Ice Tomb

By Jesper Ejsing
When sketching this cover for Paizo´s Pathfinder series I got the urge to do a multiple figure fight scene. Not a very easy thing to pull of. i knew it would take  a lot of planning and composition so to make everything easier I tilted the horizon line. I helps distort everything so that no one notice perspective mistakes or nothing and it adds drama and action; win win if you ask me.
I had a previous sketch of the female barbarian that i had to abandon on an earlier cover, but i knew I was going to use it now, so I kind of build everything around that ass...I mean pose.
To be honest I think explaining composition is very hard. I know there is a thing called the Golden section and there is all kinds of rules as to where to place things of interest. I never learned any of that but you kind of know them anyway, from being human and having looked at  a lot of images. So I go about this feeding on gut feeling. What this feeling is telling me is that there must be unified lines. Or framing. Notice in the sketch that I actually have a whole figure reaching ( pointing ) towards the centre of interest. And the figures around her nicely circles her in acting as a framing for the main figure. When sketching these many figures I do not decide that I want to follow these line from the beginning. they are not pre-described in my head, but I take really good care of using them when they surface. It is more about recognizing the right flow/direction or rhythm to the lines when the haphazardly emerge, than actually doing it textbook like. almost as finding shapes and figures in a cloud.
Next up I tried to see what could be eliminated to make the image seem more clearly readable. I decided to remove the charging front giant to make room for the second archer and also to clear some room for the Axe Swinger. When I sketched the giant having his hand cut off I couldn´t get it right. he seemed like he was falling in the wrong direction. He faced out of the composition and continues a moving downwards and out of the picture. it felt wrong, so I changed his pose to be more of a cup shape framing the barbarian from the bottom and up circling her in.
Most of these steps was created with pencils on paper. but as soon as I had all the figures sketched i layered them together in Photoshop and stared shuffling them around to avoid tangents and unclear cropping. In the old days this stage was done from multiple photocopies placed as a jigsaw puzzle on top of a background pushing and pulling around zooming the figures in and out printing them out a lot of times before the placement was right. Doing it digitally is a lot easier. And since I already had all the sketches placed together I might as well color them right away.
half way image with greytones showing
I grey toned everything like I am used to do in acrylic and started painting on top of the grey tone with overlay layers and colorize. then I just paint into everything until it is done.
I chose a very simple and limited palette to not take away the focus from the figures and the readabilities.

What I really like in this picture is that there is so much going on, small actions within the big scene.