Commission: Spellbringers Key Art

I was recently commissioned to produce key art work for a strategy game project. The client’s project is a published Warcraft 3 Mod available at the Hive Workshop: Spellbringers.

There were many challenging aspects to this piece artistically for me. But what is less discussed are freelancer’s project management challenges which are just as important to success. In regard to the project’s triple constraints; time was very limited, the scope challenges were in quality at reduced grade, and the budget was tight.

The initial project completion date request was rejected as un-achievable outright; but was quickly countered by a more generous date with flexibility in the schedule. Often client’s will begin commission procurement much later than what would be recommended as their area of expertise does not lend them the experience to estimate appropriate development timelines for illustration work. This leads to very straining time constraints.

Creating a full color composition with six subjects and background environment that communicated the client IP’s factions, deities, contention, and gameplay genre appropriately was a challenge. Very quickly scope was changed from what was originally three subjects to the six. I consider this scope creep that delayed and added considerable stress to the project as initial draft compositions had already begun. To manage the scope I focused on the concept of grading. While it was tempting to approach the illustration as potential key art that could be adapted to many media and products, I limited the grade to digital only art for full HD display resolutions instead of printing. Also, where there were planned obscurities the compositional elements were drastically reduced in fidelity (this can be observed in the posted final graphic, as I have published sans typography). Other measures were taken, but this demonstrates applying of the efficiency/thoroughness trade-off (ETTO) principle to deliberately reduce grade and maintain high quality of the final deliverable.

Resources for the project were limited and presented issues in development as well. I have not accepted illustration commissions in a substantial amount of time so my production tools were out of date. These outdated production assets accounted for several delays. However, the setbacks were known risks and therefor risk responses were quickly implemented and eliminated catastrophic project failure potential and minimized the project delays.

The final deliverable exceeded the client’s expectations given the constraints and resulted in project success. As an artist I achieved an illustration that had challenging composition, coloring, and used skills and experience to overcome and adhere to project requirements. There are several aspects that could certainly be improved upon, but I feel satisfied and I’ve learned a great deal through the opportunity.

If you’d like to learn more about the Mod please visit Hive Workshop: Spellbringers

Attached are a series of drafts that show the progress of the illustration as well as a link to the time-lapse painting of this piece.

Raise your hammer to the storm!
- Joshua 'Raihn' Keyes

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