I was asked to paint a Classis Sphinx for a Magic the Gathering set. A Sphinx incorporates the best of what I like to paint; beautiful woman and animals. The trick and the most difficult part, I think is the combining of the two.
The description was asking for a blind milky eyes female Sphinx in an observatory like a wizards tower.
I tried a bunch of different poses.
Some lying down some more dynamic. I really need to go through this process and draw out a bunch of often very different composition. If nothing else, then just to assure myself that the first idea or picture I had in my head was the right one. With these sketches I found it a bit strange for her to have a too dynamic pose while still looking dreamily into the horizon. It just works better if the pose is more stoic and regal, rather than being in the mist of a motion or a movement. So the one I settle for was a very relaxed pose. The face looking straight at us.
I quickly noticed how much of a triangle the composition was creating and I tried to enhance that by filling up the bottom part of the silhouette. having her create almost a pyramid with the body shape. One can argue that a symmetrical triangle composition is not very exciting. Usually that is true and I would normally argue against it BUT; the narrative or mood of the painting was calling for a stoic and elegant stable and royal feeling, so the pyramid shape is point on. To outweigh the triangle and to give it a contrast to be perceived up against I turned the wings to create a for of framing bowl shape to further circle in her head. the lines of the stuff in the background I used to enhance those circular shapes.
Everything I can do to drag focus up and on to the face and top of the figure is something I look for in composing the elements of the drawing. Also I push for details such as her left wing coming out towards us and becomes a foreshortening rather than just an appendix sticking out of her back. this way I can create a nice little overlap of the tip of the wing going in front of her – hmn…ear-wings?.
The final sketch i transfer to a watercolor board and then I add all the darkest values in black acrylics. I take a printout of the grey tone version and create a color rough.
Since I knew this was going to have a blue frame being a blue Magic card, I went for a purple/pink/blue palette with the eyes being turquoise. Turquoise is a much greener blue and in all the very ultramarine reddish blue environment the greener color would stand out. I always look for a splash color like this to give a contrast to the main palette.