No Quarter Prime 03 Concept to Cover

For this art Insider, I’ll be covering the visual development process of the Dracodile, Kwaak & Gub, and Croak Trapper three-in-one illustration by Nestor Ossandon that became the cover for No Quarter Prime 03.

This illustration was created just before Lock & Load in July. It was a bit trickier than some of our other colossal and gargantuan pieces due to the challenge of framing all those subjects into one composition. Let’s get started with the description:

Terrain: Swamp

Time of Day: midday

Action: The Dracodile explodes out of a lake or river surrounded by swampy foliage, possibly snapping at a flock of swamp-dwelling birds (like Kingfishers or something) that have taken flight above it. In the foreground on one side are Kwaak & Gub, and in the opposite corner are a couple of Croak Trappers. The croaks are all stalking forward toward camera, sort of framing the Dracodile, and they’re not alarmed. More Croak Trappers can be spotted throughout the image, up in trees, or stalking in the background. 

One challenge with this shot is that we have Croak Trappers and Kwaak & Gub in the scene to help establish a sense of scale, but they also needed to be large enough so we could crop them for use on their card art and entry for the theme force. With that in mind, Nestor sent me a couple of sketches.


Both of these could look really cool, but because we needed good crops of the croaks, they simply wouldn’t work. He went back to the drawing board and sent me another sketch.

As much as I love this sketch, it wasn’t getting the croaks in frame, so for the sake of expediency I did a quick sketch for him to help with blocking.

This very crude sketch established our visual hierarchy and some of the scenic elements required for the illustration. Nestor then worked up a revised sketch with this in mind.

This is a fantastic image, and I can say beyond a doubt if this illustration were just to show off the dracodile, I would have leaned heavily on it.  But the problem we were going to run into is that, like some of the previous colossals and gargantuans illustrations, the size of the Dracodile was bordering on Godzilla height when it needed to be around 26 feet long. I sent him that note and gave him my blessing to move forward full-tilt while I got caught up on other pressing work tasks. Nestor then sent me the following update (left). My revision requests are on the right.  

Although this looks pretty cool, there were several key details that needed adjustment, including the head size, neck length, jaws, spines on the back, tail, body mass, size, and spacing up top. I took his work-in-progress and made a few adjustments in Photoshop, crudely sketching in the tail and spine adjustments I was requesting.

The key here was to make sure the art matched the concept as closely as possible. We made a few design revisions between the depiction in the Monsternomicon and its model design. Nestor then got back to work and sent me his next update with many of my revisions incorporated, as well as the magic effects with the rune circles that I sent to him.

Now, we’re a lot closer to a final. To help separate the figures in space, I requested a bit more light on the edges of the figures, and he sent me the following image:

It’s not exactly accomplishing what I had in mind, but it’s still a fantastic piece! Compromises for the sake of production illustration are made sometimes, and in this case, it all worked out in the end. Deciding to use this as our cover art, we added a little more breathing room up top for the No Quarter Prime masthead. A bonus was that the extra space really helped the overall composition; it added more atmosphere and environment to push the sense of scale just a bit further.

Without further ado, here’s Nestor Ossandon’s final art, with cover design treatment by Richard Anderson.

I hope you all enjoyed the visual development process of this fantastic illustration, and I can’t wait for you to see some of the other things we’re putting into No Quarter Prime 03! Don't miss an issue, subscribe or pre-order at your FLGS today!