Lars Grant-West illustration: Blog en-us (C) Lars Grant-West (Lars Grant-West illustration) Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:21:00 GMT Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:21:00 GMT Lars Grant-West illustration: Blog 120 100 Family Portrait   You've probably seen posts where illustrators describe their self abuse when capturing reference photos for their work. Like other illustrators, I've got a hard drive full of very strange photos of myself swinging flashlights, brooms, or plungers, while wearing weird mismatched outfits and the occasional colander on my head. My wife has kindly learned to look the other way, so the only witnesses to this foolishness are usually my dog and my camera.

  There are times, however, when you need a model who isn't a forty-something guy who spends a lot of his time behind a computer. It would be great if we had an endless supply of people willing to pose for us at a moment's notice, but that's not always the case. Sometimes events coincide to help out.

  This was how it went with a recent Magic: The Gathering card I was commissioned, which came to me as illio.# 152526 Hulking Minotaur (A.K.A. Mogis' Chosen).

  The assignment was to draw a bad-ass (yes, that's a technical term) Minotaur with a big axe and a belt of severed heads. It just doesn't get any better than that.

  I did several sketches. This is the one that got approved, with the request that there be fewer heads on the belt, and only one set of horns.

 The next step for me was to tighten up the sketch, and get my reference together. I posed for the minotaur - but I still needed to find the least embarrassing (and legal) way to photograph some severed heads. As it happened, my sister-in-law asked a bunch of family members to her house for dinner that weekend, so providence conveniently provided access to a cornucopia of crania.

  Instructions to the models: "Sit on a couch, then let your head loll and jaw go slack".

  The hardest part was getting past the inevitable giggles, but in the end I got the shots I needed. Here's my reference composite:

 The guy in the middle with his eyes bugged out is my Brother-In-Law, Robert. He didn't have to pose. I already have a lot of shots of him photobombing family pictures.

 Yes. That minotaur is wearing a watch. When common sense and good planning fail me, some editing on the fly is necessary.


 The resulting painting:

 If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that if you make yourself available to any illustrator as a model - don't ever assume the result will be a shimmering, soft flattering portrait.

]]> (Lars Grant-West illustration) Lars grant-west Magic the gathering Mogis's chosen minotaur Sun, 14 Sep 2014 18:45:13 GMT
Swaps, Barters & Trades! I find my interests pull me in many different directions. If things had happened differently I might have been a sculptor, a woodworker, a paleontologist or a stop-motion animator, or maybe I'd have spent my life working with or around animals. I could have worked in a museum or built robots, or explored distant, hard-to-reach places in the world....but illustration won out in the end.

Still, I get opportunities now and then to live vicariously through the people I meet. I love hearing about what people do for their work, or just for fun. Everyone's got at least one great story to share. Sometimes those stories lead to interesting trades. 

Most of the paintings I sell are are bought outright for cash, but sometimes someone walks up with a story and an offer that's just too good to pass up.

My philosophy is that a good trade leaves both people feeling like they got the better end of the deal.

Here are a few of the barters I've made...



While in Maine, I talked with a guy about finding shed antlers in the woods. We talked about the way those antlers are sometimes clearly rodent-chewed, as mice and squirrels look for calcium, and trim their ever-lengthening teeth.

I decided I was going to have to incorporate that idea into a painting - and found the chance in Wildwood Geist. If you look at the bottom of this piece you can see a mouse, temporarily sidetracked from nibbling on a deer antler. The little guy's nearly invisible in the actual card, but I'll always know he's there.

Some real world examples of rodent nibbling:

A deer skull which dwells on our house sports these tiny nibble marks on one antler. That ridge running up the center is the result of focused rodent attention.

And here's a piece of bone squirrels worked into a natural piece of art.


So the trade was the Wildwood Geist original for a set of Moose antlers, which my wife and I strapped to the car.

I'm not sure if the looks from passing motorists on route 95 were due to the moose antlers or the other peculiar stuff on top of the car, but they served as a happy reminder that I'd made a good swap.




While at a Magic event I chatted with a guy for quite a while about fossils. He was interested in artist proofs, and over the course of our conversation a trade began to gel. I gave him a set of artist's proofs, and in return got some gorgeous trilobites (literally a box full, all annotated with species, location and age), as well as a location for our next family vacation.

On that note, if you're ever heading towards Lake Erie, stop by Hamburg, NY, grab some sledge hammers, pry bars, chisels, and a sun-shielding hat and spend a day at the Penn Dixie Paleontological Center

Here are a few of those traded trilobites:

By the way, if the man who made this trade reads this, get in touch and I'll update your artist proof set! I still feel like some small pieces of printed paper stock in trade for remnants of archaic animals is just not an even trade. 




Finally, an art-for-art trade. These can actually be the hardest to make. 

A few years back at the Illuxcon convention, Tom Kuebler mentioned that he was interested in this wolf token I'd painted:

  So what to trade for.....

The fact is I like pretty much everything Tom makes. The man is a quirky, creative genius. A lot of his work involves hand tinted silicone castings and manually implanting individual hairs. Understandably, a lot of what he had on display was well out of fair trade range for this small painting.

Now, I don't know what I did to make Tom want to see me financially destitute, but he's been adding skulls to his product line. It really is problematic because it targets a particular weakness of mine.

Fortunately, one of his artifacts was right in this trade's sweet spot. He carried over one of his Frankenstein skulls and it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone down. I had to have it. Trade made.

 Jealous? You can get your own Frankenstein Skull along with other Kuebler marvels here

Our Frankenstein skull is now festooned with turkey feathers (pretty much everything in our house ends up buried in natural artifacts of one kind or another). No zygomatic arch is too sacred for a feather or snake skin.

With apologies to Tom, here he sits, grinning at visitors as they walk in the front door of our house:


So next time you see me, tell me your story. Maybe there's a trade to be made!

]]> (Lars Grant-West illustration) Fri, 05 Jul 2013 00:53:36 GMT
Hoppy Octopus There are some pieces that just resonate with people for one reason or another. Originally done for a card game, the Giant Octopus art has gotten a really good response. For those who have asked, yes, it was done a few years before the octopus in this great commercial.

I've been asked for permission several times to use it for tattoos or t-shirts. As a person with an absolute adoration of Cephalopods, the interest in the art isn't mysterious to me at all.  

I recently got contacted by Valerie Hayken, hoping to use the image for a beer label, and asking for the rights to use it. The label was a personal project for her, so it was really nice surprise to be asked at all. As it turned out, Valerie's an extremely talented professional photographer, so is very conscientious and considerate when it comes to artists rights.

So a few days ago UPS shows up at our door with a mystery box - containing two very well padded, octopus-adorned bottles of VERY tasty beer!

If you're interested in photography (or just beautiful images of nature), check out Valerie's work and information-packed blog



]]> (Lars Grant-West illustration) Beer label Lars grant-west Valerie Hayken giant octopus Sun, 16 Jun 2013 12:51:05 GMT
Magic: The Gathering - Modern Masters set released Wizards of the Coast releases the Modern Masters set for Magic: The Gathering today. I've got one new card in the set, a couple of older ones, and  a token that I don't think has been printed before.

Glimmervoid is one of the old ones, and is also probably the most popular of the cards I've done (by far the one I've signed the most of, at any rate). 


The new one, Engineered Explosives, is another card with the crazy hexagonal Glimmervoid Grid in it.


The other card that hasn't seen the light of the day is a Spider token.

If you keep following this blog, you'll see that I kind of like spiders.

The last card is Imperiosaur - Kind of my Ode to Ray Harryhausen:

How can you go wrong with a big, angry t-rexian thing?!


]]> (Lars Grant-West illustration) Lars grant-west engineered explosives gathering glimmervoid imperiosaur magic masters modern spider token Fri, 07 Jun 2013 10:55:39 GMT