Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Step by Step with graphic artist JOHN DOTEGOWSKI

I was lucky enough to find graphic artist John Dotegowski from a recommendation from another author. I hired John to design the cover for our new fantasy, "ASSASSIN'S CURSE." John was kind enough to explain his process with another image he designed for a gaming company. This was pretty much the process we went through as well.  John is a talented artist and is a delight to work with. His work speaks for itself, but if anyone is looking for an artist to design a book cover, send John an email. You won't be disappointed! I've repeated his process under each image in case anyone has trouble reading the text over the image.
This is a piece I did for a small for a small gaming company that produces miniatures for use in tabletop gaming. This particular game is called “Day of the Scourge” and has a terminator like theme where humans fight against machines for their survival.  The client gave me some basics to go with, but his important criteria be that it be “badass.” 

I usually work up 4-5 thumbnails (some of them not more than blobs really) to get a sense of which way to go.  Then I work up 2-3 more detailed versions for the client to pick from.  Usually I’ll send the client line work mixed with gray scale to show how I’m thinking of doing the lighting. 

I need to work with references. Some people make great stuff without them, but I’ve found I can’t do very well unless I have something to use to get the lighting and proportions right. I may make a lot of changes from the original, but I need a solid base to work from.

Image 1
Here I started blocking in shapes, working up some detail and getting a better handle on the lighting. I'll do most of the base gray and linework in Photoshop, then take it to Coral Painter to start "painting." At this point the client wasn't happy with the skeleton too much. He didn't like the way the head was and wanted a more exo-skeleton type body.

Image 2
Here I made the changes he wanted. The head was much more skull like and the body much more where before it looked like a humanoid body covered with armor. It took a few tries to get the head just right, but I did mange to get it figured out. This is where I started working more on the human figures as well.

Image 3
And this is the final piece.  The title of the game goes to the upper part of the image and there is enough room in the lower middle to fit this company's name in. It was a pretty fun piece to work on and I'm pretty happy with the way it worked out. Most importantly, the client was too!.
Contact info:

Phone 716-569-5993

Hello!  My name is John Dotegowski and I am a freelance illustrator that recently had the pleasure of working with Debra Martin and David Small.  Well, at least Debra.  I'm pretty sure David exists but I never did actually hear from him.  All the input and suggestions I got were from Debra after she (reportedly) checked with David.  David, if any of this is news to you I apologize.

Anyway I had been referred to Debra as she was looking for a cover illustration for an upcoming book and I was lucky enough to get accepted for the job and she's actually happy enough with what I did that she offered me a chance to post about myself and my work process here.  Thank you Deb for the opportunity. 

I have been drawing and painting ever since I was a young child.  I don't know when it started but at some point science fiction and fantasy began to take over my mind and that's what I can remember drawing about as far back as it goes.  Ordinary everyday things just seemed to bore me.  I wanted to draw things you don't usually see much to my parents chagrin.  I remember often showing my mom pictures that I had done and I usually got the pained response.." It's ...nice.  for what it is..  By why can't you draw flowers or something...?"  Apparently my latest attempt at Conan holding a severed head wasn't her cup o tea.

But I kept drawing and eventually went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh to try and get better.  I learned a lot and had a ball and upon graduation realized that a degree in graphic arts does not guarantee one a great salary.  I graduated in 1991 and the market was flooded and a recession was on.  The last art job I interviewed for had 200 plus applicants for a $6.00 per hour wage.  So I found a non art job for a while and was making good enough money that I kept doing that job for about 15 years until I got laid off.   After that I figured what better time to try to get back to what I wanted to do and here I am.

Most of the time when someone inquires about getting an illustration done from me the steps are pretty much the same.  I get a general idea of what they are looking for and what they expect.  If it's for a book cover I do my best to read as much as I can.  For a short story or novella I want to read the whole thing.  If it's a novel I'd like to read the whole thing if time allows but I like at least the first few chapters and any pertinent ones to the illustration.  I really like trying to add the little details that make it fit the story.  It's said "Don't judge a book by it's cover" but I think, especially in this genre, that doesn't fit at all.  While growing up reading I would often look back to the cover when I got to a part that seemed to apply.  And I would notice if there was a glaring error.  I try not to do that myself.

I work up usually about 5-10 thumbnails to get things going and get the kinks worked out.  Then I'll then work up a few rough sketches to send for the client to pick one and offer suggestions or changes.  Sometimes the sketches are pretty rough and they are just trying to get the basic shapes, lighting and composition settled.    Once we've decided on a rough I'll work up a more detailed sketch to try and make sure everything is the way the client wants it to be.  When that is approved I then get on to the final image. 

I've been working digitally the past few years and trying to get better at it.  I used Photoshop mostly at the start but have been getting into Corel Painter (I use version X right now).  Painter can be tough to get used to but really can mimic traditional painting incredibly well once you get the hang of it.  I do the line work and rough sketches mostly in Photoshop.  I'll then tint that with the rough color scheme and take it into Painter where I start painting over the rough like it's an under-painting.  Sometimes I take it back and forth between the two to adjust colors or lighting as needed.  On average it takes me a week to two weeks to finish the final depending on how complex it is, how much time I have (still have to have a day job to make ends meet) and how many changes are required. 

Then, after a lot of grunting, sweating and sometimes cursing, I send the final off for approval.  Sometimes some adjustments are needed but the end result is hopefully what the clients are looking for. 

It's a fun gig and the only thing I really want to be doing.  Or should I say need to be doing?  I imagine that, like writing, even if you never were to get paid for it it's still something you need to do.  It's obsessive in my case.  If I'm not drawing for a few days I can start to feel antsy and jumpy and am probably not the most pleasant to be around.  Something get's stuck in my head and I just need to get it out!

By the way, my website is if you'd like to see some of my work

Thanks again to Debra and David (if you really exist) for letting me ramble on here.  It was a pleasure working with you and I hope to have the chance to do so again soon!

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