Com­bin­ing sci-fi noir and fan­tasy

Alyssa Menold works with an art di­rec­tor for the Shad­owrun RPG, work­ing up con­cept it­er­a­tions and go­ing from client brief to fi­nal paint­ing

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When Cat­a­lyst Game Labs ap­proached me about do­ing the cover for Shad­owrun’s Court of Shad­ows rule­book, I was be­yond ex­cited.

I’ve al­ways had a ton of fun with Shad­owrun’s gritty, ur­ban set­tings. But I was psyched at the op­por­tu­nity to change things up and bring my love of tra­di­tional fan­tasy to the role-play­ing game.

When I got it, the art brief de­scribed a faerie queen walk­ing through forested ru­ins. How­ever, Cat­a­lyst’s art di­rec­tor, Brent Evans, also had a cou­ple of key points that the cover needed to hit. He was look­ing for a strong, cen­tral fig­ure, one who ap­peared to be both fas­ci­nat­ing and omi­nous too.

As well as that, the paint­ing needed to have a sense of move­ment, and the colours couldn’t get too bright and fluffy. Even though it was a fan­tasy paint­ing of a faerie, it needed to be con­sis­tent with Shad­owrun’s noir at­mos­phere.

The most ex­cit­ing part of this paint­ing was get­ting to be more sur­real than nor­mal. Cre­at­ing a dress that was made of ravens, for ex­am­ple, was quite un­usual – and also a to­tal blast.

Through­out the process, Brent worked closely with me, en­cour­ag­ing me to push this pic­ture even fur­ther than I knew I could. A lot of my favourite el­e­ments in the paint­ing – for ex­am­ple, the misty magic from her fin­gers, the blur­ring of re­al­ity at the edges of the paint­ing – came from that col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Any­way, stay with me and I’ll talk you through what I did and why.

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