The dark-skinned yet lustrous young maiden stands before you with concentrated gaze transfixed straightforwardly upon her mission objective - you, evidently!
She presses you firmly to the wall by the nape of your neck with a surprising grip despite your instinctual squirming. You desperately look to either side for assistance, but alas, she has caught you alone and unaware in a lonely part of the citadel.
The African warrioress is uncommonly dressed for one of her people: clad in a shimmering metal breastplate over miniature links of lightweight chainmail - and no less, toting a notably lethal Japanese katana upon her back! The sight of which gives you a certain vibe that your subsequent choice of words to her next question better be a direct and truthful answer if you want to live to see this even's supper!
You somewhat recall that it is said in the Good Book that a man shall live or die by the fruit of his lips. I guess you'll find out the veracity of that proverb in the next 30 seconds. Good luck, adventurer - you'll need it!
'The Warrioress' was created as a character portrait for a book cover illustration for a prominent children's (or, teen) book author - however, what I painted was not what the author had hoped to see. It just wasn't what he had envisioned in his own mind. If only authors could project their imaginations on a screen! (but then screencaps would make artists extinct).
His story had already been published some time ago and he genuinely hoped to create a Harry Potter-like success. He believed that his story book needed a visual-graphic makeover designed for today's generation... So, after taking one look at the covers of the Eragon series that were once prominently displayed in Walmarts nationwide it told me who his target audience was and what that audience was buying.
We had a long discussion about his story and character - and I absorbed his story and vision as best I could, and my mind's eye saw a determined young lady (at some point along her journey) that would look really inspiring and exciting with a semi-realistic portrait on the cover.
After that meeting, he wanted to see what I could come up with. I told him my vision and got the okay to get started.
In creating this piece, I started off with sketching her face with some reference photos from my photo morgue (a 'morgue' is a term used for your reference and research material stashed in a drawer or file in your studio). I didn't spend much time on the pencil sketch because I just wanted to have a feel for the girl I was about to paint.
I jumped over into Adobe Photoshop and started with laying down vector shapes rather quickly with the base skin colors I wanted to use.
Once the shapes were in, I started some paint layers paying attention to the light sources and wanting to bring out the sheen of black/brown skin that also has a slight red/ink tint to it too.
That sheen and tint I find to be very important for African paint subjects.
My first encounter in doing this (allow me to digress briefly) was doing a texture art project for a video game company that had some base 3D character models for which they wanted varieties of people textures to slap on to the models. I created a variety of light to dark skinned models and discovered ways to make those skin tones look convincing.
I also used customized brushes to paint with to achieve certain effects. For instance, the chainmail is a custom brush that looked like Cheerio cereal circles all over her shoulders.
I added layer filters to achieve the metal reflective effects. Many of the layers are using filter effects to achieve various shines, sheens, shadows, glows, etc. I could paint these artifacts - and depending on the project, I do - but I do like these Photoshop layer filters for fast, effective results (especially since I spent many years on experimenting on how to make them work for me).
I suppose the final thing I want to say about this piece is that the version with the castle-city behind her is using an image by another artist (Toni Bratincevic's, The World Above, 2006) of which I digitally manipulated heavily from the original to match this painting (as it was originally presented as a concept piece and not a finished cover artwork).
The Warrioress was painted circa 2013.
Thank you for reading.