– By Jesper Ejsing
Today I want to tell you about a cover that went a little out of the ordinary way for me. I was assigned to do the cover for Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual # 3. The Art Director asked me for 2 sketches. The figure on the cover was going to be a Drow Spider Queen God, and as she could be seen in 2 different forms, they wanted me to do a sketch of both forms before deciding. The forms were either in Drow-form or half spider-form.
I submitted two sketches, number 1 and 2. I was sure they would choose number 2, the Drow-form and was already in the middle of starting it, when I got an email asking not for number 1, not number 2, but a mix between them… Okay, I tried to combine the two and sent them number 3. It was kind of approved if I could open up her arm. Her pose looked too closed off, and I totally agree.
Here comes the part of this job that was kind of nice. I, for one, will not complain. When I asked one of my regular models to pose for this Drow queen she said that she couldn’t. But to compensate she hooked me up with a friend of hers, a Playboy model from Slovenia; Barbara Zatler. She thought the whole thing sounded funny and agreed to pose for me. We shot a bunch of photos with her trying to look mean and imposing, not a very easy thing to do for someone who is used to looking pretty and sexy.
I used the photos and created the black and white version you see in number 4. From that stage I did a colour rough (number 5) in green/bluish tones to capture and underground mood. I then proceeded to the final. (number 6)
Well here comes the part I was not prepared for: The art director didn´t like it. Well she liked it but thought the whole image blended too much into the background. In order to fix it I tried adding more saturation to the cloth and I lightened the background. I tried a bunch of stuff, and nothing really worked.
So I submitted a whole different colour rough (number 7). It hit the spot, but for me to try and tweak it digitally was hell. I am not an expert on Photoshop. In the end I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I made a rash decision… I placed the original on my table, grabbed a large brush and dipped the sucker in shocking pink! Before I would think against it I slobbered down a wash of the pink paint all over the picture. “Ha ha…nothing to it. What the hell are you making such a big fuss about, cry-baby?”, might all you digital painters out there say. But I tell you; to take a completely finished acrylic painting that you just spent 14 days on and then cover the whole thing in paint is a heartbreaking action.
So what I had to do was repaint all the image again with washes and then refine the highlights. If you compare the two, number 6 and 8, you will see that only the top of the painting is the same. I stopped my pink brush from going up there. Since it was going to be bluish anyway.
I never had to change so much of a painting before, but I am glad I took the leap and did it the old way. I like pink. I like purple.
I guess what I am trying to say is, I learned a great deal going the hard way. I know now that it can be done and from that day on I was not as nervous when painting. I have in the back of my mind a voice saying “You can change it, it is not permanent, go ahead! You can always cover it up…you did it once.”
And it made me bolder and braver.