Friday, 27 March 2015

Barbarians of Lemuria cover: inspiration

The BoL cover I did is actually a tribute to a classic image from Sal Buscema's 'Savage Sword of Conan'.
I've obviously rejigged it quite a bit for composition and so on, but this is the image which I based it on in my head.

I wanted to avoid having too much of a sexual bias in my work, but with material like this, you have to play up to the tropes a little.

Having said that, on the final image I have the intended sacrifice looking directly at the viewer. She is calm and confident. She is the only one in the scene who knows what is going on. Our poor barbarian and kraken are content to play out their roles and hack away at each other. But she knows better. She sees the plans of the universe, the strings being pulled. She knows what will happen.

In our inital discussions, this book cover here was a popular direction for us to take. We wanted to have a clear tribute to the source material, so I painted up the red and black background to drop the image onto. Frazetta was, obviously, an IMMENSE influence on the game (and on me in general: I have Fire & Ice burned into my soul!).

As mentioned previously, the final cover ended up being different from this one due to formatting restrictions, but this here is a small insight into what went behind the final image.

If you haven't already grabbed yourself a copy of this awesome game from Filigree Forge and Beyond Belief Games, I suggest you get yourself over to and pick up the pdf now. It is S&S gaming at it's finest and the final book is an absolute joy to behold: everyone involved put in their A-game on this one!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Rooftops by Night

I've been saving this one for a while as it's my favourite: possibly the best thing I've done so far, I think.

It's definately the best sky I've done. I wanted to try and capture a little Spielberg essence in it, so I have a vast wealth of stars and the classic shooting star.

Colour was an important factor here. I wanted purple and orange to set up a complementary palette. The glow of the city coming up to meet the sky. I think it turned out quite nice.

The scene shows the outcast prince Kalexes from a far-off land coming to a nocturnal city ruled by evil sorcerers (he has a cool jungle beast skull as a shoulderplate). Here he has met with Tineblas, the Black Spider: a powerful assassin and man-of-mystery who has become his firm ally (he wears a steel mask which has spider-like glowing green eyes). The festival of Starfall is an annual event which marks a meteorite shower- it is the one time that the city streets are filled with light and revelry. Tonight is the night they start their grand scheme to take over the city.

I like the idea of a hero character and a companion- it's a classic Sword and Sorcery trope (which is played out well in Omnihedron Games' Epoch system).

I did this piece mostly in Leeds, when I was there for the In-laws' Xmas party. I listened to a lot of the classic Conan soundtrack and Clutch. (Which is what I do most of the time, but I listened to even more when I was doing this).

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Barbarians of Lemuria: behind the cover

Here are a couple of shots from the process for the cover and a couple of zoomed-in snapshots to show some of the detail.

My initial blueline, based on one of a few layout concepts.

Colours in progress on the princess. I like her hair: I thought white was a strong choice to distinguish her from Krongar and one that we hadn't used in the rest of the book. I usually prefer to draw black hair, but have tried to push myself away from this default setting. I'm getting more comfortable with that.

Then there are two zoomed-in shots just so you can see the linework and so on a little better.

Sketchbook has some nice brushes in it for texturing. There are a couple of drybrush-looking ones, with the 'bristles' flayed-out which are great for layering hair highlights.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Barbarians of Lemuria: Fan Cover

Here is a fan-tribute cover which I have put together for the mighty Barbarians of Lemuria Mythic Edition (available now on!)

The published cover is great, but it chops off some of my tentacled beastie so I thought I'd bash one together where you can see the whole image, instead of just posting it up on a white background. This is what we originally looked at for a cover concept, but working out how to get the pulp texture to work with the bleed on multiple formats for print was impossible. The fantastic guys at Filigree Forge made absolutely the right decision for the final project in going the way they did. Plus, on the final layout you can read the details on the characters better (and there are a lot of details- for example, one of Krongar's coins has my logo on it!)

I had to do it in two parts (Krongar and the Princess was one part- the stone head and beast was another) and composite it together due to the huge size of it. Those tentacles took a hell of a long time to draw, but I'm quite pleased with them in the end.

I tried to get that classic old pulp novel look to it (much thanks to my art brother Corlen Kruger for his guidance!)

Barbarians of Lemuria: characters

Here are the various characters which I did for the Barbarians of Lemuria RPG.
I had a ton of fun designing these characters. I tried to capture a sense of the classic sword and sorcery feel as well as a hint of an 80s animated series.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Krongar against the Star God

Here is another piece which I did for the Barbarians of Lemuria RPG (...available now on

This was a tribute to the cover for the last edition, but I took a lot of licence with it (mainly because the ape on the original had a mask on, which looked cool, but I really wanted to draw an angry gorilla face. I do love my monkeys (and, yes, I know it's not a monkey, I do have a degree in anthropology.)).

The piece was done with a transparent background, the frame at the bottom made from some jungle vines, as I was asked to provide an image without corners. It was fun to come up with the composition.

The big elder god thing at the back was just made up as I went along. It is described as a writhing mass of tentacles with eyes, so I added in some mouths and eyeballs at various sizes and angles to convey its' unnaturalness. It's lit from within with the glow of stars, to express its space alien nature. I was a bit daunted at approaching the tentacles at first, but I got quite into it in the end. I faded out the beast/god/thing by duplicating its's layer and filling it with white and then dropping the opacity on that. This was to give it a bit of a feeling of distance from the foreground action.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sea Battle

This one is a scene I did as a two page spread for Barbarians of Lemuria (on DriveThruRPG now!). It was meant to have titles on it so I had to avoid solid blacks (#sadface) and I had to consider it both as a whole and as being seen on two individual pages, meaning the composition had to try and work on two halves, which is always a little tricky.

I had an awesome time doing the water on this. I love it so much I could just have that, but a load of abstract brush strokes don't usually sell books. Doing water is one of the legendary bugbears of artists, so I was pretty hesitant going into this. But, I played around with some of the brushes available in Sketchbook and came out with this.

The good thing was that the little stories I came up with for these illustrations actually made it into print in the final book as descriptive flavour text. I always find it best to construct a narative around a piece and then try and show a snapshot of it. That way I have more of a feeling for the characters and action. It helps me keep interest in the piece which, in turn, gives it more energy (at least to me).

(All done in Sketchbook on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3, as always.)

Monday, 2 March 2015

Fortress of the Witch Queen

Another piece for Barbarians of Lemuria (available now on DriveThruRPG *cough*), this one was to be the background image; spread across two pages; repeated throughout the book.

Settling on a composition was hard enough, as you can see from some of the roughs, as each half idealy needed to work on its own when a page was viewed separately. Not only that, but I had to avoid any strong lines or areas of high contrast, as text was going to be laid over it.

I tried to emulate two sources here, the work of Hiroshi Yoshida and that of thr film 'Fire and Ice' by Ralph Bakshi.

Yoshida's work has such depth and emotion and conveys natural elements so beautifully. I was struggling with the water and I thought, 'who does water better than Yoshida?' Nobody, that's who.

And 'Fire and Ice' was such a massive influence on my childhood: I watched it every Saturday morning, along wirh 'Empire Strikes Back' and 'Enter the Dragon' (if you know me, you know that I can pretty much be summed-up by those three films to this day!).

Obviously, what I ended up with falls horrifically short of these two pieces of inspiration, but you have to reach for the stars, don't you? As an artist I will always be disappointed by everything I do, so I might as well give myself just cause to be!

The image conveyed here is that of our hero, Thongar, approaching the Fortress of The Witch Queen in Satarla. He has forsaken an all out assault with his companions in favour of stealing in on his own in a small fishing boat, with the intention of killing the evil sorceress and ending her dark reaign once and for all. The bay is empty and there are no guards; as if she knew he was coming; as if she were inviting her enemy in.

To this day no-one knows what happened that night, but both Thongor and The Witch Queen still live...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Witch Queen

I can start revealing some of my work for the Barbarians of Lemuria Mythic Edition RPG now (available on now) so here is a little step-by-step process on one of the full page illustrations which I did for it.
The Witch Queen. She had to be quite sexy in an oldschool sword and sorcery way, but also powerful and in control. So, she's looking down, standing on the battlements of her castle with some chained slaves at her feet: kind of the reverse of what you would usually have a man pictured doing in this kind of thing.
I worked out a new way to do fire and sparks on this one, inspired by the work of Brad Rigney. While I came nowhere near his magic, I am pretty pleased with my discovery. I always try to push myself to learn something new on each piece.
The moon came out nice as well.