Portrait of Morrigan from Dragon Age
The next artwork in my recent parade of oil paintings takes us back to the topic of video games, which is not an unusual one for me. However, this time I’ve painted something related to the Dragon Age series, which hasn’t been a topic of any of my fan art that I can recall. This one is of Morrigan, the “Witch of the Wilds”, from Dragon Age Origins and Inquisition. I’ve done a ton of portraits related to series like the Witcher and Elden Ring, with more to come soon for both. But historically, the Dragon Age series is right up there with the others. I think Dragon Age’s primary disadvantage is simply that it just isn’t front and center in my consciousness, since it’s a somewhat older series that hasn’t had much activity in recent years.
Despite the sometimes painful load times on consoles, Dragon Age Origins was one of my favorite games 10+ years ago. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long, but sure enough, it came out in 2009. It was somewhat unique for its time, in that this was a big budget party-based RPG with the usual skills, magic, and stats, but it had some action elements baked in as well. This was before games like Skyrim, Dark Souls, and the Witcher brought action-oriented gameplay in fantasy games to wider audiences. I’ve long since abandoned consoles in favor of PC gaming, mostly via Steam. Unfortunately, although I’d love to replay Origins, this is one that I can’t really come back to. The developer, EA/Bioware, made the disappointing decision not to include controller support on the PC version at all. I could probably take another crack at it using a Steam Controller or Steam Deck, but my game backlog is deep enough that I don’t need to bang my head into a wall just to play game. Hopefully someday, Bioware will do a full remake/remaster that includes the same controller support they implemented in the most recent release Dragon Age Inquisition.
The Dragon Age series games also had a fascinating story and game world, alongside a very compelling cast of characters. The premise to the first game is that there are periods called “blights,” when monsters emerge. Warriors called “Wardens” can save the world from a blight, but they themselves are tainted and die soon after. The first game is built around a new blight, but also involves a continent wide war. And the other games touch on these themes as well. The characters in the game are thoroughly entertaining and come from a variety of backgrounds. One particularly compelling character is Morrigan, the Witch of the Wilds. Although Morrigan is an ally in Origins and Inquisition, her motivations and true goals are often unclear. Her voice actor, Claudia Black, did a tremendous job bringing her unique personality to life.
Although there are many Dragon Age characters worthy of painting, I thought Morrigan would be a fun one to start with. Here’s the final version:
I will talk more about this over the next couple of posts, but this was my first use of a tool called a proportional divider. Prior to learning about this tool, I had used a basic ruler to measure proportions and feature spacing. You can see the basics in one of my previous drawing videos, but basically the idea is to measure the reference, do some rough math (usually X1.5 or X2) on the artwork to mark where everything should be. Using a proportional divider is so much easier! You can quickly and easily go from reference to art surface, and utilize the a size setting to avoid having to do any math.
I think the proportional divider deserves its own blog post, which I’ll try to write next. It’s a great tool though, and this painting of Morrigan was the first time I’ve ever used one. As I discussed in the previous two posts, I’m trying to make an effort not to sketch pencil outlines. I want to get better at loosely painting, with an eye on the long term goal of possibly painting from life. Honestly, I think measuring at all (like with this proportional divider) goes somewhat against this goal. But it’s an interesting new tool regardless, so I wanted to get some practice in with it.
This painting ended up being really fun. Since Morrigan obviously isn’t a real person, there weren’t really constraints or strict likenesses I had to try to align with. I like the freedom and lack of self-imposed expectations that allows for. I decided to make this a very colorful painting for some reason. I thought I remembered a cut scene or something where Morrigan was surrounded by fire, so I thought that might be an interesting thing to try to depict. And it seemed like flames might look vibrant with her sort of purplish color scheme.
Although I need to work on my lighting solutions, I do still think my improvement continues on these progression videos. I’ve got a decent angle down, so you can follow how the paintings come together without having the back of my head block everything constantly. You can get a feel for how the proportional divider helped space things out right…but at the same time, it wasn’t a cure-all. I still took some weird angles on certain portions; the head has an odd tilt, and eye is slanted unusually downward, and I didn’t push the mouth far enough horizontally. These are all mostly small matters though, and hopefully practice without using pencil will work them out.
Interestingly, I had a devil of a time trying to photograph this one. I find the best situation for photographing my pencil drawings is outside in bright sunlight. But with paintings, bright sunlight isn’t always my friend. I had so much paint on this Morrigan portrait that it took a long time to dry, which meant the paint was still pretty shiny and reflective to sunlight. Even after drying, I still struggled a bit with reflection. This experience has really made me consider investing in a scanner. Perhaps I need to start a poll about how people digitize their artwork.
Overall though, as I mentioned, this was a very fun piece to work on. I got to experiment with some vibrant colors and the end result was a solid piece. Somehow, these “not a real person” paintings seem to remind me of specific people still. This one for some reason makes me think of actress Laura Dern. Not that she’s famous for playing a character like Morrigan or anything; it’s just a slight resemblance that’s maybe just due to my weird brain. So, next up I do want to talk more about that proportional divider, and I’ve got just the painting to pair that conversation up with. Beyond that, it might be wise to share this survey about digitizing artwork as a separate post. Plus, I wonder if it would be interesting to share all of my surveys? I have a few old ones that I looked back on that ended up with a surprisingly high response count!