin work on the painting I will likely refer to both the drawing and the original reference, to help me stay focused on the setting and the mood. Stay tuned for more!

Hideous Creatures: Wendigo

A couple months back I completed my first freelance illustration work for Pelgrane Press. Working for small game companies is an excellent way to learn, gain experience and get your foot in the door (the door being the illustration industry). The piece I painted in June can't be shared just yet, but I recently completed three more illustrations for a different project.

When the art director sent me direction for each illustration, I thought I was dreaming. Wendigos. Specifically the wendigos of North America. Mythology and folklore are a passion and more often than not these stories and themes are fusing with my art. This project was the perfect assignment.

The illustrations below were created for Hideous Creatures: Wendigos by Kenneth Hite.

Creature Design

If you're an artist that delves into the fantastic then you've thought up crazy creatures and beings at some point. But I'd never done it with guidelines. The big requirement for this fellow were the bizarre feet. 

Cosmic Wendigo

I was so inspired by this illustration that I sort of bypassed the sketch phase. Who wouldn't be? Canadian forest, night sky, spirit wendigo.... Thankfully, the art director was inspired by it too. After a little more development it was deemed finished.

Wendigo Possession

For the final illustration, I need to create a scene. A Metis trapper enters a cabin to find a European trapper possessed by a wendigo. A lot of research went into this painting. I used Google images to browse for vintage photographs of Canadian trappers and their log cabins.

Daydreams & Wanderings Flip-Through

I thought it would be fun to create a short video for anyone who has been thinking of purchasing a copy of Daydreams & Wanderings. This video will give you a brief glimpse inside my first sketchbook.

I have fifty-one copies of Daydreams & Wanderings left. I'll be bringing them along to future conventions and when they're gone, that's it! I won't be printing anymore. These are limited edition books. Oh, and I just happen to be running a sale in my shop. Right now.

The Bone Oracle WIP

I have a small page of ideas I want to turn into paintings over the next 9 months and an even larger page of fleeting ideas that may one day become more solid ideas. The Bone Oracle is one of the latter and for the time being it’s the one I’ve decided to give my attention. When I took the reference photos for the painting in February I was calling it Her Bones, but I was never sold on that title. My list of keywords and phrases for the painting revealed a new title, The Bone Oracle.

The Story

When you seek out the Bone Oracle never do so empty-handed.

The Bone Oracle is a magical creature you do not want to double-cross. If you happen upon one you might at first mistake her for a beautiful woman, but bloodline hails from the harpies of legend. She spends most her time in caves, only venturing out at night to feed. While a Bone Oracle is not a creature you should seek out, there are those that do, for her powers of prediction. Her gift of sight is renowned but she will only reveal what she knows when the proper gift is presented. Bones.

If you backed my Kickstarter or bought a sketchbook in my shop, then you’ve seen the first quick sketch I did for the Bone Oracle. In the last week I’ve begun to revisit this idea with the start of a new drawing.

My plan is to complete the drawing, scan it and then decide if I want to zoom back in on the face and skull or create a painting based off the entire drawing. Decisions… Once finished the drawing will be for sale in my shop. I expect to finish it in the new couple weeks. I’m working on it during my free time–my work time is being devoted to a book cover commission. If you want to watch the drawing progress, follow me on Instagram!

The Kickstarter Sketches

Over the weekend I counted up the photographs I’d taken of the sketchbooks with sketches inside and realized I missed a few. Nothing I can do now! All the books are making their way out into the world and should be arriving on my backer’s doorsteps this week (add another to week to that if you’re an international backer). Here are the books I remembered to capture before I packaged them up.

Signed and numbered copies of Daydreams and Wanderings are now available to purchase from my shop. Also, if you happen to be a fan of my Facebook page, there’s a coupon for folks who have Liked the page inside the Store tab in the menu. The coupon is good for anything in my shop.