Pathfinder Barbarian figthing a Warlock and his pet Golem. (60x45 cm acrylic on paper)
This is a cover for a Paizo Books. I was asked to do a nordic ice-themed Warlock controlling an Ice Golem. They are fighting Amiri The barbarian, an Iconic figure from the Pathfinder universe. I made a lot of different thumbs and submitted 5 that I liked. As always when having multiple figures fighting on the same image, it is really hard to have everyone facing the camera. Sarah Robinson liked all of them but chose the one with Amiri, the female hero, having her face visible.
So I started sketching each figure on a different paper. I might have told you why, before, but it bears repetition: By sketching on separate papers, killing your darlings is not that hard. Just take another paper, nothing lost. If I had sketched it all on one I would be tempted to keep a less good figure if the 2 others had turned out great: By separating them I max out my effort on each figure, keeping the pose within the silhouette of the thumb, but going for the best expression I can. The image is divided up into smaller, easier to digest, bites - tasks better overcome by my feeble brain.
When they are all done, I copy paste the 3 sketches on to my thumb using photoshop. The sketch of the barbarian girl really turned out great. She was sketches in 30 cm wide even if she is no bigger than a little finger on the original. I had trouble how the shoulders would turn and how the hand would bent in a striking position, so I had Bodil from my studio, pose with a sword.
Final sketched figures pasted in from scans
When the sketch is done I transfer it to paper via a lightbox. When sketching I tried to take the idea a bit further. The thumb had the golem almost running into a sword thrust, the wizard less engaged to the side. The motion of the Golem looked too static and he come of as standing more than movin. Also I really wanted to be sure that you wouldn't read it so that it looked like the barbarian and the warlock are friends fighting an Ice Monster together. So I changed the thrust to a sweep, having the sword tip taking of the tip of his beard and cleaving the staff while continuing into the belly of the Golem. The golem got a more back turned pose reading a strike that would have crushed her, had she not struck first. Also I moved the Warlock up to the side of the golem and changed his pose so that it mimics the golem. that way, I hope, you read it as if he is controlling the Monster. It is the same reason I did not give the golem eyes. He do not need them since the warlock is seeing for him.
I know that all of these ideas might not be clear at all and perhaps you do not see it the same way, but I had all these thoughts in trying to tell a little story within the battle. A thought that is important if you want to make pictures that goes beyond posing figures acting cool.