Client Work; Card design

A third year games designer asked me to assist him in his final major project. He needed artwork for the card game he was designing and I was more than happy to provide, I love any opportunity to develop character designs. Though nothing was set in stone, we established through verbal communication that he had four decks and so required a lead card for each one. He had briefly mentioned the elements the four decks are tied too as well, fire, air, earth and water. I sketched out a few rough idea simply to try and discern a mental image of what he had in mind and how it could be expanded on.


Aerith the air mage. In this case, I went literal in that interpretation. Commonly seen in fantasy settings, avatars and representatives of the air element are often gentle and aloof in their mannerisms and appearance, I wanted to show this, but also show that it doesn’t mean an element of air is by any means a push-over. But this was quite a way off from what the client had envisioned.


Krona the fire mage was the most fun. Aspects of fire are often depicted as wild, dangerous and passionate. I gave her small pin-prick pupils and a power-hungry grin to lend to her psychotic appearance. Moreover, though it’s not as evident in this sketch, I made her robes more tattered and fraid. One to give more appeal to the female form without being too obvious about it, and two, it makes sense that someone that has spent their life learning fire magic bordering on the obssessive would’ve probably burned themselves and their clothing once or twice, but would’ve refocused their efforts on relearning rather than getting new clothes. Finally, she has bracers around her ankles and arms, I wanted to subtley hint at the possibility that she’s a slave of to the power she wields, trapped in that she cannot escape her own desire for more power.
Cards Cards

The final image was one we both became set on, arms wide and stance that shows the power she wields and that she blatently knows it.

For the element of water, a student jokingly mentioned a shark with a man’s body. So I sketched out something similar just to see the response.
The response was quite positive and the design didn’t face that much of a change. Again, I wanted something that reflected the tempermental nature of the raging sea. Akin to modern day Aquaman. The sharks head and pose gives it something of a barbaric and feral appearance I was aiming for.
Cards   Cards

Finally, the earth element was needed. We both initially envisioned something “Golem-like” in appearance. Slow and methodical. I liked the idea of a gentle giant, sitting peacefully by a mountain village. The concept ultimately changed however to something that could be fit onto the cards a little easier.

These were all initial sketches and concepts made within a day just to give the client an idea for their own cards, as they hadn’t quite established what they themselves wanted either. I left it with them for a week until they e-mailed me a card list, specifying the card list for each element.

It wasn’t long before he sent me a brief:

Brief for “The Four Elements” (Working Title)

“The Four Elements” is my vision for a table top Living Card Game set within a fantasy setting in which the players choose from four decks, each representing an element, with Earth, Air, Fire, and Water being the Elements of choice.

Within each deck there is going to be a Character, long with Familiars, Rituals, and Spells that the players can utilize and summon in order to beat their opponents and become the top player. Visually speaking, the cards are going to be laid out in such a way that information is readily available and easy to understand, whether the player is a new or experienced.

Because the decks are based around a certain element, there is also going to be a colour scheme for each, so that they are properly representing the element, so for example the Fire deck is going to have colours within shades of Red, Orange and Yellow, while the Air deck would have colours of Light Blue, White and Grey. These colours are not only to help the cards present and represent the element that they are based around, but they are going to hold the interest of the player and draw them back to the cards that they are holding when they are playing.

Aesthetically speaking, I am looking for the card game to have a Modern Fantasy theme throughout, with the art work for the Characters and Familiars to have a strictly modernistic feel about them, while still being within the realm of fantasy.

I am looking for:

1. Accurate portrayals of the Characters and the elements that they embody

2. The artwork reflecting the names of the cards within the deck, for example, the card within the Fire deck titled “Firebolt” would have a small fireball within the artwork.

Some examples of work that I like that may be of use to you are:

1) Magic: the Gathering – A set entitled Return to Ravnica has some excellent examples of fantasy artwork with Modern undertones. Another set is Zendikar, an in game world in which the elements are nicely represented by different sections of the plane.

2) The works of Jon Avon, an artist that has commissioned several pieces of art for Magic: the Gathering over the years in addition to several other projects.

3) Android: Netrunner – A Cyberpunk style game that includes characters with their own style and way of representing themselves within the game world and their card variants.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Barrie Briggs

He had already given me a card list for each deck describing the basic card functions, however it was a little unclear what exactly he wanted, example;

Name: Attempted Murder! (3)
Card Type: Ritual
Cost: A2
Place three 1 Attack, 1 Health Crow Familiar tokens onto the battlefield under your control
Attack: N/A
Health: N/A

We discussed this card type , and at a glance, I would’ve made something as simple as a man holding a knife in the foreground, approaching someone with their back turned in the background. In reality, this card is a clever play on words that summons three crows.

I sent a response e-mail specifying what I needed from him to make my job easier;

Hello Barrie.
A few things I need are:
1. Picture dimensions for the cards. Preferably the length and width by pixels.
2. Brief description on character appearance. You already have in idea in your head of how you want them to look. But I cannot discern that from the card name alone.
3. Optional. A few words to sum up a characters personality helps with shot composition and positioning. The posture of someone who is “maniacal and power mad” is going to differ from someone who is “timid and awkward”.
A revised version was soon sent, containing descriptions for the four main characters we had chosen to focus on. With time contraints and my own work to do, there was no way I’d be able to draw up the other card designs he needed;

1) Krona – Krona is an unhinged pyromaniac that commands the power and forces of fire. I’d like to refer you to an early mock-up of the character you drew, with her arms spread wide, her clothes torn and frayed rags, the look of madness on her face and fire surrounding her. This is the kind of stance I envision for Krona when she is working her magic of destruction.

2) Moraan – As the Scion of Poseidon, he rules over the element of water and the seas, commanding the denizens of the sea. His rage is the rage of the sea, and enemies would do well to watch themselves before they find themselves washed away. In terms of visual, I found that I liked the “Shark Man” type character you created within the initial sketch for the water element character, and I think that it would be a great starting point in the finalization of the character as well.

3) Aerith – Patient but persistent, the element of Air bends to the unmovable will of Aerith. Silent but strong, she can weather anything thrown at her before dealing out her own brand of destruction. In terms of visual, I envision a middle age woman wearing flowing robes with her head bowed, and with wisps of air, maybe with leaves, weaving around her.

4) Auron – Auron is quite passive, but the nature of Earth is always in flux, one minute it can be peaceful and complacent, the next it can be utterly destructive and nobody can hide. Auron is the embodiment of this temperament, happy to help but quick to anger. Visually, I have an image of a Rock Golem sat with his head resting on one of his massive hands, a small village settlement around his feet.

He also sent the card designs that he would be placing the images onto, and from them I was able to work out the total size I’d have to work with (732 x 376 pixels). I met with the client to make a finalize the composition and made a few more sketches that I would work from to complete the images;



The client ticked the compositions he was happy with and crossed out the ones he wasn’t. We both agreed to change Auron’s design at the last minute. This was mainly for my convience, I wasn’t feeling confident at creating and compositioning a scene that involved so much scenery. So his character was revised to a singular roaming woodsman. I took these designs home and used them as reference when I created the final pieces in photoshop.
Krona Aerith
Auron moraan
moraan close up

I felt that in the first creation of Moraan, he was somewhat too far away from the viewer, so I moved him closer to make him seem just a bit more intimidating. This was a personal choice however, so I sent both copies to the client so they could have a final say.

The client put them onto the cards and sent them back to me for review, only when I saw them all together did I spot a few problems;

1: Moraan’s colour had changed and looked far more green than blue. This could’ve been caused by saving the image as a JPEG or possibly due to the difference in my computer’s moniter gamma.

2: Auron’s overall image is extremely dark compared to the others and seems to lack a lot of the punch the others do.

I mentioned these mistakes to the client and he addressed them himself using illustrator.
Moraan Scion of Poseidon Krona Pyromaster
Auron the Traveller Print

We were both satisfied with the final outcome and if he wishes to continue creating the cards after the release of his project, I’d be happy to create art for them.

Client Work; Card design

The Jabberwock. An Update of 2015

I began drawing to help narrow my focus of what exactly I want to achieve with the Jabberwock project.

I thumbnailed out a few basic ideas for a monster. There was a lot to consider. Did I want something that was traditionally scary? Something whacky and shocking? Something out of this world? Through this I came to the conclusion that whatever I wanted, it had to be clever. I liked the idea of the monster looking strangely harmless in appearance, perhaps even able to mimick the appearance of a human.

I wanted to get the idea across that; “Some of the scariest monsters… look like you and me.”

My tutor recommended Mauris Sendak for a lot background reference, as a great deal of the scene’s would take place in an external environment. Though this initial concept was described as “too central park” and could stand to be more verdant.


I used googled the word “Verdant” and used the images that came up as a reference point for future drawings. Though another point to consider, in the humpty dumpty translations of the Jabberwocky, it’s identified that;

“…’the wabe‘ is the grass plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?” said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.

“Of course it is. It’s called ‘wabe‘, you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it–“

Despite the verdancy, the beginning of the poem establishes the scene at a “wabe” a clearing where a sundial sits at the centre.

It also mentions a Tove is something like a badger/lizard/corkscrew. So it’s worth keeping that in mind when I’m populating the Wabe.


Background design is a weak area for me, so I took one of the more action oriented phrases and drew something to go with it. I wanted to identify the protagonist as young and inexperienced and I feel I didn’t translate that well enough here with how sure he seems to be able to wield his Vorpal blade.


With my weaknesses in mind, I composed a few more background images using google images. My mistake here, is that there is a perfectly good park outside, and I could’ve used some of the live reference there to draw on. Even if I took pictures rather than stood out there and drew what I saw. I will definitely fix this in future endevours.

The top and far right images both use Mignola inspiration. His use of extreme contrasts really gives a grittier feel to a scene and I thought to adapt that into the animation.


My tutor gave me another idea, that the protagonist; (The Boy) has been raised to fear the Jabberwock all his life. In his mind it is a near-mythic beast that haunts the wood and still he has been tasked to hunt it and kill it for the greater good. This childhood fear is going to be manifested through his paranoia, I was experimenting with making scary silhouettes of mundane objects that would be found in the wild.


Finally, I was experimenting with pencil colours to add a different layer of depth to a scene. The plague bishop doesn’t really have anything to do with this project, I was just inspired by a lot of Darkest Dungeon art which I’ll be going into detail in a different post.


With a few fresh ideas, it was time to begin thumbnailing a storyboard.


10 10

In the last few panels, we can see the boy clearly slays a great beast and it’s quite the achievement. Which undermines his remorse at the end, using his paranoia to create beasts where there are none, the final creature is something far less intimidating.

I put together an animatic and narrated the poem, syncing them together to get a rough idea of timing.

The Jabberwock. An Update of 2015

Year 3: FMP.

For our final major project we’ve been advised to adapt an already existing story. I cycled through a list of fairy tales, some known and some not so known. Goldilocks and Little Red Riding hood have been done before (The Wolf Among Us).

The Jabberwocky looked very interesting. It’s antiquated language leaves a lot of room for interpretation and gives me a lot to play with in terms of creative freedom. But still keeps me confined to a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. So I shouldn’t get too bogged with working out the basics and get right into character thumbnailing and story boarding.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

(It was the afternoon and the badger-lizards

slithered and crawled about the fields

The borogrove birds flapped lazily in the breeze

and the lost creatures howled)

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

(Self-actualising monologue, we can see what the hero thinks as he walks)

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe he sought —

So rested he by the Tumtum tree,

And stood awhile in thought.

(With his vorpal/magic sword in hand, for a long time he searched for the great creature. He rested by the Tumtum tree, collecting his thoughts.}

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock,with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

(And, in frustrated thought he stood, the Jabberwock with eyes of flame, came stampeding through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came.)

One, two! One, two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

(One, two! One, two! [Could be reference to either the Jabberwocky’s striding movement or attempting to strike at our hero]. The vorpal blade when snicker-snack [Most like the sound the blade makes when rending flesh], he killed the beast, cutting off it’s head and clumsily returned home.)

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

[A scene of celebration as the hero returns with the head, seeming somewhat distraught at taking the life of another living thing]

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

[Ironically, this scene would look best if the same as the intro scene, but devoid of wildlife. Reinforcing the theme of death evident.]

Took some of humpty dumpty’s translations;

I need to create the Jabberwocky itself as well as a Hero to slay it. I want to come away from classic interpretations of the Jabberwocky as a dragon-like creature and perhaps go a lot more weird, maybe even something lovecraftian inspired. While I would normally create something like this with ease of animation in mind. I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind in that sense and simply go with something that really stands out.

Year 3: FMP.

Perdido Street Station, thumbnails and a storyboard

Perdido Street station is a book by “weird fiction” writer China Mieville. We were given and excerpt and tasked with creating a story board to go along with it.
First of all, I needed to get images in my head onto paper so I know what to put in the storyboard. Some research as required to confirm things like what an Aerostat is. I couldn’t find anything on Wyremen, but with phrases like “Wyremen clawed their way above the clouds leaving streams of profanity” I could only assume they are multi-engined jet craft leaving vapor trails.
The excerpt mentioned slums far away out of the city that the “Milita Pods” would travel to.
Finally, because I love a bit of character development, I couldn’t resist drawing in “Rudgutter”. That kind of fat cat politician that lives in his ivory tower funded by greed.

In the initial story board, your eye is meant to flow from one scene to the next, guided by the object of focus. Starting with bugs, then onto birds, then aerostats then wyremen and so on. Finally settling on Rudgutter himself. I made a mistake here, I’ve not followed the story path, as the excerpt ends with focus on Perdido Street Station rather than Rudgutter. My reluctance to focus on environments has been my downfall but I can remedy this by placing greater emphasis on buildings in my life drawings.

Perdido Street Station, thumbnails and a storyboard

Portraits, Perspective and anatomy.




A couple of Self-Portraits done over the weeks. I still have a problem drawing eyes way to big. But as the drawings go on, it seems the facial proportions seem to equal out.




A couple of anatomy drawings done from Burne Hogarth’s, Dynamic Anatomy. Mid sections in bodies are a weak point of mine, as they’re often clothed, I wasn’t actually too sure what the interior of the muscles and bones looked like.



A couple of faces in places drawn from a hairstyle magazine.

Portraits, Perspective and anatomy.

The Principles of Design: Visual Hierarchy

Super handy

The Daily Post

Hi bloggers! My name’s Kjell Reigstad, and I’m a designer at Automattic. This is part two in my monthly series on “The Principles of Design.” In this series, I share some of the basic tenets of design, and we explore how to apply them to your blog.

Last month, we explored Clarity.

As I mentioned in last month’s column, the main goal of any design is to tell a story. Just as any good story has a beginning, middle, and end, a good design story does too! It’s up to a designer to make sure that people progress through their stories in a way that makes sense. One of the key ways to do that is to establish a clear visual hierarchy to guide the viewer’s eyes through the design.

Let’s go through a quick example. Take a look at the image below. Which of these two…

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The Principles of Design: Visual Hierarchy

Fictional Story tweaked.

I kept coming to dead ends with my current Medusa story. Every plot and motivation I came up with for “Grinning Jack” just seemed kind of shallow or farfetched. I used some old tropes to make it more simpler. Now it’s a tale of hero on a quest to save a person (love interest, family member. Keeping it ambiguous and leaving it to the viewer at this point). Jack is a bounty hunter of the extradinary and mythical, he’s no stranger to Gorgon’s and their ilk. He needs a part of Medusa, in this case one of her snakes would do in order to alchemise a cure for petrification, so that he can save his person of interest (Working title: The Gorgan Gunman). I typed in Medusa youtube and watched some videos to see how she has been interpreted in moving image.

Unlike a lot of fiction, this video show’s Medusa as a victim. I learned that Medusa was once a priestess of Athena who had promised to remain pure, but when she was raped in Athena’s temple, the angered Goddess cursed her and turned her into a Gorgon as a result. Greek Gods are fickle. I really like the stone tear drop in this video, when it shatters it’s open to interpretation to whole load of visual symbolism. Does the tear respresent her heart? Has her heart turned to stone? She has a broken heart? Good be all of these things.

Battle sequence from the Original Clash of the Titans. It was interesting to see Medusa has the lower body of a snake, I’ve yet to actaully depict her in animation so this was open to possible redraws of her. I’ll try it, but I’m concerned it will make her appearance more monstrous than human, making her seem a little less accessable/relatable as a person.

Have to ignore the dubbed over music, I’m primarily watching these for inspiration on how the fight between Jack and the Medusa, it’s interesting to note that she uses a bow and doesn’t rely entirely on her petrifying abilities to hunt more difficult prey. I also like how monstrous her face becomes whenever she tries to turn someone to stone. This does leave me questioning whether it’s a passive ability that occurs whenever you simply make eye contact with her, or if she can actively control it and choose -not- to turn someone to stone?

I considered perhaps leaving Grinning Jack’s gender unknown, just so it’s not a complete throwback to man rescuing the woman. That’s still a possibility with the big coat, the big hat and the mask, you assume it’s a man… also with a name like ‘Jack’ but that’s a psuedonym.

Another thing to note in these battle scenes, is there always seems to be an example of Medusa’s power, a hapless faceless grunt that falls victim to her petrifying gaze, to assert herself to the audience so we all know that she is to be feared. Grinning Jack works alone so I’ll have to somehow demonstrate this power, without having a victim to turn to stone.

Fictional Story tweaked.