Today I’m going to talk about two pieces rather than one, mostly because they depict the same character, but also because there’s not a ton to say about either individually. So here we go.
In the first piece I was asked to create an image of am ifrit (a type of fire demon). More specifically, he needed to be floating in an enclosed space, he needed to be surrounded by floating gold coins, and the space he was floating in needed to reference specific aspects of Persian architecture.
In this case, research into Persian architecture is what led to an idea for the piece. Once I found reference that I liked, I went about trying to figure out how the floating ifrit fit in the environment. I did a bunch of quick scribbles and settled on a direction. To expedite things, I took reference of the pose I wanted to put the ifrit in and then went about drawing my final sketches.
As you can see, I gave two slight variations both in the design of the ifrit, as well as his level of engagement with the viewer. I left it up to the fine folks at Wizards to decide, and in the end they preferred the second version. From there, I was off to the races.
About the architecture: I’d like to say that I figured out the math of the architecture and managed to draw it from scratch, but I did no such thing. First, I didn’t have the time to learn such math, and second, even if I did, there’d be no guarantee I could properly employ it in the perspective needed. While I didn’t end up tracing it, I did use a projector to plot the major through lines so I could keep it relatively accurate. In the end, it’s accurate enough, but it’s also pretty off in places. But I think it’s close enough to not be too distracting.
Now, a lot of this kind of Persian architecture happens to be quite elaborately decorated, and there’s a part of me that would have loved to get lost in that kind of thing. In fact, I think there’s a really cool version of this piece in an alternate universe where I did actually go to town on the decoration. In this universe, however, I just didn’t see how the image would hold up when reduced to card size. There’s a high probability that the information density when reduced would have resulted in an image that was virtually unreadable. So, for the sake of clarity, I chose to keep the architecture in this image more in line with less decorative examples. In addition to making the architecture less time consuming, it also helped keep focus where it needed to be: the subject of the piece, being the ifrit himself. Keeping it simple also helped ensure that I’d meet my deadline.
One of the nice things about the architectural design was that the shapes enabled me to insinuate the shape of wings behind the figure. This aspect wasn’t really a part of my initial plan, but I saw them sort of start to appear as I worked on the sketches and I tried to capitalize on that further in the painting. I didn’t want it to be too overt, but I wanted the insinuated wing shapes to definitely be there. I probably could have been even more subtle, but I’m still content with where it landed.
This finished piece is called Yusri, Fortune’s Flame. It’s oil on gessoed hardboard and measures twenty inches wide by sixteen inches tall. It was art directed by Cynthia Sheppard.
In the end, I was quite content with the piece. It was a rare commission that tied into the personal work I’ve been doing in some way (if only superficially with the use of fire), and it was a nice chance to play with light and form in a way I hadn’t gotten to do in a while.
In the end, the folks at Wizards seemed to like the piece, and I moved on. But I hadn’t seen the last of Yusri. I’d get a chance to paint him again before too long. More on that next time…