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.