Today I want to continue down the path I was a couple of articles back, The encountering monster road. This illustration is for the cover of Descent – Road to Legend by Fantasy Flight Games. The cover on the box is changed slightly compared to the acrylic original. What I share with you is the painting version that has not been altered too much in computer.
The description was very simple: “Heroes vs Monster outside somewhere”.
I did a bunch of sketches but in the end we settled on a lonely female figure fronting a dragon.
The sketch that lead up to this choice is the one with the female and the demon. As you can hopefully see, most of the sketches up till the final one lacks a lot of drama and dynamic. That is what I try do capture while doing all those thumbs.
Here is the common problem for a fantasy artist doing battles of heroes vs Monsters: You always twist and turn and shuffle the figure around so that all is seen from the front all the faces are clear and everything is equally cool. It has the tendency to be a little styled or too staged, I think. What I really really like about his illustration is that the Chief, Christian Petersen, took the chance of having a hero with the back turned towards us on the cover. It of cause gave me a lot of trouble since I now had to do a figure looking really cool and strong and heroic from the back. What I like about the posing of the figures is that she is kind of stoic and calm in the moment whereas the dragon is all out attacking. I gave a white arrow with a magic glow so that we might think she has a chance. Also her posture indicate that she is not too afraid.
Inspired by Angus Mcbride´s MERP illustrations I gave her a small cat-like creature as a friend. The mountain is actually added afterwards at a request from the art director. I found some mountains from a cover I did years ago for a Norse Mythology book and more or less copy pasted them in. “Thank you Photoshop”.
I tried 4 very different colour themes. I loved nr 1 myself. Grey sky and all grid and brown, but I felt quite sure it would be out of line with what FFG wanted for a cover. I had just painted a bunch of very colourful illustrations and the bright sunny day of nr. 3 just felt like something I had never done before, so I went with that one. Ironically the cover was changed for the final box to be bluish/grey like a cloudy day. Had I just followed my instinct I think this cover could have been so much more.