Great Bear Druid

Today I’m peeling back the process of creating the illustration of the Great Bear Druid found in the upcoming 13 True Ways book.  This piece almost got the cut because I think both Rob Heinsoo and myself may be a little overeager when it comes to the druid class.  There may have been a concern that the druids were overtaking the book, but evidently enough balance was restored to keep this piece.  This drawing came together rather quickly.  Below is my sketchbook page of the druid summoning his Spirit Bear and then a smattering of ungainly goblins.  The next stage was done in Photoshop.  I arranged the various sketch elements into a composition and added some digital paint. Lee Moyer swung his sorcerer’s wand around and brought contrast and clarity to the image.  One thing I’ve learned from working with Lee is the importance of creating a composition that can still read when reduced to the size of a postage stamp, a valuable “big picture” skill that he has keenly developed.
GreatBearDruid_ScanA GreatBearDruid_ThumbAGreatBearDruidRob wrote about the druid class at his blog.  Here’s an excerpt: As you’ll see, the druid class is a beast. The challenge of embracing elements of traditional druidic roles (wild healer, animal shifter, elemental magician, summoner, warrior of the wild) became huge fun as I took new approaches (talents defining spell lists and abilities, carefully calibrated summoning mechanics, spell lists tied to specific terrain). It’s definitely the biggest of all the class design jobs. I hope it turns out to be as much fun to play as it was to design.”

13 True Ways Commander

Behold, a dwarven commander whose troops carry the flag of the Emperor!  Read Rob Heinsoo’s notes on the commander at this post.BattleCaptDwarf

I’ll work backward on the process this time around, for some variety. Below is the original image that I sent Lee Moyer.  Lee added the Emperor’s flag to the final illustration, as you can see above, not to mention greater contrast and golden light illuminating the scene. (Could that light be reflecting from a guarded treasure trove, perhaps?  Or perchance they have encountered the fleeting essence of The Gold Wyrm?!)BattleCaptDwarf_ThumbA

The charcoal sketch:BattleCaptDwarf_Pencils

And a preliminary sketchbook drawing of the Commander in repose:BattleCaptDwarf_Sketch

13 True Ways Necromancer

It’s a process post for 13 True Ways!  I had fun doing these posts for some of the 13th Age core book art about 2 years ago that I called “Behind-the-Illustration”.  The first image below is a preliminary pencil sketch in blue and red col-erase pencils.  You can see a little thumbnail scribble in blue, top left:  NecromancerDead_PencilSketchI added some color and Lich King symbols fused with Archmage emerging from the volcanic rock below her feet before turning it over to Lee Moyer: NecromancerDead_ThumbAAnd Lee gave the image an ethereal quality as if the adventurers witnessing the scene can’t be sure if their eyes are playing tricks on them or not: NecromancerDead3  Rob Heinsoo wrote a fun mechanic for the necromancer that you can read here.

Also, I’d like to invite anyone interested in 13th Age to consider contributing something to the first issue of a 13th Age Fanzine called ICON that is currently accepting submissions (deadline for the May issue is April 24th).  Click the banner below for details: blog-header-icon

13 True Ways Reanimated

So, the  panel teasers that I was milking in my most recent posts will have to remain a mystery for the time being.  That book is still my top priority right now, but the pub date has been pushed back significantly altering the marketing for the book in ways that I’m not fully aware of at the moment.  This gives me the opportunity to shift the focus of my blog toward a project from last year that I’ve been sitting on while the pieces fall into place.  Namely, 13 True Ways, the expansion book to 13th Age!  I’ve developed many new illustrations for the project with the artful direction of Rob Heinsoo and Lee Moyer, and Lee stepped in to give life to many of my rough sketches when the deadline crept up on me and collided with what I thought was the deadline for the graphic novel I was also drawing.

13TW_NecroPoint being, I’ve watched the stats of this blog slant toward my fantasy illustration as the popularity of 13th Age has grown since its release last year.  I appreciate the interest and I’m overdue in rewarding the readers who visit my site in search of inspiration for their 13th Age campaigns.  For now I’ll be posting things that have been released online here or there, but slightly reformatted to accentuate crunchy details.  Ever the process junkie, please bear with me as I revive some material you may have encountered elsewhere.

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13th Age Core Book Preview

The 13th Age Core Book is finally available from Pelgrane Press!  Buy It Here!  The book has been long anticipated by some patient folks (it was originally slated for release in December 2012), but all new to others.  The game has been available as a PDF for months, but the official book release was at Gen Con this past weekend.  It has been rewarding to see numerous snapshots of the cover pop up on the web posted by people who pre-ordered and received the book by mail.  I’ve seen very few pictures of the book’s interior, though, so I thought I’d make use of my blog and post a few shots of what you see inside when you crack that cover.  Much of the polish and beauty of the interior can be attributed to Lee Moyer who meticulously art directed the overall design, created the icon symbols and various tiles, and painted many of my illustrations.  In addition, Chris Huth is responsible for the stunning page layouts.  It’s a $45 dollar book, but at 320 pages and over 60 illustrations, this is a book that even the Archmage would add to his library of mystical tomes.

Here’s a Preview…

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Those pictures with my hand may just seem like an opportunity to fulfill my dream to be a hand model, but I’m trying to showcase the Icon Ring that came with my comp.  An outer piece rotates and allows the bearer of the ring to randomly select an icon during key moments of game play.  A few of the illustrations showcase characters who in some way are representing a relationship that they have with one of the Icons.  Buy the book and try to find all the connections…then it’s time to start making up your own!  Game On!

The Latest

Francavilla Cover

Savage Sword 6

News!  I will be drawing Part 2 and 3 of a 3 part story adaptation of Robert E Howard’s Dark Agnes published in the Dark Horse anthology Savage Sword #6.  I stopped by a comic shop yesterday and had to look in the back issues  for Savage Sword #5 released in August 2012.  Here’s a preview of 5 that includes a couple pages from Dark Agnes Part One drawn by Francesco Francavilla.  I’ve been a fan of Francavilla’s pulpy artwork and couldn’t be happier to fill in for him on this adaptation.  In addition, the adaptation is written by Periscope Studiomate Paul Tobin!  Paul and I went to a Portland dive and smashed flagons of ale over each other’s morions to get in the right frame of mind for this tale.  (Maybe I only imagined we did that, because in actuality the book was late to press and I started working on the pages immediately after I got the script.  It’s all a blur whether the ale is to blame or not.)  I’ve been approved to post preliminary drawings for the story here on my blog, so I’ll get that rolling with a character sketch of Agnes in the forest!

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More News!!  The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation will be released next week!  Here’s a link to the listing on the HarperCollins website.  There are already some favorable reviews that will become public very soon, but in the meantime may I remind you of the excellent website with videos, annotations and more available at graphicgettysburg.com  Below is another process image from the book: Inks to final colors.  But I don’t have my comps yet, and if you pre-ordered a book there’s a possibility you’ll get your copy before I do…(I’m making this up, just tryin’ to keep things exciting here at aamcconnell.com…truthfully I know nothing about the distribution process.)

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And speaking of printing, I’ve been enjoying these delightful teaser images of 13th Age going to print courtesy of Pelgrane Press.  One day I’d like to actually visit a print shop when one of my books is being printed, but I have a feeling printing people like to keep illustrators removed from that process to avoid any unreasonable demands or unnecessary interruptions.  These pics, though, are giving me an appreciation of the process from afar. Also, there’s a new review of 13th Age at RPG.net.  Spoiler…they like it.

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And finally, here’s an illustration I did for a start up gaming company Unrestrained Games.  “Orc of the Spires” (aka “Lord of the Flies” since orcs are basically teenage hulks).  Thanks for following my blog!

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Lazy Bloggin’

I’m in Studio Lock Down to crank out a short comic that I’m very excited to be drawing, but more on that later.  In the meantime, I’ll just direct you to this extensive article on Forbes.com about 13th Age.  “Say what?!”  Don’t believe me…just check it out for yourself…Check Yo’self.  They do not condone Lazy Bloggin’ at Forbes.com.  (Their standards are slightly higher than mine, evidently\:-P)

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Pixies No 13 Baby

Rob Heinsoo keeps releasing thumbnails for drawings I have yet to finish for 13 True Ways.  Makes me nervous, but since it’s already adrift on the internet waves I’m owning it here.  Read more about the Murder Pixies at Rob’s blog.

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I’m in a state… Pixies No 13 Baby on Youtube

Process: 13 True Ways

I met with Rob Heinsoo and Lee Moyer the other night.  After enjoying  a bowl of Lee’s chicken hominy soup we went through the “Art Order’ for 13 True Ways to see where we stand in the process.  There’s a lot of artwork in this book, but a good amount of progress has been made and I will continue illustrating finished pieces this upcoming month.  This weekend at Stumptown Comic Fest I’ll bring prints from the first book including many of the Icons and some interior illustrations of gnomes, elves and other high fantasy adventurers.  Here’s an illustration that will be included in 13 True Ways:

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And the thumbnail sketch:Mantis_ThumbA

Hard times for a fellow freelancer

Pelgrane Press, the publisher of the yet to be released 13th Age core book, posted some unfortunate news earlier today concerning the layout designer for the book:

Chris Huth has produced excellent art and layout for Pelgrane Press including Ashen StarsNight’s Black Agents and 13th Age. Last week his apartment suffered extensive damage from a fire. (You can read more news reports here and here.) Luckily, no one was hurt, but he and his partner have lost their home and most of their possessions. His computer and software – the tools of his trade –  and all backup drives have been destroyed with very little chance of recovery. Chris is sleeping in friends’ houses while he searches for somewhere to live.

Please go to the Pelgrane site to find out how you can help Chris and what this means for the 13th Age release schedule.  Below is a small sample of Chris’ layout work for the book:

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