"Save the loot!"
After I completed Admiral Brass, Unsinkable, I was also asked in the next art waves whether I wanted to take on another card and marketing/packaging art featuring the pirate so dear to my heart. I didn't have time to work on the packaging art (which was in great hands with Lie Setiawan) but I was able to take on this second card, a more narrative-driven piece in which Brass loses her ship, which I think in this case is The Indomitable, to a monstrous Axolotl. It was great to show Brass in action even if it was her surviving rather that triumphing. An appropriately sad "goodbye" to her (until I illustrate her again? Maybe?)
In a blue cavern, show Brass and her crew leaping from her ship. A giant sea monster (with reference provided) is eating it! The crew features mixed genders, ethnicities and species, who may be attempting to haul their loot and equipment off the doomed ship.
This is a very tough composition for a few reasons!
- We need to show Brass with enough detail that she's still the main focus of the piece, so she needs to be relatively close to the viewer
- The monster is HUGE, meaning to see it properly we need to be zoomed out at least a little
- It's eating the ship, and therefore close to it
- Brass is leaping from the ship, and so she's also relatively close to it.
What results is a situation where too close and we miss the scene, too far away and Brass is just another speck. I had to try to balance that with my pencil thumbnail sketches.
My initial attempts didn't bear many options that I was interested in. I'm only very roughly sketching out areas of form and action as this is a complicated scene; sketching anything out in any detail would take far too long.
One solution is to have her swinging, like the options on the right imply. The options in the center and bottom left though are central yet dynamic.
I tried to explore some of the coruscating flow of the serpent in the left abandoned sketch, and iterated on the swinging idea I had previously. I honed in on a composition where brass is framed by the negative space created by the coiled creature, with most of the destruction happening on the right.
I tried my best to work in some different options, a mournful view from above, and the central leap, but I didn't get too far without being dissatisfied.
The "framed by negative space" option I thought was a winner, so I spent the most time on it and sent it in. Like my Aragorn at Helm's Deep piece, I'm relying a bit on the Frank Tenney Johnson style lighting; lots of blues and teal light, high visibility.
It was approved, and I went on to shoot some reference. I was able to assemble a ton of reference for the various elements, the first was a model ship that my uncle had given to my mom as a gift in honour of her pirate admiral status. I was able to find some gold/brass items to help with the falling figurehead
I had a great time creating a maquette for the creature! Some plastic wrap at the base stood in for waves and foam.
Crew and lions -
- and reference for Brass herself!
From here I draw over everything, iterating on the rougher sketches with tighter ones:
The final sketch
And the rest of the process! It all came together pretty painlessly, managing the values was the toughest part. A bit of glow and fog at the end helped push the mood a bit. We've never seen the rear of her ship in detail, so I had fun adding all the golden bits based on the structure of the previously shown model ship.
Last time around in "Admiral Brass, Unsinkable" her crew was very homogeneous due to my family being the models. Here I was able to include much more variety, including an orc and winged person (Aven?) in the top right.
Speaking of details;
Out of all of Brass' illustrations, for some reason this one with the forlorn expression captures my mom's likeness the best.
Light transmitted through waves is one of the most beautiful ways to render water! Foam on the dark side changing from dark on light to light on dark is very visually satisfying. Counterchange!
It was a ton of fun and very rewarding to revisit Admiral Beckett Brass. I'm so happy to have had the opportunity, and very glad that I'm satisfied with both pieces. I wish my mom could see everyone's reaction to the character that bears her likeness and read her ongoing adventures. The pieces help feel like her story is still being written, and it's a gift. Til next time, Admiral.
Thank you for reading!