Fall Down At Your Door

If any of you have been following me for the last five years, you are aware that my free time has been consumed whole-hardheartedly by the amazing Dragon Age series. It brought me out of a deep depression after moving back from Japan, and has since carried me through a lot of big life changes. That is to say, it’s important to me. I love creating media for the series, and every year for Inktober, I’ve been dedicating my month to creating new fanart of the Dragon Age characters. Sometimes I take it to the ninth-level, and this illustration was such a case.

However, it also gives you an insight on how my creative process has evolved in the last few years, so here we go!

Sketch Phase

It started with a really simple doodle idea. One of my favorite parts of DAI is when the Inquisition goes to Orlais, and plays The Game. I love fancy costumes and the masks that the Orlesians wear are awesome– and I am to this day sad that we don’t get to dress our Inquisitor up in fancy dress and mask, so I like to envision what my Inquisitor would wear.

I start all of my illustrations in blue line to “skeleton” out where the characters will be posed. Sometimes, I will scan the blue lines in and then work on top of a printed version of those blue lines, or sometimes I will draw directly on top of those blue lines in other colors, and then remove the blue lines in Photoshop. I did the latter for this illustration.

You’ll notice that the two characters are drawn in different colors. When an illustration gets complicated (i.e. if there’s more than one person in it), I tend to make each character their own color so I can easily identify what character is doing what. If I don’t I’ll tend to lose track, and if they are close together, sometimes loose part of the character (arms, usually), and don’t realize it until I’m starting to ink.

This isn’t something that you have to do, but visually helps me. Why pink and orange? Would you believe that I think I draw better when I am drawing in red tones? I don’t know why, and it’s probably entirely in my head, but I think my skills are elevated using these colors. I have lots of mechanical pencil leads and Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils in these colors because of this reason.

(When you create for a while, you’ll start to recognize things that you think help you create better– listening to music, not drawing on the first page of a sketchbook, etc. Are they silly superstitions? Yes. Does it help you? Yes? Then do it.)

Problem Solving

Once my sketch was completed, I scanned in my work and brought it into Photoshop. I’ve gotten in the habit of mirroring my work to check for proportion issues and any thing I might have missed. When you look at a drawing for awhile, you start to become a little blind to any issues that are there.

Well, when I flipped my drawing, I noted some proportion issues in Liadan’s head that needed to be fixed. I also realized that I liked the posing of the two characters better reversed.

But I couldn’t just flip the drawing, because both Iron Bull and Liadan have a-symmetrical designs. So what was I to do? Simple. I converted my sketch to blue lines, printed it, and redrew the drawing on top of the blue lines, recreating the a-symmetrical elements in a mirrored version.

This sketch was clean enough for me to start from, so I scanned this sketch in, converted it to blue lines again, and then printed it out on Bristol 400 paper in the blue lines.

Finally, it was time to ink.

Brush Detailing

With a complicated ink wash like this, the best order for me to work in is to start with the most complex part– that way if I mess it up, I print again and start over. It’s more work to finish everything but the most complicated part, and then mess up the illustration– which inevitably happens to me every time if I save the hard stuff for last.

So the moon was painted first.

Luckily, that wash went off without an issue. So once the wash was dried, I started to put in the bigger areas of black (i.e. her dress) and the outlines of the characters. I’ve started to work more with a brush for bigger details, and then move to quill and tech pens for the smaller detailing. I work faster being able to give line variance and depth if I only have to draw the line once, as opposed to several times with a tech pen. It’s all about working efficiently and effectively.

One the bigger areas were completed, and the outline done, I decided to texture Iron Bull’s horns using my brush. I’ve drawn Iron Bull quite a few times now, so I know that I get better detail outcome when I texture his horns with a brush.

When the horns were finished, I was having so much fun with the brush, I just continued to work with it to start working on Liadan’s hair.

But all good things must come to an end. Once I reached the finer details of Liadan’s mask, I knew that I would have to give up the brush and switch over to my quill.

Final Touches

Some of the detail work was so small, even the quill was too big– so I had to switch over to my .01 archival tech pen to finish up the finer details.

Before starting the ink wash over what was just inked, I let the illustration dry over night, and then scanned in the illustration again, just in case. Not that I would be able to ink wash over a printed version of the illustration, but I would at least have a final version that I could print out and then maybe color using marker? I wasn’t sure, but it’s always good to be prepared.

Then it was time to do the ink wash on the characters. I kept it minimal, emphasizing shadow, but trying not to dry attention away from where I wanted the viewer’s eye to go– on Liadan’s crown.

For most of the Inktobers I’ve done, I’ve added an element of silver or gold ink in a geometrical form in the background. But, since this image already has the moon, at the last moment, I decided against it (and I do mean last minute– I had the triangle sketched out any everything). Instead, I decided to add more flourish with Liadan’s dress, and add gold trimming on the collar of her dress.

Here is the completed illustration:

to fall at your door