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Designing an Air Genasi Monk
A detailed breakdown of how I create and deliver a fantasy character artwork
As I sat down with a blank canvas, I was opening a pop-up view of my email exchange with the customer - let’s call them Alex - on my tablet. I also opened my Obsidian vault, where I had jotted down a couple of paragraphs outlining the commission request. Alex had just sent me the initial deposit for the artwork, and it was time for me to start drawing it.
I was to design an Air Genasi Monk. For the uninitiated, Air Genasi are a race in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, or D&D for short, often characterized by their connection to the element of air. They typically feature light blue skin, wispy hair, and a serene, otherwordly demeanor. In D&D, the Monk class is a disciplined, agile martial artist. Monks harness both physical and mental prowss to excel in combat, using their bodies as weapons, with heightened speed and agility.
Alex, my customer, had provided me with some reference images and a few paragraphs of text description of their character, a female Monk with flowy hair and clothing, golden bracers, and a blue tattoo sleeve. She was to be depicted in an action pose, casting some energy spheres from her hands. With all the information I needed at my side, I was ready to draw a preliminary sketch.
My preliminary sketches are very, well, rough, but their main purpose is to block in the main pose, body shape, general outline of the equipment, and some additional details about the background. I never go into more detail at this stage, as revising such basic elements of a composition often means re-designing the thing from scratch, taking up additional time and money. Neither I or the customer would want that, so everyone is happy with this extra step.
Alex rewieved my sketch and, after a couple of minor edits, gave me the green light for the next stage: linework. This is my favorite part of the rendering process, by far. I get to detail every aspect of the character, add crosshatching, different line weights, etc. It’s really calming and relaxing, but unlike the upcoming coloring stage, I am unable to listen to music or audiobooks as my mind keeps going back to the initial briefing, making sure I am not forgetting anything.
I absolutely loved this character’s pose, and drawing the flowy hair has been extremely rewarding - I think they turned out real nice.
I sent the linework to Alex, who requested a few edits to the face. They needed a more fierce expression, like she was about to hit someone with some fire punches, as she’s quite an aggressive fighter! - they quote.
At this stage I usually start sending my files with a watermark that I’m not showing here, to be removed only after I receive the second and final part of the payment. This allows me to show progress without risking theft, and reassures the customer that work is being done on their commission.
I like to not compromise on revisions, and I always offer them for free, in an unlimited quantity. With my step-by-step process of going back and forth with the customer constantly, it never happened to me that I had to re-draw something from scratch, and I never had a final deliverable refused. I proud myself of lots of happy clients, some of whom became friends over the years. But I digress.
It was time to color the Air Genasi. I had a few hints on how Alex wanted her colored, but most of it was up to my intepretation. I put up some music, looked up some references on Pinterest, and got to the flatting stage.
Flatting is a process more known in the comics industry, where I have some previous experience, and from which I borrow some techniques to speed this phase up. Basically, I create a layer for every different color in the scene, using a feature called the fill layer in Clip Studio Paint – my favorite digital drawing software. I don’t have any non-technical explanation for this, but in short, it allows me to later change colors on the fly, without altering the shading that I do on a different set of layers. Translated, this means even less time spent on revisions!
As mentioned above, the next and final stage is the shading phase. Here, I add layers for lights, shadows, special effects, overlays, magic, and everything else that can add depth and life to the artwork.
Alex needed only a couple of colors changed – as easy as double-clicking the corresponding layer and editing the color from a picker – and we were done. After receiving the final part of the payment, I sent them all of their files.
I thanked them for their patience – this process took several weeks due to me moving to a different apartment, but this is a story for another time – and sent them a closing email containing discounts, links to a physical print, a referral code, and more.
After marking this project as “completed” in my project management database, I proceeded to create a few promotional images with it. I scheduled some Reddit posts, the most popular being this one here, and added the new image to my portfolio. And with that, I was really done with this project.
If you’ve read up until here, well, thank you! I hope you’ve enjoyed this journal-like article, as I’ll be writing more in the upcoming weeks. If you have any questions about my commission process, please leave them in the comments or in the chat, I’ll gladly take my time to respond to everyone!
And if you, like Alex, are ever in need of an illustration, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me personally. I’m leaving the link to my landing page for art commissions below, hoping to have you as my client someday ;)
Please enjoy the rest of your week ahead!