Sunday, September 20, 2099

Welcome to WOC Studios!

Welcome to William O'Connor Studios!
The Art of William O'Connor

Author/Illustrator of the best selling Dracopedia book trilogy, as well as illustrator of over 5000 illustrations for the gaming and publishing business, William OConnor's 25 year career has allowed him to work with such companies as Wizards of the Coast, Impact Books, Blizzard Entertainment, Sterling Publishing, Lucas Films, Activision and many more. Winner of over 30 industry awards for artistic excellence including 10 contributions to Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantasy Art and 10 Chesley Nominations. William has taught and lectured around the country about his unique and varied artwork as well as being a regular contributor to the popular art blog Muddy Colors and exhibiting his work at such industry shows as Illuxcon, New York Comic Con and Gen Con. 

William now lives with his family and keeps his studio in New York. 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fantasy Character Workshop #011 Inktober

This October I participated in the online art challenge of Inktober, where artists are encouraged to produce a work of ink everyday and share it on Instagram.  I had never done an online challenge before but I found it was a fun and interesting exercise.  Although I wasn't able to do a drawing every day, I was able to produce a series of pen and ink illustrations based upon my continuing Fantasy Character Workshop challenge.  I'm including three of those works in this post and calling them Fantasy Character Workshop #011, Enjoy.

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Race: Elf
Gender: Female
Class: Fighter
Armor: Padded
Weapon: Short Sword
Missile: Composite Long Bow

Elvish warriors are natural archers,  moving stealthily through the thick wooded forest of her home defending her people from any evil that may venture too close.

Race: Dwarf
Gender: Female
Class: Ranger
Armor: none
Weapon: Scimitar and Axe
Motiff: Eagle
Familiar: Raven

Living in alpine environments  dwarves would make excellent mountaineers and  arctic warriors.  Moving across icy precipices and glaciers with sure-footed fleetness, this stalwart ranger surveys her land with the aid of her raven familiar.

Race: Half-Elf
Gender: Female
Class: Cleric
Armor: Chainmail
Weapon: Halberd

Clerics are warriors of the gods, using their sacred piety and blessings from their patrons to explore the darkness and mystery of the world around them.  This brave Cleric steps forward into the black unknown armed only with her sacred, ceremonial halberd and her faith.

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Dragonspell Preview


"Dragonspell", 2017 William O'Connor

Recently I completed work on a personal painting for the upcoming IX artshow in Reading PA.  Below are a series of work in progress images that show the various stages of development of this large oil painting.

I hope to see many of you at IX where I hope you will stop by to see Dragonspell in person and get to meet old friends and new!



Dragonspell. Pen on paper 4"x12"

Dragonspell. Color Comp 8"x21" Acrylic

Dragonspell. Stage1

Dragonspell. Stage2

Dragonspell. Stage2

Dragonspell. Stage3 detail

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Cursed Folk: Designing the Tiefling

by William O’Connor

Still Frame.  Neverwinter  2013

Ten years ago in the spring of 2007 I was given the august responsibility of helping the creative team at Wizards of the Coast design many of the Races and Classes for Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.  This was a very exciting opportunity for an artist who had grown up with the art of Elmore and Parkinson hanging on his wall and had watched as Todd Lockwood had so masterfully designed the previous edition. 

The other races such as the humans and the elves had all been well established and besides giving them a little stylistic tweaking there wasn’t much to do with them.   The dragonborn were a new and unique challenge which I’ve already discussed in my earlier blog War of the Dragonborn.  However I was presented with a new race for the core set that despite my decade of illustrating for D&D I had never heard of before. 

The Tiefling were a race that had been only had slight mention in earlier editions and the artwork for the race was very minimal.  The most established depiction for the Tiefling was a small spot illustration in a 3rd edition monster manual.  The 4th edition design team wanted to make the Tiefling a core race but wanted to radically update their appearance to make them look more intimidating and “cool”.  The current depictions of the Tiefling did not inspire feelings of intimidation.  The drugstore little horns glued to the forehead and the thin cats tail made them look like humans at a con masquerade.  I knew that I wanted them to a be a distinctive race with unique anatomy and not a Star Trek Alien-of-the-Week or manga cartoon.

The horns and the tail were the defining elements of the race so my first direction was to make them as prominent as possible.  Part of the design of the 4th edition was to integrate the design into being a miniature game so part of the process was to make the character’s silhouettes easily recognizable from a distance. This consideration also had the challenge of limiting the height of any figure so horns that protruded upward were unwanted, but I felt they should still be distinctive.  I designed powerful horns that grew sweeping back from the skull and a tail that was not just a swishy, decorative monkey tail but a powerful dragon tail that was as substantial as a third leg.  The tail would be capable of an extra sweeping attack and would grant the Tiefling powerful bonuses to dexterity,  jumping, agility and discipline.  These bonuses would make the tiefling natural rogues and fighters.  With the horns as well I saw a fun opportunity to make them more than merely ornamental.  Designing the horns to grow as the character leveled up I thought was a fun chance to give the tiefling a unique ability to display their power.  

Early Concept Sketches Tiefling Anatomy 2007
Early visualization for Tielfling horn growth 2007

Tielfing Body Study 2007

In concept design it is understood that the process is a team effort and that dozens of people will be weighing in and chopping your ideas down into manageable pieces.  Knowing this I went in big with my initial ideas expecting them to be be turned down and needing to be modified.  To my surprise the design team liked them and we progressed with very little change to the initial concept, but from a mechanical view not many of my ideas were incorporated. 

Once the physical traits of the race became established I needed to start to design their cultural aesthetic.  The dwarves were from the mountains, the elves from the woods, the humans from the plains, but where were the tiefling from? What was their history?  I struggled with this in reading the texts since most of the descriptions talked of them being a nomadic people with no home living in small isolated communities mostly in human cities.  I eventual cornered the creative director Stacy Longstreet  and asked her to tell me who the tielfing were in one sentence.  She thought for a moment and then said, “They are the cursed people.”  Its rare in art when a bell goes off in your head, but that really happened and a flood of images poured into my head.  They weren’t evil they were cursed.  A dark, lost, unwanted people wandering the world carrying their shame with them wherever they went.  I loved it.  My immediate touchstone was of course vampires, and I worked to give the tielfing that sexy, dark and gothic appeal despite their "deformity".  I carried this idea over into everything about them, their clothes and equipment.  I wanted everything to have a twisted aesthetic as if all of their prized heirlooms and weapons, all the relics of a lost past,  were also cursed and contorted into horrible but beautiful shapes, imagining that the forms of the weapons should reflect the shapes of their tails.  Elegant and deadly like the tielfing themselves.

It has been a great pleasure to watch over the years a design that I’ve worked on be developed and evolve in the hands of many other artists and animators.  Below are some examples of never seen concept art I did ten years ago, Enjoy.



©2017 William O'Connor Studios

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Mysteries of the Moonsea

William O'Connor

Recently I was asked in an interview which of my hundreds of D&D illustrations I was the most proud of.  In my reflection, I contemplated that I began working for D&D in 1994 and have made art for  Editions 2, 3, 3.5, 4 and 5.  Hundreds of illustrations, book covers, mini designs, concept designs, card art, and board games. To try to narrow it down to just one piece is difficult.  

I could've chosen my first or the one that earned me the most awards, or has the most likes on social media, but I decided my favorite was the cover for the 3rd Edition  Forgotten Realms adventure  The Mysteries of the Moonsea (2005).  This painting stands out in my memory for several reasons.  The design of these Forgotten Realms covers were unique in that they were long narrow horizontal compositions that needed to wrap around the book spine.  I had seen a couple already done by other illustrators and was eager to try my hand at it.  Working in such an unusual format was a huge challenge, and I love challenges.   I had designed and drawn and had approved the sketch by the art director in late 2004 with every intention of painting it traditionally in oil.  I calculated that the painting would need to be  about 48" wide to accommodate the detail I had planned, and I was trying to plan my attack and set up my studio and easel to handle a canvas that large.  

In January 2005 I purchased a new iMac upgrade to a powerful flatscreen model and it changed my life.  Within a couple of weeks I had a stylus and was quickly learning to paint in Photoshop and soon was delivering digital paintings to my clients.  I had never done a painting this big however, and I had never delivered a digital bookcover to D&D before.  I remember I talked with Todd Lockwood and my Art Director asking for some advice, and I settled that I would paint Moonsea as a digital painting.  

The results for a first attempt at a large digital painting were better than I hoped, but of course I look back and I see all the things I would have done differently today.  This was a learning painting and I think that's what I love about it.  All my favorite painting are the ones where I learn from them.  I think that is the challenge of all art, to learn and grow as artists.  Being an artist is a process that evolves one painting at a time.  



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fantasy Character Workshop #010 Halfling Wizard

William O'Connor

Working as a fantasy illustrator for over twenty years I have created hundreds (maybe thousands) of fantasy characters. When I was a student I would draw the characters of all the players in my gaming group. later working for various games I would be commissioned to illustrate and design characters from stories. As an artist many of these commissions became derivative to the point of becoming boring (Dwarf Fighter with an Axe, Elf Ranger with a Bow, etc.) so I strove to change things up and make sure that I was always coming up with new combinations. I created my Random Character Generator. (attached below). This was based upon the appendixes that were listed in the back of the D&D Dungeon Master's Guide when I was a kid. I started using this generator routinely, and still employ it when creating characters and when teaching character design to students.

This series is intended to use my generator to create characters on a regular basis to share the process with you. I will try to be as faithful as possible to the attributes that are created, as the series is meant to challenge my skills, and make the characters as difficult as possible.



Fantasy CharacterWorkshop #010 Halfling Wizard

Race: Halfling
Gender: Male
Class: Wizard
Armor: none
Weapon: Club
Missile:  Slingshot
Motiff: Eagle
Familiar: Eagle
Equipment:tankard, canteen, bell, jar

When we think of Halflings usually images of Bilbo and Frodo come to mind, but Halflings are not Hobbits. Halflings are cunning and agile adventurers with sharp minds making them ideal quest wizards.  Innately attuned to the natural world a Halfling wizard would very likely have a wild animal familiar like a hawk and the use of a common wooden cudgel would be quite effective in experienced hands.  Never judge a character by his size.



Check out the time lapse video as well:

Random Character Generator

©William O'Connor Studios.  All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

William O'Connor's Frankenstein

Several years ago I was approached to develop an illustrated edition of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.  I was extremely enthusiastic since it was a favorite of mine and a literary classic.  For several months I read and researched the work and produced a folio of sketches, color comps and diagrams based on my interpretations of the novel.

My immediate take on the early 19th century gothic tale was how scary it was.  This was one of the first real psychological thrillers and works of science fiction.  Grave robbing, corpse mutilation, zombies, paedocide, serial murder, mental illness and drug use were all front and center in the plot.  Eventually however the project was canceled and I was left with a file full of concept art that never got finished or published.  I'm attaching a sampling here for the first time for you to see my take on this literary classic in all its dark and horrific detail.  Perhaps one day I'll get to finish it.



"I will glut the maw of death until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends!"


"We perceived a low carriage, on a sled, and drawn by dogs, at the distance of half a mile, a being which had the shape of a man, but apparently of gigantic stature."

"...what I held in my arms had ceased to be the Elizabeth that I loved and cherished."

"The dissecting room and the slaughter house furnished many of my materials."

"As I still pursued my journey to the northward, the snows thickened and the cold increased in a degree almost too severe to support."

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"..I kept my workshop of filthy creation."