Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Caravaggio ArtNotes

Recently discovered art notes from Caravaggio's famous
"Crucifixion of St. Peter"...

Dear Caravaggio-
Sorry this is getting to you so late, things have been hectic around here and we're all playing catch-up.
First of all everyone here loves your painting, we think its really cool, great lighting and the drama is excellent. There are however a few changes we'd like you to make.
1- The Art Description says that the crucifixion is in a colloseum, and the designers feel thats really important. It doesn't have to be much, just maybe a crowd with a touch of classical architecture and maybe a tiger or two-totally up to you. The black is just too flat.
2- R&D says that the Roman soldier's costumes do not match the style guide. If you need reference let me know and I'll send it to you.
3-Please turn the foreground soldier around so we could see his face instead of his butt?
4-The colors are a bit muddy and dark, would it be possible to brighten up the palette and add some color?
5- St. Peter needs to have some glowing rune tattoos or a halo or something to make it obvious he's a high powered priest.

Thanks a lot, Could you get the changes in by friday, You Rock :o)

Dracopedia Wall Calendar from

Dracopedia Wall Calendar from

Now available for the Holidays.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Redcrosse Knight and the Dragon: Part1

The Redcrosse Knight and the Dragon: Part1

Few stories are more captivating than that of the Redcrosse Knight and the Dragon. The epic verse of a brave young knight who battles a titanic fire-breathing dragon for three days is one of the most dramatic conflicts in English literature. To read the text click here: (Faerie Queene. Book1, Canto 11)
I have always wanted to illustrate the scene for some years but have never found the opportunity. A recent private commisssion has allowed me to explore this story again and I am using the chance to post its evolution on this blog.

This first part shows the sketching stage of the project as I explore different possible compositions and angles. This is by no means finished, and as a work in progress I hope to show all the false starts and corrections that an artist makes as a project develops.

Keep checking back for updates and evolutions....


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Yes, Samantha, there are unicorns....

My daughter, Samantha (4), is going through, as most girls do, a Unicorn phase. Possessing the beauty of horses and the magic of fairies unicorns have become her new "thing". Everything we draw and almost all the stories we tell have to include a unicorn.
I suppose I could buy a "My little Pony" and a copy of "The Last Unicorn" and be done, but Samantha is the daughter of a fantasy artist, and that just wouldn't do!
Fortunately for us we live not far from the most beautiful Unicorn art in history. The famed "Unicorn Tapestries" of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are housed in The Cloisters, which in itself is a work of art. Five unicorn tapestries are the centerpiece of this medieval art and architecture complex overlooking the palisades of the Hudson River, and are one of the best art destinations in NYC.
As a young man fascinated with medieval art and culture I would beg my parents to go to the Cloisters, but now living so close we go several times a year. This Sunday my family and I decided to see the "Unicorn Castle" again. Strolling through the halls of art and the stone cloisters on a cold November day, we had the museum to ourselves. We went from room to room finding griffins and dragons, and a whole bestiary of creatures carved into capitols and frescoed on walls, glazed into stained glass, gilded in candelabras and, of course, woven into tapestries. From the point of view of a four year old (and a forty year old) it was magical. I don't think I'll be taking up weaving or unicorns anytime soon, but a trip to the Cloisters is always an inspiring day!


to learn more about The Cloisters visit:
Metropolitan Museum: The Cloisters

©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Monday, November 8, 2010

Illustration Process "Centaur"

I've been wanting to show more of my work process than I have in some of the more recent posts. The finished drawings are fun, but I've like to demonstrate the steps that I go through before I get to that finished stage, as well as many of the steps that follow the finished sketch.
For this demo I'm using my Centaur painting "Valkyrie of Pelion" as an example.

Sketchbook Thumbnails.

At night, after I've retired from the studio, my work usually continues. Almost every night I sit with my sketchbook, either watching TV or falling asleep and doodle in my sketchbook. Sometimes these doodles are for a client, sometimes for myself. These quick design sketches are almost always done in pen. I like pen because it is very graphic and doesn't allow for me to make corrections. If I were allowed to erase or fudge a sketch, I might not be willing to abandon it and move on to a better idea, also, I love the graphic starkness of pen. When I'm fleshing out a design, I don't want subtlety , I want bold graphic design elements, they either work or they don't. 90% of these imaes are never seen, and never amount to anything. Maybe I'll do a post on my vast slush pile of misfit thumbnails....
In the two doodles above the 1st is a simple design comp with no detail, the second is a costume design sketch to work out the mechanics and aesthetics of the wardrobe. These are like shorthand notes to myself before write a first draft.

Finished Sketch:
Once I've settled on a strong design I move to my sketch phase. This is either done in pencil (as in this example) or in digital. At this point I try to work out as many of the details as possible. This makes the painting process easier since these decisions will not have to be made later, and its very important that the client see exactly what they are going to get.
It's at this point that sketch revisions happen with the client. The art director may have aesthetic or design alterations and the other departments will usually have detail corrections (such as: "She should have a long sword, not a sabre",) One or two rounds of corrections should be plenty to make every one happy.

Under Painting:
At this stage I begin to flesh out my lighting and under painting. I limit my palette to a very muted color. This allows me to focus on form and light. This image is done in photoshop, but the technique is identical when I'm working in paint. When working with a client I usually do not present a color comp unless its requested or if I'm presented with a stark difference of options. (like sunshine vs. moonlight) but again, the lighting and color is often dictated by the setting or details in the art order. (If the description says the character is in a swamp carrying a flame sword, your palette is pretty much decided for you.)
For this piece I've chosen a muddy earth tone palette that will allow me to "pop" bright colors later on.

The Finished Painting (Top Picture)

I render the finished illustration using lots of consecutive layers of texture files. Some of these are home-made and some are from texture libraries. I love to experiment with what layer modes and effects can do. Like glazes. Some are Multiplied, others are Color Dodged and others are lightened. This goes back to my early years as a multi-media and photography student.

The rendered detail and color just takes time and patience with lots of brush strokes. Working digitally gives you the opportunity to create an infinite number of brushes. Experiment to find which work for you, and don't just use the default brushes, (Or someone else's). Popping highlights, and laying in dark shadows brings the finish into focus.

Have Fun!


©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WOC at Illuxcon

Thurs. 11/11/10 - 11/14/10 I will be at Illuxcon in Altoona, PA, showing off my work, signing my book and making merry with all the other artists.
Come on out to see the menagerie....

Go to the Illuxcon website to learn more

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Astral Sea

More Dungeons and Dragons Stuff!
Here are a couple of interior paintings and the cover from:
"The Plane Above-Secrets of the Astral Sea"

There a couple of images here that were inspired by some classic paintings. My good friend Jeff Menges is doing a seminar on the influence of Golden Age illustrators on contemporary artists and it reminded me of these, so....



"Pirates of the Astral Sea" (Cover)
12"x16" digital
©Wizards of the Coast

NC Wyeth

"Battle in the Astral Sea"
12"x14" digital
©Wizards of the Coast

JW Waterhouse

"Armada of the Astral Sea"
6"x8" digital
©Wizards of the Coast

©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Dragon Song

Sketches for a new private commission. This one's been knocking around the studios for a few months. Since I own these projects I can share the work as I go , where-as with commercial commissioned work, I'm under a NDA and can't share, and at the end of the project will usually toss out all of the sketches.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WOC Sketchbook-Centaur WIP

This image I created expressly to use as a demonstration of my technique. A fun little character design and painting. Attached below are the sketch and painting stages .



"Valkyrie of Pelion"
pencil and digital 12"x16
©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Thumbnails from my sketchbook.

Finished drawing and under painting.

©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Monday, October 11, 2010

Post Comic Con Report

Recovering from four days in NYC at Comic con! Great to see all the fans, thanks for coming out and saying Hi. Also great to see some old friends and make new ones!
Sorry to anyone who couldn't get a signed copy of Dracopedia. The crowd was very large (100k) and I ran out of signed copies by Saturday afternoon! Please go to my Dracopedia blog or my personal website to purchase your copy from Amazon.

Next up on my show schedule is Illuxcon in Altoona in November. Hope to see a lot of you there!


Friday, October 1, 2010


One week to the New York Comic Con, the biggest gathering of costumed fans in Manhattan outside the Greenwich Village Halloween parade.
Yours truly will be there signing his book, autographing cards and making merry with all the other hobos in artist's alley so come on down and say "Hi!"

See ya


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Practical Guides

I realized recently that I have worked on three of the "Practical Guide" books from Mirrorstone and have yet to share any of the images. Practical Guide to Fairies, Practical Guide to Vampires, and most recently Practical Guide to Dragon Magic. I'm including one image from each book. I'm interested in showing these because one of the common printing effects of the three books was that they were all printed on a natural colored, course paper stock, and the color and contrast of these images was drastically effected in the process, and one even got flipped horizontally. (C'est la Vie). This will be the first time the public has seen them as I painted them. I hope you enjoy!

"Dragon Gazing"
8"x10" digital
Practical Guide to Dragon Magic
©2010Wizards of the Coast

"Olly Olly Oxen Free"
9"x12" digital
Practical Guide to Vampires
©2009 Wizards of the Coast

"Fairy Waltz"
10"x7" digital
Practical Guide to Fairies
©2009 Wizards of the Coast

I really have fun working on books with a younger audience in mind, there is a playfulness that is encouraged, and the work is not so earnest! I've always wished to illustrate a children's book and this has been a wonderful opportunity to explore my children's/YA style. I actually have two children's picture books in development in my free time (which means I haven't worked on them in months), but I hope to be able to put more images together here and on my website.



©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oil Painting Set

These are two paintings I did last year as a set, but never showed them before.



"Star Oath"
oil on paper 11"x14"

"Star Slayer"
12"x17" oil on paper

©2010 William O'Connor Studios

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dracopedia Blog

Don't forget to check-out and follow along on
Dracopedia Project.
I will keep current dragon sketches and news on Dracopedia up to date.



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bard of Laketown

I don't get to oil paint as much as I would like, so when I do I try compositions and designs that wouldn't normally make it past the editorial process. The heavy impasto is why I oil paint in the first place! This is actually what I would call an oil sketch, perhaps a study for a larger composition, and a companion image to my 2005 painting "Fire and Water".



"Bard of Laketown"
12"x24" oil on panel
©William O'Connor

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dark Sun Monsters

I have some new monster illos for the Dark Sun Campaign Setting from Wizards of the Coast & Dungeons and Dragons.


"Megapede Battle" 10"x12" digital

"Air Drake" 5x7 digital

"Dragon Lady" 5x7 digital

"Water Drake" 5x7 digital

For more information visit William O'Connor Studios

Monday, August 9, 2010

White Dragon-Sketch Evolution

Check out my new Sketch Evolution.
A two hour sketch condensed into one minute. I will post more sketch and painting videos soon!



Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Paintings

The imagery of fathers and children has always fascinated me. Whether its Hector and his Son, Arthur and Merlin, or Anakin and Luke, its a powerful iconic narrative that has always captured artists and story tellers. Below I've put together a few images of fathers(teachers) and children (pupils) that I've approached over the years....

Enjoy and Happy Father's Day


Paladin's Charge

2009 digital

Merlin and Arthur2004 oil on board

Chiron and Achilles
2005 oil on paper

 Prospero and Miranda
from: The Tempest
2013 Pencil on Paper

©William O'Connor Studios

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spectrum 17 contribution

I'm happy to announce that the Spectrum 17 judges panel selected my image "Ardent" from the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook 3 to be included in this year's annual collection of the best fantasy artwork.
Thank you to the jury and especially to Kate Irwin, who always inspires her artists to go the extra mile.


©Wizards of the Coast

Monday, April 5, 2010

C2E2 Appearance

I will be attending this years first C2E2 (Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo)
April 16-18.

Hope as many of you in the Chicago land area will come out to visit! I'll be signing cards, books and looking forward to seeing lots of fans and artists!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Player's Handbook 3

I've got some fun illustrations I did last year that just came out for Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook 3. These Player Class portraits have been an exciting challenge, and I really enjoyed the designs...


images ©Wizards of the Coast.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dracopedia Signing

William O'Connor will be signing copies of his book, Dracopedia, at the East Coast Art Expo, on Sat, 3/27/10, in Summit NJ. I hope to see you all there!


Monday, February 8, 2010

2010 ArtOrder Calender

I'm very excited that one of my paintings was selected for inclusion in the
ArtOrder 2010 Calender
by Jon Schindehette.

There are a limited number so gets yours fast!!



"Paladin's Charge"
©2009 William O'Connor