Here is a magic card illustration I did a while back. I got to design some kind of evil forest monster rooting up tombstones with undead crawling up from the ground.
In the thumb stage I established most of what made it to final. I chose a very low horizontal line to make us look from below up on the monster making him seem more gigantic and impressive. I have a soft spot for monsters without eyes. i think it makes them more primal to be equipped only with the bare necessities for eating: mouth and teeth. Eyes are too personal.
I ink the whole thing up on paper and add black acrylics to establish the values. From thumb to sketch I flattened out the perspective even more. I removed the zombie to the right since I wanted the focus to be on the 2 ones underneath him. I put a stone and a tree to the left in the foreground to make it appear that we are looking from behind something. It puts the viewpoint more into the scene.
I wanted the mood of this image to be very grey and without colors. As if the scene was lit only by moonlight, but I needed a strong accent color to show some magic element. Adding the pinkish tone to the mouth helps draw attention to the facial area. I think that little contrast color in a green/greyish palette helps wonder isn pulling the overall image away from being monochromatic. By having ONE off color you read the image as deeper and more colorful even though it is mostly build up by very simple color choices. Also the fact that all values was chosen beforehand really makes the coloring only a matter of creating texture.
In the final painting stage I scrapped the pine trees and replaced them with strange willow-like trunks. Also I replaced the leaves and branches on his back with the same kind of branch like shapes.
I am pretty happy with how few stages there are between the first thumb and the final image. I didn’t have any stage between the thumb and the drawing on the paper I painted on. By transferring only a thumb instead of a more rendered sketch I keep everything fresh and alive and lets the dynamic from the thumb translate all the way to final…that is, when everything goes well.