Doodles at lunch! Young Conan, elf shield maid! nuff said.

Often, here at Ehrhart Energy, I doodle on my lunch hour.  With an idea that at least they can go into LPJ Design’s Portfolio clip art collections that I contribute to.  Here are a couple.  Now, I have to do the color work at the home studio, but it is really nice to get a little bit of artwork in during my work week.

While I don’t always have an idea of just where I’m going as I doodle, I was wanting something with a bit of action.  The sword and dagger guy really struck me as a young Conan, during his thief days.  It doesn’t have to be a young Conan… it was just want my brain was saying internally as I sketched away and later painted.

In the color, still playing around with working with grounds.  Doing a bit more with Overlay, both as a brush selection or a layer of such.  I finally cottoned onto working with locked empty pixels.  I don’t know why it took me ten years  of photoshop and similar programs to figure that one out.  But you don’t know what you don’t know.

Elf Shield Maiden

Young Conan


Play time!

I was trying to play around with tone paper, digital finishes.  See if I could do a vignette with three figures.  Wanted to do women fantasy characters, that are in action, fully clothed and still read as women.  Not sure if I succeeded with the front character.  Tough angle.  But since the only art director is me.

While playing in the digital side of things, I was very surprised how “finished” I was going with the digital “paint”.  I was sorta aiming for sketchy color, but i kept tightening and tightening the paint side of things.  But still left some of the texture and if you look very close the grain of the paper, although I “bleached” a lot of it out.  The paper I was using had TON of texture in it.

Mostly done in Manga Studio 5 with a few side trips to Photoshop cs2 for adjust of a level or two.  Hope y’all like!


Cover done and done

I actually finished this awhile ago, but kept delaying actually writing about it.  Which was a mistake, because I don’t remember some of the final decision making.  I kept going back into Rotos the giant’s body and making it darker, while trying to get Kied darker as well without disappearing, I needed Kied to be front and center.

One thing I was really happy about this project is that Andrew provided a guide for where the text was going to fall.  This made it very easy to design for that.  When Andrew sent me the cover with the trade dress on it, I was very happy.  The only thing that got covered up, and Andrew asked if I could move it, was my signature.  But I don’t care about my signature as long as my name is on the inside cover.  So, this is what it looks like with the text in place:

Don’t forget to check out Andrew’s books.  I haven’t read anything besides the almost completed The Soldier and the Slave (it was pdf proof), but if that was any indication, Andrew is a damn fine writer.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and not just because I was painting it.  But on it is own merits.  His link is here:


Cover Updates 3, 4 and 5

And the painting continues on.  Here I’ve started to block in the closest figure.  I want to keep the back figure more as a graphic shape and let the contrast of the nearer figure really pop against the back one.

As I paint, not happy with collarbone region and the mouth is a bit off.

I have moved the collarbone up, getting the value structure in, although eventually, I will want the skin color darker as I’m shooting for a more Mediterranean skin tone.  I also start to darken behind the figures, waiting for some areas to dry so I can paint and glaze on top.

Now this step did not photograph well.  The tones are much closer to the step above.  But I am still working the background a bit as I start changing my mind on the arm wrap ) the blue in the original is too close to the sword blue.  Also, changed the loin cloth to a darker color.  I am getting the collar bone minimized and reading a bit better.  Worked back into the background figure, delineating some shapes and veins.  Also, grayed out that giant’s beard and hair to fall in line more with the description.  Tonight, I still want to darken the skin on the front figure.

Cover Update 1 and 2

I had the distinct pleasure of working alongside Steve Ellis, in his studio, as we both worked on our covers.  Steve is a great artist and the conversation never wavered and a couple of brews were imbibed.  I transferred the painting from my sketch, eliminating the palisade in the back and substituting mountains.  Andrew pointed out that a lot of stuff happens in the mountains in the novel and I agreed.  After the transfer, I tightened up the sketch on the gesso’d canvas board.

Knowing that I wanted a very wintery, cool  background, I wanted to keep my figures fairly warm to pop forward.  I got most of the background done in the 5 hours I was over in Steve’s studio.  I just started to block in Rotos, the giant.  The below was shot with my iphone and it came up fairly dark (compare to the next iphone shot in my studio).

Then I worked a few more hours on last Sunday, getting more into Rotos.  I think I over did his hair in value range.  He is supposed to be shaggy and gray.  I will have to knock back the dark in that hair, don’t want it to read as black hair.  But this is all a process and the preliminary color and values are holding places well into the painting time.

Looks like a totally different painting, especially the background.  Shooting this in MY studio, so much lighter.  I am blocking some of Kien, not happy with his values, but I can build on what I got down.  He is supposed to have a bit of Mediterranean skin tones and I’m not close yet.  But the structure is starting to happen.

Again, don’t forget to check out Andrew’s writing.  Andrew Luther and his writing here:

Cover Choices

I got a chance to work with Andrew Luther on his new book, The Soldier and the Slave (I’m 3/4s through it and it is really good sword and sorcery stuff with interesting characters that make/forced into unusual choices.  Not sure where the book it going and I love that!).  Check out Andrew Luther and his writing here:

I came up with 3 pencil sketches for Andrew.

And while we all liked #3, #2 was chosen.  The reason, which I think is solid reasoning, is that this is the first time we see these characters and Andrew wanted the more traditional choice of showing the 2 protagonists on the cover in a fairly readable way.  I will show the painting, in steps as I go along my merry way, in a little bit.

In the meantime, here is a blurb from Andrew:

I want to talk a little bit about The Soldier and the Slave.

This is my first novel in the series to take place entirely outside of Ythis. There’s a whole Empire outside of the walls of the capital city, and an even larger world beyond. In this book, readers will get to see the mountainous northern region of the Empire, and will encounter the Imperial Legion for the first time.

The Soldier and the Slave is a story that’s been in the back of my mind since I first started writing about the Undying Empire, but it wasn’t formed enough to commit to paper (or pixels). But it’s finally time to escape from Ythis and to explore some of the history that lies behind the formation of the Empire.

This is a story about doing the right thing, even though it may cost you everything you hold dear. It’s about strength in the face of failure, and refusing to give up.

Here is the official back cover copy for The Soldier and the Slave:

Kied Leele is a traitor to the Empire.

Unable to follow orders that he knew to be wrong, Kied was convicted and imprisoned in a slave mine for betraying his commission as an officer in the Imperial Legion. With the executions of his subordinates who followed him weighing heavily on his soul, Kied expects the remainder of his life to be full of darkness, toil, and suffering.

The Legion—occupying the mountains in the north of the Empire—has rounded up all local civilians while a special team searches for a long-forgotten, buried object of power desired by the Emperor himself. But Kied’s mysterious new cellmate, a dangerous giant of a man named Rotos, seems to know a great deal about this hidden object.

Kied believes that together, they might just be able to stop the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians at the hand of the Imperial military and deny the Emperor his prize. However, they must first escape the slave mine, reach the mountain valleys where the Legion awaits, and contend with the Legion’s new Commander.

And Kied doesn’t know if he can trust his companion, a man whose terrible secrets may herald the return of ancientbeings long thought dead.

Cover Fire

So.  I am working in dribs and drabs on a cover for a novella written by my brother from another mother, Rick.  It is one parts sword and planet, one part science fantasy and a bit on noir.  I wanted to give a sense of the urban setting and its place on the bay.  Hint at the investigative nature of the first novella.  Make sure the reader knows that there is going to be a sword fight or two.  Lastly, magic is something that might be on the menu.  My first attempt at this cover was really bland, really flat.  I wanted more depth, yet still retain a decently large central figure who is readable at postage stamp size when you are looking at it  on a kindle or some other ebook.

I think I succeeded.  That brief has a lot of masters to serve.  I’m going to show some of the process here.  First up is the sketch in my sketchbook with a tan ground.  I like working in the lights.  By having the character kneel with a bird’s eye angle, I get a head to toe shot of our main character, but keep him fairly large in the frame of reference.  And I get to have a lot of room up top for Title block and trade dress stuff.

I liked the sketch and wanted to keep a lot of it.  But I wasn’t sure if my hasty perspective lines were all that accurate.  So I scanned it in and played a bit more in Manga Studio 5, which has a great, simple perspective tool.  Turns out that my sketch perspective was pretty damn good, only a few lines had to be adjusted.  Also, I got to do my rune circle and lay it out in perspective.   Also could extend my frame of reference to 16×20 painting and get that title block space in nicely  Moved our hero over juusst slightly.  Made sure his scabbard made sense.

Then I printed it out sized up to the 16×20 in 4 sheets and spliced them together and transferred to the 16×20 canvas board.  Which I had prepped with gesso and for the first time, used a squeegee to get a really smooth surface that I prefer.  And I started the underpainting with Burnt Umber and white.  This is about 2 hours of underpaint in.  I’m trying to find the value structure.  I will post the completed underpainting when it gets done.  This is a vanity project and is not constrained by deadline, so it is my project in between paying work.  So who knows when the underpainting will be completed.



Inspiration from Gaming talk

My friend sent a post out this morning from the Goblin Punch blog site.  Which was about tribes of humanity living in the shadow and scraps of Dragons.  It was a cool post.  And it made me want to play a character from that background.  Link here: Goblin Punch Dragon musings  Here is what I wrote Judd:

“Very cool.  Now I want to play a dragon prince barbarian who somehow has the wool lifted from his eyes and is now out in the wider world trying to reconcile that his master and god is nothing but a manipulative, oppressive, 3 tons of acid spitting (thinking black dragon, why not?) Machiavellian brilliance.  I love me a fish out of water story.”

Now, I don’t really game much anymore.  But this got my juices going.  Judd likes it and writes back:  “I see this dragon-prince drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith.”

I write back; “Fuck that.  I see this dragon-prince drawn by me!  (Although, BWS is a huge influence on me and I would love to see that too….)”

And then the discussion devolved into truck loads of awards on BWS laurels and not mine…all in good fun.

But all morning the dragon prince barbarian lurked in my brain til lunch time.  I had to sketch him.  Snarfing my lunch down in record time, I put a few scribbly lines down and now I get to share it with y’all.

Still wanna play this guy in a cool Dungeon World campaign or something.


Battle Royale

Here is a private commission that I got to do.  This is, I think, the 3rd time I’ve drawn Clorton (the red bearded one, natch).  It is nice to return to a character that I’ve drawn before because of the new things you can draw out of the concept and freed up from the need to show a D&D character head to toe.

I have been doing a lot of reading on painting of late.  Thank you Patrick Jones, James Gurney for your wonderful books.  That, and getting to do action, well, I think this painting might be my best technically in some time.  It felt like a step forward.  I was really playing with trying to make it readable and still not be as delineated or as crisp as I usually am (a leftover of doing some much superheroes of solid black line)… this time I felt like I was more painterly and really thinking about where I wanted the focus to be.

It is unusual for me to like a painting after I am done.  I hope y’all like it… and if you don’t, let me know why, so I can continue to grow and learn.