Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Mighty Thor

This has been an idea that has been kicking around in my head for several months and I finally had some time to work on it.  I had an absolute blast painting in the clouds.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Work

As always I am really bad at updating this as often as I should, a lot has happened since my last post.  I attended my first GenCon as both an attendee and as an exhibitor in the art show.  I had a ton of fun catching up with art friends from past shows and workshops, finally got to meet some people that I only new online and also got to meet and hang out with some very cool new people. The show was absolutely amazing!  I sold a lot of prints...I mean A. Lot. of them, talked with some new publishers about future work, I won an award!!!! and I also sold an original piece of art.  The plan right now is to try and see what other shows and conventions I can do.  After I came home from GenCon I was really excited to get back to work with my newfound confidence and motivation and I painted these two new portfolio pieces.  Now that these are done I looking to get back to doing some more oil paintings and traditional stuff.  I you are interested in following my sketches work in progress and other whatnots the best place to follow me is my instagram here instagram.com/stephennajarian/ and my art page here facebook.com/Stephen.Najarian.Illustration

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Intimidation Tactic


So I realized that my L5R card was released and I can finally show it!  This is my first card and first time working on L5R, I can say I had a blast working on it and I think it is safe to say that you can be on the look out for many more cards from me in the future.

I though to commemorate my first card on the set I would share my process on how I worked on the painting (yes I actually remembered process shots yay!)


Okay first off here is the brief I got for my assignment

A very big young Crab Clan samurai stands intimidatingly with a huge ax chest puffed out as he stands in front of his much older shorter smaller thinner but wise old Crab general who’s sent him ahead of him on the castle bridge. 

Okay so now that I have my prompt I started coming up with an image in my head of what is happening in the scene.  Usually I will try to do a couple different ideas and send in about 3 sketches for each assignment but because the prompt was so straight forward (there are only so many ways you can depict that particular scene) I just went ahead with the one sketch.  When I do my sketches I make sure the document I am working on is the size requested for the card, nothing looks more unprofessional then submitting work that does not fit the dimensions requested.  After I got the figures and composition placed I added some color so my Art Director will have an idea of what I am looking to do for the final, also it gives me a great reference point to work from as I work on the final, to make sure I do not change things too much from the approved sketch.

I am always super nervous that the Art Director will not understand/see what I am trying to do I also write in a description of what I am doing/planning on doing in the painting 

the main figure arrogantly standing in front holding his axe over his shoulder, ready to kick some ass with the general behind watching.  Everything is mostly in shadow with just the light hitting the figures down to their torso.  they are on the bridge and you can see the bridge span overhead.  there is smoke in the background (laying siege to a castle maybe?) and smoke and embers from a fire flying around in the foreground.  I am going to keep the armor of the young samurai plain and simple as opposed to richly designed and embroidered armor of the general.

After getting a little bit of feedback from my art director, he asked for me to place the helmet of the foreground figure in his left arm it is time to start the final.

I did some research on Samurai armor and right on top of my sketch I drew out the design of the armor.  I also shot some reference of me arrogantly holding a broom (I was very intimidating looking) and pulling out a sword for the general so I had good reference for the hands and a basis to work on for the faces.  Here you can also see I began to lay in the base colors on the two figures.

I spent most of my time here working on the foreground figure, at this point I am working on a layer on top of the drawing painting in the armor.  I was also tweaking the colors of the image, I was really looking for a warm light/cool shadow so I lowered the temperature of the shadows to a more purplish blue as opposed to a warmer looking teal color from the sketch.

Here I am finishing off the armor on the foreground figure and beginning to work more on the background general, I changed the shape of the axe, I wasnt liking how it was looking so I changed the design to a more traditional looking axe.
Here I am starting to render the General and I also finished painting the axe

Here I started working on the background, I wanted you to see there was an army back there but I also wanted them obscured by the smoke/fog so your eye stayed focused on the main figures.  Blending between the organic shapes of the smoke and the figures was more challenging than I thought.  Also this is where I realized the large bridge spans from the sketch were not going to work so I changed it to a more simple wooden stakes and rope.  I made some final adjustments on the main figure, I fixed the swords (I had the curve backwards) and I also finally gave up on the tassels on the breastplate...I felt they looked too much like, lets be honest....nipples.  Not the look I was going for so they had to go

Remember I said I was having trouble with the figures in the background?  I decided I did not like what I was doing so I erased them out and started over.  I also did another color adjust to get the colors more where I wanted them.

Here I added the army in the background and did some final color tweaks (have you guessed that I love color adjustments yet?) and sent this off to my AD

 I got an e-mail back from him asking me to tweak the colors on the figures, their overall color was not looking like the color associated with that particular clan/army, I did a few adjustments and sent this off.

If you made it to the end of this congratulations, you have an attention span!  I hope this was in some way interesting/helpful and I will see about doing more of these in the future.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Belerion the Black Dread

Here is a new piece that I just finished depicting Belerion the Dread and Aegon the Conquerer (he is in there I promise) as they overlook Harrenhal before they attack after the sun sets.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reference and figure drawing

I thought I would take a break from working on the final drawing of my Game of Thrones painting to share a little bit about how I do the drawings of my figures.  The most important thing is to have good reference,  It is very hard to create a piece of art from your head without having some sort of jumping off point for theme, concept, idea, anything really.  Generally speaking, if you want to have believable figures in your paintings then you need to shoot and have reference.  A couple of weeks ago I had some friends came over and we all took turns posing for some of the various figures for the painting.  I make and use props when I can (I do not have a suit of armor to wear for a knight) but posing in the right or similar stance gives me a great jumping off point to add the armor around the figure.  Household items like broom handles or swords (what you mean to tell me every house does NOT have a sword!!???) or some fabric from a fabric store can give you a great place to start from when it comes designing and drawing characters and items for a painting.

(I have to say I make a very fine Barristan Selmy)
After I shoot a bunch of photos with my camera I load them onto my computer and start looking for the photos that match the look and feel I had in my rough sketch (also always be on the lookout for something different and interesting in the photos that you did not think of when drawing the sketch, the more photos and different poses you use the better chance of finding the right image or series of images.

Once I have found an image that I like I bring it into photoshop.  I then lower the opacity on it and start tracing over the image onto a new layer.  Lowering the opacity makes it easier to see both the drawing and the important information that I need to see while tracing, you dont want the image too dark or saturated or you wont be able to find any of the important lines or edges.



I make a quick initial pass of the photo only tracing the important landmarks like the face and hands and any special props that I have in the image.  After that is done I turn off the layer with the photo and I start refining the drawing, making the arms thicker, adding more of the drapery and fabric of the costume, changing the pose to get it to fit and feel the way that I want it.  Once the drawing is finished I then copy and paste it into the document with my final drawing, there I will size it, rotate it, and maybe even make more changes until it sits and feels right in its placement and context of the overall drawing and composition.  I then repeat this step ad nauseam for every figure (in the end there should be at least over 20 figures!)

Friday, May 15, 2015

More progress

So after taking a break from my big game of thrones painting doing some freelance work I got back to work tweaking the composition.  I showed the painting to some artist friends and it soon became apparent that people were confusing the characters of Missandi and Daenerys...not good.  Most of the changes revolved around strengthening Daenerys's focal point and making the sure the eye goes directly to her.  I also thought it was a little too cluttered with all 3 dragons close together so I decided to have 1 in the air flying overhead.  The rest was just me moving figures here and there, trying to find good places for the eye to rest while accenting my secondary characters and focal points.  I think I am now ready to start compiling and shooting reference, then the fun really begins.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Doomtown

Last May I got contacted to do some work for Doomtown Reloaded and now that the set has been released I can show this painting that I did for the game.  This was by far my favorite image that I worked on on the set and I thought it would be cool to try and show a little bit of a step by step that I took in completing the painting.  For the most part I hate having large files with lots of layers, it takes longer to save and I am always afraid of photoshop crashes so I usually merge layers down once I am satisfied an area is complete so there will be a few steps missing but you should get the idea.

Okay first is the sketch, the prompt I got for the card was for a slightly crazy middle aged man working on an unruly steampunk machine.  I did this quick sketch in my sketchbook and off it went to get approval.  For some reason when I am sketching I freeze up when I try to draw within the confines of a box/layout, so although I am thinking and know the general dimensions I like to sketch something on a wide open page and then later size it and fit it into the dimensions of the page layout (which is what the black box is)

After getting approval from the AD it is off to shoot some reference,  I am cheap and do not want to hire models and because I know the expressions, look, and feel that I want for the character I usually find it easier to pose myself.  I set up some lights, put my camera on a tripod and have a remote timer in one hand and start snapping some photos.  Having good reference to work from is super important and this was one of the reasons the painting came along so easy, I had a good foundation to start from.  DO NOT skimp on the reference!

My next step is usually looking at all of the reference photos and picking out the elements I like best and combine them together, for instance a head from one photo, a body from another, favorite hands and then combining them into one image.  I merge them together and do a loose outline to help nail my proportions and get the hands and face right so I have a good base while painting.  Because I like to merge layers semi often the drawing got merged down and painted over during the course of painting but you get the idea.



On to the actual painting!  The first few steps are establishing base rendering for the all of the major elements like the background and the figure.  Once I was happy with those I started working on the steampunk machine in the foreground.  I started with basic shapes and slowly built up the rendering and detail, I merged all of those layers down unfortunately so there is nothing left of the build up of detail, however I do have a lovely shot of the figure with the base coat of paint on the body and face and he is lookin pretty ugly at this point.



Here you can see me slowly building up the figure, I keep certain elements on separate layers, especially if I am not sure if I am going to keep them or change them.  I have individual layers for the stripes on the shirt and the tools incase I want to make changes.

Here is the finished face and hands on the figure.  Not gonna lie, the facial hair was put in specifically to help cover up what felt a very strange looking face, without it you really could not tell where the nose ended and the lips began (illustrating 101, if an area is looking weird sometimes one of the best and easiest things to do is to cover it up with something else!)



Next is the smoke/atmosphere.  Not gonna lie I could not wait to paint this in A because I knew it was gonna be really cool and be fun to paint but also B to cover up large areas of the painting so I did not have to needle away at painting steampunk machinery and detail (hey, any shortcut you can find while working on a deadline, especially if it makes the painting better as a result!)

At this stage I am really happy with where the painting is at so I started thinking about making some color adjustments to help push the color.  I felt that you couldnt really feel the heat and warmth from the machine so I added an overlay layer at a very low opacity to help give the painting an overall warm "glow"



At this stage I thought that I was done, I showed the painting to some friends and my friend Mike Burns gave me a helpful paintover and showed me some places where the painting could be improved on and made better.  I went back and added those things and sent this off to my Art Director.

I hope that this was in some ways helpful, I think in the future I will have to plan these step by steps out from the beginning so you can see a better more linear progression of the painting than a series of rapid jumps.  thanks for reading
!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Refined sketch

So finally after several months of putting this on the back burner I am getting back to work on my ambitious Game of Thrones Painting.  Before I get too far ahead of myself and talk about the drawing and composition and what the message and themes I want to get across in the painting I thought it would be best to start at the beginning and explain the inspiration for this piece.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of my all time favorite artists is Alphonse Mucha.  Most people know him as one the driving forces and pioneers of Art Nouveau and his posters for Sarah Bernhardt.  What most people do not know is that he was an exceptional oil painter.  His crowning achievement as an artist was completing a master series of work called the Slavic Epic, a series of 20 large scale multi figure paintings depicting the history of the slavic people. When I first saw these paintings I was completely blown away, I was fascinated by the sheer amount of work skill used on each painting, let alone all twenty of them.  There was one painting in particular that has stood in my mind constantly.

The Hussite King Jiří z Podĕbrad



What I love about the paintings in this series is the powerful emotional impact each painting has, each painting moves you in different and interesting ways.  What I love about this painting in particular is the tension between two powerful forces and the bystanders waiting to see what is going to happen/who will win the standoff.  I have always loved emotional high drama paintings and this is one of my favorites.

In the fall I thought it was time to push myself further as an artist and I thought a great challenge for myself would be working on my own epic multi figure painting.  As a huge fan of the Game of Thrones books I thought it would be the perfect subject matter to use for my painting.  One scene/event from the book that really fascinated me when Daenerys Targaryen conquers the slave city of Mereen. There is no exact scene in the book or the show but I imagine that at some point soon after taking the city she would have presented herself to the ruling families of Mereen.  There is a lot of tension in Mereen with Daenerys taking over the city, releasing all of the slaves, and upsetting a social order that has been in place for thousands of years.  The people of Mereen are obviously intimidated and frightened of her, I mean she has dragons...Dragons I say!  Though they are scared and intimidated by her they are also angry at her for imposing her foreign rule on them and taking away their primary resource of slaves, and they are not going to go down without a fight.

This is exactly what I want to depict in my illustration, Daenerys, the conquering mother of dragons presenting herself to the elite slave families demanding they submit to her, giving up their whips and control of their slaves.  The slavers on the other hand although they are submitting to her, some of them are showing their anger and dissent, showing the seeds and tension for a combustable conflict.  Daenerys and the slavers, the battle may be over but the war has only just begun.

Below is a more refined sketch for the painting, all of the major elements are starting to be placed and the figures starting to be grouped while also trying determine the overall lighting scheme.  Next up is cleaning up the sketch some more and beginning to acquire some props and maybe begin shooting some reference.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Message for the Bloody Gate

I know that it has been a while since my last post, but freelance work and some small personal pieces for my upcoming convention C2E2 have gotten in the way of me posting more updates to my big Game of Thrones painting.  I am still working on preliminary  designs and sketches and now that the freelance work is out of the way I will have more time to work on it and post updates to it so stay tuned.  In the meantime here is smaller and less ambitious Game of Thrones painting of mine, a painting of everyones least talked about great house House Arryn.  Stay tuned for some more Game of Thrones inspired work, including updates to my huge Daenerys painting.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Taking that next big step

     So with the beginning of the new year and everyone talking about their goals and plans for 2015 I thought I too share what some of my big plans are for 2015.  For the past two years running I have started my new year with an ambitious painting that is meant to set the stage for my work for the rest of the year.  In the fall I look back on my work and I look at all of the things that I want to improve and work on for the following year and decide to tackle them all in one large ambitious work of art.  The first year I did this I wanted to work on something grand and epic, an epic fantasy landscape.  I wanted to throw everything I could possibly throw into this painting, I wanted to work on my architecture so medieval fantasy castle check, I wanted to work on my landscapes so I added mountains, grassy plains, rivers, and waterfalls check,  I wanted to work on depth, atmosphere, detail and overall rendering.  It seemed like a daunting task but with some perseverance and almost two months of hard work I ended up with this.

    This at the time I finished it, it became the best painting in my portfolio, got me my first professional illustration work and helped me take that next major step in my artistic development.  This past year I had some portfolio reviews with two art directors that I really wanted to work with, one told me that they thought that my figurative work was my strongest and that I should focus on that, the other told me that they thought that my landscape work was my strongest and that I should focus on that.  I got two very different reviews from two companies that I both want to work for!  It was then that I decided to please them both by painting a figurative landscape painting, taking the critiques I received and turn them into one grand painting.  I wanted to take everything that I learned from my last epic landscape, improve the things that I thought needed and I wanted to improve while also adding figures to the mix.  To give myself an even bigger challenge I noticed that my portfolio had no animals or monsters so I added some into the final painting.  I wanted to work on my overall detailing, keeping the foreground elements super detailed to help push them foreword from the background.  After a few months of work on and off I ended up with this

    This painting got me even more work and helped set the stage for even more better work throughout the year.  So this year I want to push myself even further and harder, the goals of this years painting is going to be a large multi-figure oil painting.  I really want to start getting into working on and with book covers, so one of my main focuses will be on my storytelling and narrative.  The idea for this painting is going to be a massive multi-figure scene from one of my favorite book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" and for all of you non book readers also known as the hit HBO show Game of Thrones.  At times in the past I have taken shortcuts the "I will make it up as a go along" routine that is almost always to the detriment of the final painting.  With the an ambitious piece like I am planning and with all of the figures and dragons (yes there will absolutely be dragons) the only way to do this is with a lot of planning, research and studies, studies and reference for every aspect of the piece.  I thought to make this even more interesting I am going to post all of my reference, all of my studies so you watching at home can follow me from start to finish as I work on my painting "Daenerys Targaryen accepting the surrender of the slave families of Meereen" 
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