BLOG

Golden Tooth

1st Dec 2016 0

Golden Tooth is the first illustration I made for Lions of Casterly Rock, the latest Game of Thrones game expansion by Fantasy Flight Games.

As I said in my previous post, the card is featured together with Lannisport Treasury on the product page, which, random an event as it may be, is still a small satisfaction:)

As it always happens, the expansion has seen its release quite a long time after the art had been produced for it, as – if I remember correctly – I worked on it almost exactly a year ago.
This was also the very first professional illustration I made with Krita, and I have to admit I was quite nervous about it.

Most of the workflow with Krita is no different to that of many other drawing programs, but still, most of one’s productivity relies on muscle memory, and using new tools and brushes when you are on a deadline tends to make you feel dizzy.
The fact that everything went smooth is what eventually convinced me to stick with Linux in general, and Krita in particular.

What really made me think “ok I’m sold”, however, was the natural feel of the sketch brushes.
The one I used for Golden Tooth has evolved a bit since this sketch was made.
Still, the feeling was already pretty close to that of an actual 5B pencil.

Golden Tooth Sketch

The real struggle started with the rendering.
Getting things to a state I was happy with did take some learning.

Golden Tooth

My usual procedure would normally imply dropping colours on the canvas very loosely, then using a series of mixing brushes to blend them together and drawing finer details in when needed, close to what you would do with wet-on-wet with oils or acrylics.
The mixing brushes that ship with Krita weren’t quite exactly what I needed, so I did spend some time to create my own.
You can see some of the blending brushwork in these spot.

Blending brushes detail

Another hurdle was making custom brushes for the grass on the hills and the stones of the castle walls.
Still, somehow I managed.

Grass and texture brushes detail

These were admittedly a bit primitive, the ones I’m using now are a lot better, I’ll share them when I can.
Apparently there’s a bug in Krita that prevents bundles from including brush tips, so I have to look into that before I can share my own.

I’ll post the other cards I made for Lions of Casterly Rock next time.

by Paolo Puggioni

Lions of Casterly Rock

29th Nov 2016 0

My copy of Lions of Casterly RockFantasy Flight Games’ latest Game of Thrones expansion – has finally arrived.
I’m quite chuffed that two of the 4 cards previewed on FFG’s website are mine:)
They are Golden Tooth and Lannisport Treasury, which I’ll post in more detail next week.

The box is amazing, as all the packaging by Fantasy Flight Games always is.
Look at that. Sorry for the potato quality.

Lions of Casterly Rock - Box

Lions of Casterly Rock - Cards

I’m always happy to have another Game of Thrones thing under my belt, but this one was particularly fun to work on.
It was the first time I had done any professional work using Krita, and I remember being concerned that something would go wrong with tools I wasn’t familiar with and everything else.
Luckily all went smooth.
I’ll post them next week, this time I even remembered to keep the sketches:)

by Paolo Puggioni

The House of Blue

25th Nov 2016 0

As a result of the Spring Cleaning Frenzy I fell victim of the other day, I also finished the cover of House of Blue, the book written by my wife, nonetheless.

Now, this was a huge weight off my chest, as I was feeling really, really guilty about the huge delay in completing it.
I had actually started working on it as soon as I read the first draft; I had gathered my reference, made all my research and put together the first rough sketches. I was on a roll.
Then some paid assignment came up, momentum was lost, other deadlines popped up, and there it was, in the Unfinished Projects drawer, jumping up and down with its big puppy eyes together with all the other Lost Projects waiting to be rescued.

I hope she’ll forgive me about the delay, I’ve been feeling guilty about it for quite some time now.

Anyway, here it is.

House of Blue

I’m hugely proud of her. I should say it more often, I think.
Unfortunately, paying compliments to people and making them feel good about themselves isn’t one of my top 10 skills.
I guess it comes down to how I was brought up as a kid. I could have climbed the K2, and my dad would say to me “oooh big deal, it’s the second tallest mountain, was Everest too tall for you?”.
If I then climbed Mount Everest out of spite, my dad would say “oooh big deal, Edmund Hillary did it before you in 1953!”.
So, well, I was taught to suffer and rejoice just inside.
I’m still working on it.

But seriously, of all the hundreds of thousands of people who start writing a novel – or have an idea for an amazing novel – only less than 5% get to the end of it.
(For the obnoxious among you, yeh, I’m using vague figures. I’ve found many articles talking about it, but none of them cited their sources. So you’ll have to make do with no link and vague figures for once).
Being as it may, starting and finishing a book is a humongous, titanic, miraculous feat, and as I said I’m incredibly proud of her.
Plus, it’s a damn good read.

I shouldn’t “review” the book here, as I’m clearly biased, but if you like Magic Realism you should give it a try. You can buy it here!

by Paolo Puggioni

Black Angel

22nd Nov 2016 0

During the past few weeks I’ve been hugely, frantically busy.
That must be why I haven’t posted anything in a while.
There are indeed quite a few projects I’m working on, some of which I’ll be sharing over the next days.
All in all I am *this close* (rises his hand to show his thumb and point finger getting close) to actually having too much on my plate.

Because of that, the other day I fell victim to a case of Spring Cleaning Disease.
That’s when you start throwing away a bunch of crumpled paper because you want to tidy up just a little bit, and before you know it you are crouched under your desk scraping dirt off skirting boards with an old tooth brush.

And it’s not even Spring.

It might be because when I’m so swamped I need order, and a schedule, and a list of things neatly arranged one after the other, else I go crazy.
Whatever the reason, I started by removing some clutter from my second desk (the one where I dump the pointless crap, the unread post, pencil shavings, dirty mugs and so on. Oh and my easel).

Then I finally ordered the art books in my shelf by size and topic. I’ve been wanting to do that for months.

Then I assembled the dashcam I bought like 6 months ago and never got the time to get into my car.

After that I started to archive and back up the finished work (I do redundant backups because better safe than sorry), and since everything was safe I thought “fuck it, let’s do it now”, and installed the new Opensuse Leap 42.2.

Which is awesome, by the way.

Getting Krita and all of my documents back on my fresh install, I came across an old anatomy exercise that had been knocking around my hard drive for several months, and sice it added to my list of uncompleted tasks (and thus to my mental chaos), I decided to finish it before I committed to anything else.

So there she is, my Black Angel.
As many times before, it had started as a lazy evening practice and it became something else.

Black Angel

Once this was done, I finally put together my nice list of tasks, and on an empty, zen-like white desk I was finally ready to go ahead.

I’ll post some more stuff later this week.

by Paolo Puggioni

Beowulf and the Dragon

30th Aug 2016 1

Beowulf and the Dragon si the last of the three epic battles in Beowulf’s saga, and the last of the illustrations I made for this project.

What I LOVED about working on this set of illustrations is that in each one Beowulf is in a completely different situation or moment of his life, so I had to account for that in the design.

In the first battle Beowulf is in his prime: when he faces Grendel he is young, bold and cocky, and he goes as far as engaging him without weapons and armour, because, you know, he is too cool for those.

In the second battle, soon after he has defeated Grendel, he is obviously still young, but he is now all geared up, as Grendel’s mother is not an enemy to underestimate.

In this last battle he is an old man, so I obviously had to paint a different version of his face.
He has reigned as a wise king, regarded by everyone as a great hero, so I wanted to convey some degree of solemnity in his figure.

At this point in his life he knows he is too weak to defeat the dragon, nonetheless he dons his armour, gathers his trusted warriors and walks towards his doom as if it were just another Tuesday.

It will be his best warrior to finish off the dragon, eventually.
However, even though an old man, Beowulf is still cool enough to pull this kind of tricks.

Beowulf and The Dragon

Now, there was a funny exchange of emails with Tanner of Legends, Myths and Whiskey when I delivered the final illustration.
His feedback was pretty much “It’s cool! But it’s wrong! Beowulf and the Dragon face each other in the Dragon’s lair”.

And mine was “No! YOU are wrong! I read the book! The battle happens outside the lair, in the forest!”

So we sent each other quotes from whatever our sources were, and we soon came to the conclusion that we were using two different translations, one of which was quite blurry about the location of the battle.

So, we eventually decided to leave the background as it was.
I had messed up with his gear though, as in the first version I had painted an wooden shield, whereas in both translations it’s quite clear that Beowulf chooses his best iron shield before he leaves his hall to face the dragon.

For the literature lovers I’m pasting the passage that the illustration refers to.

Mine, by Strafford Riggs, 1933:

I go alone to engage this dragon. You shall remain here at the clearing’s edge in readiness to stand by me in case I fail. For I am an old man now, and it comes to me, as in a dream, that this will be my last adventure, my final fight.

And then:

For a moment there was a death-like stillness in the night. No sound came from the cave, and no steamy breath, and no dull glare of fire. Then with sudden roaring that caused the night to splinter and the earth to quiver in horrified response, the lordliest dragon in all the world rushed from its lair.

Tanner’s, by Ernest Kirtlan (1913?):

Then in a fury the Prince of the Weder-Geats
let a torrent of words escape from
his breast and the stout-hearted one
stormed. And his war-clear voice re-
sounded under the hoar cliffs. And
hatred was stirred, for the guardian of
the hoard recognized well the voice of
Beowulf. And that was no time to be
seeking friendship. And the breath of
the monster, the hot battle-sweat, came
forth from the rock at the first and the
earth resounded. The warrior, the Lord

of the Geats, raised his shield under the
barrow against the terrible sprite.

Funny how things can change from one translator to another.
After all, even Tolkien wrote an essay on how difficult an undertaking it was to translate something like Beowulf.

by Paolo Puggioni

Beowulf and Grendel’s Mother

25th Aug 2016 0

Ok, I will admit that “Beowulf and Grendel’s Mother” is not that catchy as a title.

It is, however, the official name by which this specific event in Beowulf’s saga goes by, so I’ll stick with it.
As a matter of fact, her name isn’t mentioned in the poem, and I did check:)
She’s just Grendel’s Mother, so there you go.

So, this is the second of the three illustrations I made for Legend’s Myths and Whiskey’s upcoming album.

Beowulf and Grendel's Mother

In the story, after having defeated Grendel, Beowulf and his party of warriors pursuit the monster’s mother, who had come out of her lair to avenge the death of her son, and already wreaked havoc around the countryside.

Grendel’s mother also makes the mistake of killing one of Beowulf’s friends and chopping his head off, which gets Beowulf REALLY pissed off.

Following her to her lair under a murky lake, Beowulf and Grendel’s mother finally engage in a mighty battle. She, however, can’t pierce Beowulf’s armor with her claws, while it appears that Beowulf’s weapons have no effect on her though skin.

Luckily, Beowulf will find a magic short sword in the monster’s hoard, and wielding the relic he will eventually cut her head off.

’MID the battle-gear saw he a blade triumphant,
old-sword of Eotens, with edge of proof,
warriors’ heirloom, weapon unmatched,
— save only ’twas more than other men
to bandy-of-battle could bear at all —
as the giants had wrought it, ready and keen.
Seized then its chain-hilt the Scyldings’ chieftain,
bold and battle-grim, brandished the sword,
reckless of life, and so wrathfully smote
that it gripped her neck and grasped her hard,
her bone-rings breaking: the blade pierced through
that fated-one’s flesh: to floor she sank.

The bit I depicted is right after he has grabbed the magic sword and leaps to finish off the monster.
There’s also a passage that tells how the floor had caught fire during the battle, which gave me the chance to add some red glow from below.

Thanks, viking storytellers, that was a nice touch.

Anyway, Beowulf and Grendel’s Mother was the last epic battle of the hero’s prime.
For the rest of his life he will reign on his people as a powerful and wise king.
Until, as an old man, he will pick up his weapons again for a last battle with a giant dragon, which I’ll post about next week.

by paolo Puggioni

Beowulf and Grendel

23rd Aug 2016 0

I recently had the pleasure of illustrating Beowulf and Grendel, which is part of a great classic of ancient Anglo-Saxon poetry and an all round kick-ass epic story.
Once again this is for the fine people at Legends, Myths and Whiskey, who are always a pleasure to work with.

This time however, LMAW is releasing their beautifully narrated stories (together with a bunch of art I made for the project) as an album.
You can find more information here.
And if this doesn’t quench your curiosity, you can read a well made review here.

Now, as far as the story goes, this is the first of the three epic battles that make up Beowulf’s saga.
Long story short (straight from Wikipedia):

Beowulf begins with the story of Hrothgar, who constructed the great hall Heorot for himself and his warriors. In it he, his wife Wealhtheow, and his warriors spend their time singing and celebrating.

Grendel, a troll-like monster said to be descended from the biblical Cain, is pained by the sounds of a joy he cannot share, attacks the hall, and kills and devours many of Hrothgar’s warriors while they sleep. Hrothgar and his people, helpless against Grendel, abandon Heorot.

Beowulf, a young warrior from Geatland, hears of Hrothgar’s troubles and with his king’s permission leaves his homeland to assist Hrothgar.

Beowulf and his men spend the night in Heorot. Beowulf refuses to use any weapon because he holds himself to be the equal of Grendel.When Grendel enters the hall, Beowulf, who has been feigning sleep, leaps up to clench Grendel’s hand. Grendel and Beowulf battle each other violently.

Beowulf’s retainers draw their swords and rush to his aid, but their blades cannot pierce Grendel’s skin. Finally, Beowulf tears Grendel’s arm from his body at the shoulder and Grendel runs to his home in the marshes where he dies.

Beowulf and Grendel

Now, I had different options for a battle match between Beowulf and Grendel.
Beowulf is so cocky that he wants to kill the monster by just using his hands, so I guessed it made sense for him to be bare chested, like a proper wrestling match.

I could have made a much more dynamic scene, having the chareacters punching heach other, tables flying, fire and so on.
I chose insted the moment right before Beowulf rips Grendel’s arm off, so in this case I emphasized both Grendel’s struggle and Beowulf “I’m not even sweating” espression.

We did debate a bit over this, and discussed whether it would have been better to depict Beowulf as if he were struggling a little bit more.
In the end we kept the face I painted in the first pass. I think it gives the composition a more “Renaissance” flavour, with characters always with plain expressions.
I figured it fits with the ancient epic poem.

Anyway, I depicted all of Beowulf’s three battles, so next time I’ll post the illustration I made for Beowulf’s and Grendel’s Mother.

by Paolo Puggioni

Orion Mining Spaceship

31st May 2016 2

Aaand back to spaceships.

Honestly, browsing my gallery the other day I realized that the number of spaceships in my portfolio is shamefully close to “no spaceships”, so I tried to put a remedy to that.

After a looong hiatus from ZBrush I eventually managed to clumsily put together a mesh to render and eventually paint over.

The endeavor was a confirmation of how terrible my memory is.
I hadn’t touched ZBrush in about a year, and all my recollections of shortcuts, menus and commands were gone.

Muscle memory, gone.

Tricks and slightly more uncommon procedures, gone.

Sure, I kind of knew what I had to do, fortunately that was well settled.
I just couldn’t remember how to do it.

So, well, the sculpting phase took about a dozen lunch breaks or so, as I had to re-learn a whole bunch of things.
Hopefully next time it won’t be as hard. I’ll just have to make sure I can do it again in less than a year.

Orion Mining Spaceship

As an exercise, I tried to stick with a very simple shape – pretty much a box – and see if I could make it interesting anyway.

As always, all my digital painting now happens with the help of Krita.
For this illustration I had to make a whole bunch of brush presets (lasers, scattered stars, noise etc), which I’ll make available for download shortly.

Sure, the most of this drawing comes from the occlusion shadows exported from ZBrush, but still, I’m quite happy with the confidence I’m gaining with the new tools.

Mostly though, regardless of the result, I’m content I managed to get something done with ZBrush.
So much saw that I rendered the turntable animation.

Look at her spin!

Spaceship Turntable

AH! The beauty of a spaceship spinning over and over again.
It reminds me of EVE Online.
Good times.

by Paolo Puggioni

Pyromancer

27th May 2016 0

After long thought, I ended up renaming what had been “New_Document1.psd” for more than a year, into the much catchier “Pyromancer”.

I was very happy about the new name.
I mean, it is very clever if you think about it.
I had discarded “Fire Queen”, “Fire Sorceress”, “Fireballs Juggler” and all the variations of those, when the genius finally struck me.
PYRO! Like, you now, FIRE. And MANCER! Like a Necromancer, but with flames!
PYROMANCER! I’m so brainy! It’s a new word! I made up a new word, and it’s not even my first language!

Then I checked on Google, and it looks like every game with even a little bit of Fantasy spin has a character called Pyromancer.
There are also several books with a pyromancer in it.
Hell, there’s an actual word in ancient Greek for it: Pyromancy – the art of divination by fire.
I’m sure there must be Zippo pyromancer-shaped lighters too.
Oh yes, and of course let’s not forget about Melisandre.
So well, I made up a word that’s been there for almost three thousands years.
Just, all by myself.

So there you go, behold what, unbeknownst to me, is one of the most overused cliches of Fantasy Art in general.
I just care to point out this is not a Darksouls, or a Heartstone or a Skyrim piece of fan art.

It’s just me being unimaginative.

Pyromancer

Now, on top of that, I also have to say that this illustration has been a massive thorn in my side for more than a year and a half.

I had started it as a lunchbreak time-filler back when I was at Jagex.
I remember thinking that I could have tried making something nice and polished, for a change.
Something I had actually spent time on.

The days passed, the season changed, and I would work like 5 minutes at a time on this lunch-break project, between a peak at reddit and a bite at a sandwich.

Then I moved to another company, and to a new house, and a new town, and every now and then I would come across this 80% finished illustration and think “aw, I should finish this”, and I would add maybe another 1% to the final result.

Then I changed computer, worked on freelance assignments, start and finish several things, and still every now and then this thing would pop up, demanding a few minutes of my attention.

Long story short, this pyromancer has been sitting in my WIP folder for longer than I care to remember, so yesterday I thought “fuck it, I now declare you finished” and finally sent her on her way.

by Paolo Puggioni

Cyberpunk People

25th May 2016 0

Before I finished off the cyberpunk lady I posted last week, I had started a few sketches for the same theme.
Just rough ideas, really.
I was caressing the idea of drawing a whole bunch of cyberpunk concepts, maybe tying them together in a consistent setting.

Then I immediately got distracted by something shinier that I’d like to work on, so I guess I’ll pause the cyberpunk thing and get back to it later.
That’s the beauty of personal projects after all.
You can have twenty of them going on at the same time and no one can say a thing about it.

So, here’s a sketch of some random cyberpunk people (ok this is not rough, I actually polished it a lot more than I should have).

As always, done in Krita!

Cyberpunk People

The cyberpunk setting I had in mind wasn’t set like a million years in the future.
Let’s rather say a hundred years or so.
So I was thinking that in that case, most elements of our own culture and techology should still be recognizable.

The leg implants of the girl on the left are quite similar to today’s prosthetics, for example.

I took a few of the components of the winged lady from Shimano byke parts.

The old creepy guy works instead under the assumption that, in this setting, people’s life span can be increased almost indefinitely by plugging medical equipment into one’s body.

Impractical, maybe, and creepy, but better than being dead I guess.

Anyway, there’s actually another cyberpunk concept I had started working on, this time in ZBrush.

Since I’m slow as hell in ZBrush (I use it so rarely that I forget everything from one time to the other), I’m afraid that you shouldn’t hold your breath for that.

by Paolo Puggioni