Illustration Process: Assassin


In this post I'll take you behind-the-scenes on one of my latest illustrations. 

Photo Reference


Usually I start with a series of thumbnails. Because I began with shooting photo reference, however, I went with the pose that held my interest. I neglected thumbnails because my knowledge of knife-wielding assassins is fuzzy, at best, so I wanted to get a realistic expectation for what the actual poses would look like.


Value Sketch


Taking charcoal, paper, and the wonders of technology, I went with the first pose and sketched out a simplified value study. The initial idea was to have owls flying in the background. 


Detailed Line Drawing


Next, I referenced the photography while researching sashes and drapery mechanics to create a detailed line drawing. My intent was to create as detailed a line drawing as possible so that I wouldn't have to second-guess when transferring to digital.


Detailed Value Study + Masking Layers


Now comes the tedious part: masking the layers. I didn’t do much masking in the astronaut piece, so I wanted to take it a step further and be more intentional about masking sections of this figure. I separated the figure from the background so that I could layer values without the constant issue of “coloring outside the lines”. As I filled in the masked portions, I adjusted the value balance and played with the background.


Direction Change


At first, there were going to be owls behind the character, then I did away with the owls altogether and designed a flock of birds instead. I decided to go with a more legendary, bigger-than-life feel for this assassin.




This piece was inspired by the art and music from Assassin's Creed. When I heard about AC, I was intrigued by the concept (Animus, generations, secret order, etc.). What got me hooked, however, was the music from Brotherhood. I’d never played the game, yet I bought the soundtrack, listening on repeat for many weeks. As the new games came out, I’d listen to the corresponding soundtracks while looking up the art for the games. A friend eventually got me Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History as a gift. To this day, I still haven't played through any of the games, but the art and music continues to inspire me.

Check out the video below to see the time-lapsed process!



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