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December 12th, 2008

Pirate King – from sketch to finish: Part I

Just out is the second volume of Transitions, RA Salvatore’s latest Drizzt series. Here is a quick walk-through of the creative process, just in time for Christmas. Happy holidays, everyone!

Every project begins with a series of sketches. The theme for this series began with The Orc King, which featured a dramatic viewpoint looking up at Drizzt and Guen. In each cover, I wanted just Drizzt and his friend and the environment they were in, but loaded with story. With the Pirate King, I knew that I wanted to continue the theme by looking down at Drizzt from above:


The thumbnails evolved as I decided which story elements and architectural features would best enhance the concept, in the end finding what I hoped would be a vertigo-inducing vantage out over the lip of the parapet:




The last sketch was enough for me to gather reference and start the final drawing.

My son Tyler, currently enrolled in Evergreen college, has been Drizzt on every cover except The Thousand Orcs:


Reference for a black panther from the top was a little harder to come by. Google images is a godsend, but in this case it wasn’t up to the task. I tried many things, including photographing toy felines and following my cat, Pai, around the yard with a camera!



But I was able to construct the bones of the drawing:


The art director placed this into his layout to test the fit. Once that was approved, I was ready to start painting:


Image © Wizards of the Coast. Text © Todd Lockwood

Next up: The Painting

Posted by Todd in Art!


This entry was posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008 at 3:24 pm and is filed under Art!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

32 Responses to “Pirate King – from sketch to finish: Part I”

  1. Stefan says:

    awesome stuff….i love the way you put it all together pretty neat!

  2. Ronveer says:

    Your son looks cool. I like the how you show and explain the process. Thanks

  3. Chris Fretwell says:

    your the best! I visit your site quite often to marvel at you work.

  4. Julian says:

    This is usually my favorite part of an artist’s step-by-step tutorial. Its great to see your thought process evolve from one thumbnail to the next, as well as how you gather reference. Awesome tutorial overall :)

  5. Kelly says:

    Todd, your cat looks exactly like my cat! My cat is a ferocious little tiger!!!



  6. Martina says:

    Todd your art is awesome! i want to become a fantasy artist like you…(sorry hope you understand my english cos i’m italian)…congratulations!!Ciao!

  7. marceloilustrador says:

    Hi Todd!!!!!!!!!

    Is wonderfull,you are a great artist,a master!!!!!!!!!
    Cheers from Argentina

  8. Garrett says:

    I have always loved your work…and this shows me just how much you put into it. I think that the new cover is great!

  9. Garrett says:

    Its interesting that you have your son as Drizzt for every cover that cool! Must be nice lining in Colorado, must have a great veiw out there Todd!

  10. Christina says:

    Love visiting your site to see what’s new. Often, I find new books to read through your work instead of of the other way around. Ha! I think the cat turned out great! Thanks for letting me see the thought process; it’s fun to see how you go about creating unique art!

  11. Daniel says:

    Incredible, Todd! I really enjoy all of your paintings! The architectural design is pretty awesome, you make so many details that it´s real!

  12. Todd says:

    Except that I don’t live in Colorado. I USED to, but now I live in Washington State. :o)

  13. Dawid Michalczyk says:

    Always good to see the working process of my favorite artists :) Bob Eggleton not too long ago posted how he made a space landscape painting on his blog. I can often pick some interesting bit and experiment with it in my own work. Thanks for posting!

  14. Aimee Stewart says:


    Such fun to see how you go about creating your artwork! It is truly inspiring. And btw – isn’t Washington State great? I was born, raised, and currently reside there… plenty of places to get inspired, that’s for sure! 😀 I wish I could attend Norwescon this year, but alas, I’ll have to miss out. But hopefully my friends will be able to give me a full report!


  15. Todd says:

    Aimee: Yes, I love Washington State. But do see the Ode To Snow …

  16. stephanie says:

    your art is soo frikkin amazing, i love it!!!, oh and my brother got me hooked on your art

  17. stephanie says:

    your art is soo amaxing!!!!!

  18. Billy says:

    Your covers capture dDrizzts at his finest.I hope to one day follow in your footsteps.I like your renditions better than the Dark Elf Trilogy covers.The make Drizzt look like WIlliam Shatner.BE well Todd!

  19. Danilo Benjamim says:

    F*cking awesome! You’re an inspiration for amateurs like me.

  20. Rachel says:

    Wow, thanks so much for this. Just like Danilo above me said, you really are an inspiration for younger artists like me. You’re my favorite living artist, I have to say! Every time I see another of your paintings, I’m amazed. Keep up the awesome work!

  21. Chilam says:

    Hi Todd, your entire website looks absolutely exquisite! Very excellent quality; compliments to whomever worked with you on it. We’ll get together next time you’re in the Vancouver area.

  22. Peter P says:

    I love your cover arts. Thank you for sharing this. It’s awesome

  23. CE says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I love that you use google images – I’ve just started drawing and painting and I thought I might be cheating if I used google images, it makes me feel awesome to know that you do!!!!! lol

  24. Khalydan says:

    How to explain…

    Well I’m a french reader of Drizzt’s adventures. (so sorry for my english!)
    You brought, and have enlightened, to our eyes every aspects I had in mind while dyving in those fabulous worlds.

    Drizzt is a friend for most of us, and your paintings incredibly increased this link.

    Thank you for your work !


    PS : Have you planned to come to a convention in Paris ???

  25. Jodi Lane says:

    I love the steps you’ve taken to get your drawings complete. I’m no painter but I’m definitely an artist, just only in pencil. I have loved your drawings of drizzt for a long time and how cool for your son to be the poser for them! Very awesome. I’m anxious to see more of your work!!! :o) Take care and best wishes!!! I’ll be tuning into the blog from now on!

  26. Josiah says:

    Okay so you have done work on Steven Erikson . . . I have always loved his covers (and those are my favorite books ever) i think you will be getting some of my money.

    Your work is extraordinary i just spent the better part of an hour in your galleries. : D

  27. Tramond Spencer says:

    Did it ever bother you not having a canvas after you finished your art work?

  28. Todd says:

    Yes! I miss having paintings … a lot!

    But I really don’t miss the mess, the drying time, the rest of it … Digital paint really is a love/hate relationship. Just like real paint, I guess …

  29. Xiaoqi says:

    Your work is absolutely AMAZING!!!! I wish I could draw as well as you can!

  30. Edith Moyle says:

    I discovered your web site when I was looking for something entirely different, but this post showed up at the top of Bing your website must be so popular! Keep up the good work!

  31. 360 store says:

    That was a very good post,I just now subscribed to your feed.

  32. A mind of its own | alterationjourney says:

    […] he painted the cover for a book of R.A. Salvatore recently and blogged about the whole process from sketch to final results, including some information about how he studied his cat to correctly paint the […]