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.  



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