October 28, 2011

Terrors of the Silt Sea

I recently got to design and illustrate a brand new monster for the Dungeons & Dragons Dark Sun campaign setting. This was my first chance to do anything for Dark Sun and I had a great time working on this piece. It was described as a horrific combination of an angler fish and a lizard... and if there is one thing I can do is combine an angler fish with another animal. RAWR!

Terrors of the Silt Sea: Oasis Beast
© 2011 Wizards of the Coast

Here is a process break down for this piece. Always hard to explain that the 'magic' happens somewhere between step two and three and if you try to see it, it will disappear.

In just six easy steps, watch your favorite fighter be devoured... OM NOM NOM

October 20, 2011

Happy Halloween

A while back I did a Vampire piece for Wizards of the Coast and I thought it perfectly fitting for the season and my favorite holiday.  I really had a blast with this one and am glad I can finally show it off.  Here is the piece as well as a little bit of my process.

Happy Halloween!!

A little bit of my process....

 Step by Step

Unstoppable, Unending Rage

"Thrall at the Maelstrom"


Since I'm waiting for some of my illustration work to clear that's currently under wraps because of NDAs, here's a personal piece I recently finished. Normally, I try to steer clear from doing any kind of "fan art", but what started out as a simple warm up sketch ended up getting me excited and really into the piece so I decided to just finish it up. Normally when I do warm ups, I choose familiar subject matter (this ends up being things from games that I play or movies that I watch). In this case, I decided to do a portrait of the character Thrall from Warcraft. I try to keep things relevant to the game's storyline whenever I decide to do a Warcraft related piece and this one focused on the most recent Patch 4.2 - "Rage of the Firelands".

October 18, 2011

Eva's Sketches in ImagineFX

Damn, Craig was first with the magazine feature =P

A while ago, ImagineFX approached me and asked if I would be interested in being featured in their sketchbook section of the magazine (silly question - of course I'm interested!!). So I sat down and started to select a few drawings ... thought it's not a big effort and then I got hit by an archive of countless sketches I did over the past years. It was overwhelming, it took me a whole day to go through it to choose just a handful to be featured.

I'm quite happy with the selection the editors were choosing, lots of stuff I did for the Inuit Mythology Project and even a few personal ones.

October 17, 2011

Exotique 7 and ImagineFX

Second Crusade, a piece I did for Sony Online Entertainment, will be in the upcoming Exotique 7. This is the first time I've been featured in an art compilation book, and it was an honor to be selected. It was also used as a side bar illustration in "Changing the Rules of the Game"- Nov 2011 ImagineFX.

My defiant little redhead is all grown up, and off in the big world alone *sniff* :)

October 13, 2011

A Process... Part 1

Writing isn't my forte - though I hope as I produce more of these, the introspection will come easier. I often just 'react' as I work through a piece, so if I come across hap hazard in my thought process. It often is. Dependent on the client, the time constraints, the subject matter and the genre - I'll approach one piece completely different to how I may approach another piece. I also like to change things up and keep the work and process interesting.

I thought I'd start a series of posts on a piece I began today. There is no rhyme or reason to the piece - I often plan out personal work as something that may evolve into a cover illustration. That is the only condition I have at the moment.

After some random doodling, I start to realize the silhouette of the main character. I chose to work in a large round shield and a weapon (often just a quick slash or line to begin) to add some interest. Then I start out on the foe - and my stream of thought brought me a dragon centipede worm thing...

As I'm cobbling this together, I'll keep in mind how the eye will move around the piece and will continue to make corrections as I proceed to make sure I feel I have a strong path for the eye.

Next step, roughing in some form. A second pass to add interest - early on I've decided that I want the dragon head to have a chiseled bone type feel. The action will be taking place atop a rocky peak.

But what about the background? Well for this piece I already know the background will be treated as an atmospheric or very vague story element. There won't be a lot to it likely, my interest and focus is the battle. I've used the background here to add an interesting perspective - I also like the juxtoposition of the straight spires verses the sweeping curves of the dragonwormpede thing...

I'll spend some time throwing out some more ideas for motion and tweaking composition.

From here I'll move to experiment in color, sometimes new elements are introduced at this point with the rough color sparking ideas. I've already set in my mind that the warrior will have some plate armor of some sort, my main concern are the areas I want to put across in vivid splashes of color.
Once I've settled on the main color elements, I'll move into some secondary color elements on the warrior... though that I'll leave for next time. Its past my bed time :-D

October 12, 2011

Introducing....ME!!! (Mike Sass)

First off, I would also like to thank Craig for putting this collective together!  Its exciting to be viewed in the same place as the other geniuses in the Shadowcore* stable.  (I know I'm late in posting my intro, but you'll have to forgive my wife for having a baby last week.)   I'll have to do my best to keep up with the quality of the other members, and I'm motivated to do better work after looking at what the others are kicking out!

For anyone who does't know me (most everyone), I have a long history in the video games industry, dating back to 1996.  Out of art school, where I earned a design degree, I landed a job with a startup game company called BioWare.  Fast forward 12 years, I left in 2008 to become a freelancer after having a long and rewarding career as the principal marketing artist for that company.  For the past couple years I have been getting into the RPG and TCG (card game) field, and loving the people and projects very much.

I live in Canada with my wife and 2 sons, and we try to stay warm and safe from rabid moose.  About once a year I venture south to meet up with the great folks in the fantasy art community and to learn more about how a freelancer is supposed to make a living, and replenish my vitamin D levels.  So far so good.

I've got a blog, which has some good info squirreled away in old posts if anyone is interested.  I'll do my best to add information and new art to the growing Shadowcore* worldwide phenomenon. 

* your #1 web source for fantasy gaming art. 

:) m.

Update: (6:30pm) After making a joke about a rabid moose and then heading out the door of my studio to go for supper, there was in fact a 500lb moose right outside my door.  True.

October 11, 2011

Zombie Holiday

There's not too many things better than getting a mail from your favorite group of creatives, whether it's editors with a piece of new fiction you have the opportunity to contribute some vision to, being added to a call for artists on a new deck or manual, by someone new that you've just met, or an art director you've worked with for years throwing you a project they trust you with, or simply filling in for someone who's flaked.. Perhaps even regardless of payment, the opportunity to shape folks gaming experience, or unconsciously add to a writers narrative?  It always curls the biggest smile on me jib.. Absolutely Magical.!  Like unwrapping a present on Holiday, or lifting the first print from the block..  These mails remain Beginners mind for me, the latest one just as exciting and uplifting as the very first.. I checked email just around a year ago to find the rare opportunity to do two illos for Jon Shindehette and Dragon Magazine, and the same old sensation hit me.  One of the briefs called for a big obsidian sacrificial Altar, inside a shadowy rocky valley, being protected by a sickly tribe of once strong warriors, now defiled by life draining magic.. and then I heard them moan.. "That which we call Brains.. by any other name, would taste as sweet.." =)  Times like that make me think, becoming a SF&F freelancer rather than a CA, was actually the right choice for once.?  In any case; not a lot of turn around time, but a brilliant simple brief I knew I could have some fun with..  It was also one of my first digital illos, in which a couple weeks earlier, Craig Spearing had shown me just how quick it could be, to manipulate color from a grayscale image.. (my inner traditionalist still hasn't forgiven him for this, mind you.. evil bastard) but he was right!  Here's a couple process shots of grayscale to final execution.. A lot of the tones come traditionally from scumming and erasing back into the graphite with deductive marks, before I scan the final sketch.  In my limited experience with digital, I also find bringing back some of that original tone from the sketch with the History brush quite helpful, but I'm still on the arse end of the learning curve.  Traditional oils will always be my illustration end game, but I sure do like to play with all the new toys, and find new ways of achieving the old.  Even though I've quite a ways to go, with a bit of 3/4 theatrical spotlighting, and extreme facial expression, I think this Zombie Holiday isn't too bad for one of my first adventures into the digital world.. Hope you dig it..  Chuck

October 8, 2011

Eowyn & the Nazgul process

Most of my current work is tied up in NDA, so I'd like to share the process on a recent favorite. This started as a fun side project for the Eowyn and the Nazgul ArtOrder challenge, then turned into an obsession.

initial thumbnail

After five or six thumbnails, I kept coming back to this one. The interaction between the characters was a bit weak, but the larger shapes were starting to work.

grayscale process

The image on the far left was submitted to the Muddy Colors gang for critique, and the consensus was it needed more narrative. So, I extended the canvas, added Theodin, his horse, a dead knight, and Merry in the distance to lock in the triangle composition. The muzzle on the fell beast went through several variations until it looked less like a dragon's maw and more like a beak (to stay true to the text). Also, many thanks to Tyler Jacobson for tips on making the light ricochet off Eowyn, creating a sense of glow.


Photo references used along the way: 1) My daughter as Eowyn. Holding a pose is hard enough, so I tend to make props out of cardboard so they're not too heavy. 2) My son as Merry. 3) A dead horse found online (it was too scruffy and skinny to be a king's horse, but a good starting point as I can't draw horses for shit). 4) Some dork with a headband, also found online. 5) Drawing the perspective on the Witch King's mace proved incredibly difficult, so I made a model out of a broom handle, foam core, and tape. 

final grayscale

color process

Once the grayscale was done, digging in and painting the image only took about three days. Balancing the warm and cool tones without getting too saturated was the hardest part, Minas Tirith needed to be cooled off several times to get it to read as white and not sandstone. A staircase leading to a door was visible until the very end (it was pointed out to me that a giant staircase leading right into a citadel might not be the best defensive strategy. Um, yeah, dumb idea). I replaced the staircase with a wall, and added a lot more combatants to the background.

In the two and a half weeks it took to complete this project, I listened to only one song on repeat: A Knife in the Dark from the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack. If it had gone on much longer, my family probably would have destroyed my stereo.

final color

October 7, 2011

Talisman: The Dragons

The new expansion for the Talisman board game, The Dragons, recently was released and I have seven dragon pieces appearing in it. Last year was a very dragon year for me. One of the pieces, the Zombie Dragon, stood out as my favorite of the bunch and it seems to have become a crowd favorite too. Zombie dragon is gonna eat you!

Zombie Dragon
© 2011 Fantasy Flight Games

October 5, 2011

Raven Mimura

Many thanks to Craig for bringing us all together, in this great format.  And thank you to all the contributors, not only for participating, but for doing such inspiring work.  Browsing through it is definitely a kick in the butt and a reminder to keep honing my craft.
I have lived in Seattle since 2000, where my roots continue to burrow ever deeper.  My partner Deirdre is kind enough to share an apartment with me… along with my studio, my weapons, armor, costumes, books, props, models, prints, etc.

Surpisingly, I have only met a couple of the other locals (of the Pacific NW) posting here.  I look forward to changing that soon.
I received a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design (quite a change from Dallas, where I was born and raised).

As soon as I finished school, I spent a couple months getting my portfolio up to speed, then made my industry debut by attending GenCon, and putting my portfolio in front of anyone who would look at it.  I got my first (tiny) projects from those portfolio reviews, and I've been a full-time freelancer ever since.  For several years, I worked traditionally (initially in watercolor, then acrylics), before transitioning to all-digital.
My initial inspiration to follow this career path came from playing D&D with my brother, in 4th grade.  I loved poring over the game books and looking at all the art.  Even at that age, it occurred to me that someone must actually *make* that art, and that seemed like a pretty cool thing to do.  I pursued art in various forms all through grade school and high school, while also continuing to immerse myself in all manner of fantasy and sci-fi geekery.

I continue to be an avid gamer (tabletop, as well as video).  I have only once played a character for whom I had done the original character class illustration.  It couldn’t be helped.

I have been honored to work on some of my favorite properties from childhood:  D&D, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Lord of the Rings, etc.  And in recent times, I’ve been doing a lot of work for the WoW card game.

For more, head to my site:  www.ravenmimura.com

October 4, 2011


Introductions aren't quite done, but I'd like to share a recent piece (my apologies for the interruption). It started out as a quick demo for Pixelcraft, then I kept picking at the sketch, and eventually decided to finish it. Ironically, there are no dragons in my portfolio (some dragon-like creatures, but no actual dragons), hopefully this will fill that gap...

October 2, 2011

Chuck Lukacs

Greetings All,
It's an honor to be shown with this group of illustrators..  Such an extraordinary pool of light-pushing skills, I can hardly begin to explain?  Suffice it to say, big ups to Mr. Craig Spearing for rounding this creative brain trust!  Here are some of my own wig bubbles, and I can't wait to see what contributions and potentials lie in this brilliant collective.. =)

I've been fortunate enough to have illustrated for the science fiction & fantasy gaming markets for over 12 years, graduated from Detroit's own College of Creative Studies in 93, but like Craig, a lot of time was spent studying traditional materials, ceramics, printmaking and bookarts.  My oil paintings and prints have appeared in Spectrum, ImagineFX, I've won some awards, and I've authored and co-authored two fantasy art tutorial books from Impact; Wreaking Havoc, 2007 and Fantasy Genesis, 2010 (plug =)  I've freelanced for; NBC/Universal, Pyr/Prometheus Books, Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Upper Deck, AEG, Games Workshop, Road Runner and Atlantic Records, and have recently had the great privilege to start teaching a couple classes at the PNCA here in Portland, OR!  It's an odd sensation, teaching your eventual replacements, but a path I'd like to continue.. =)

Thanks for the once over, and really hope to meet up at
ECCC, or any Cons we all might be attending..
Cheers, Chuck