On this page are some of the various elements that went into creating the environment for the final Curse of the Rhinegold cover art. Once the initial character models were developed, a complete three-dimensional underwater set with plants and props was created to bring the scene to life.
The image on the left was a relatively final posing composition with all four characters positioned around a central moss-encrusted rock prop, which has had its texture depth bumped way up. The idea here was to have the three Rhinemaids protectively surrounding the central figure of the Rhinegold in opposition to the dwarf Andvari (later changed to the Germanic variant Alberich). The Rhinegold itself is a perfect sphere that's been textured with a reflective gold metal surface.
Once the poses and expressions were fairly set it was time to populate the seabed with some foliage. This entailed a lot render time and took a heavy toll on the CPU. Ultimately the image was rendered in multiple layers and composited together in Photoshop, but for the most part without any post-render processing.
Most of the effort in this phase was in creating an aesthetically pleasing balance of shapes and colors while not overwhelming the more important characters. Lisa's Botanicals' Sea Floor Pack 1 was used most extensively, while Poisen's SwizzlerZ object pack brought in an alien fantasy element to the scene. Twisting reddish-orange vines were used behind Alberich to lend a subconscious fire aspect to his craft as blacksmith, and to suggest the fiery depths from which he emerged.
With the front cover layout nearing completion it was time to add some final props and lighting, and expand the set to wrap around the back.
From the Halls of Poseidon set come these great ancient Greek structures, here overgrown with kelp to better match the foreground art. Since the Rhinemaidens live beneath the river's surface it seemed only fitting that they had somewhere to call their home. And since they've been there for awhile it was likely to be crumbling and encrusted with seaweed like everything down there. A classical motif seemed appropriate, though of course, the Greeks never inhabited the region of the Rhine. But then, Vikings didn't build in stone.
This initial test of the Drakkar Viking shipwreck set has all the default texturing applied without any additional manipulation at this point. Just a few foliage props have been added and the hull is sunken down into the sand to test the layout, opacity, and color balance of all the objects, with portions of the ship obscured and others remaining clearly visible. As you can see it was originally intended to face the other way.
The default wood texture of the ship's hull was then taken into Photoshop and painted with several layers of moss and lichen to give it the look of a derelict and decomposing wreck. These additional layers were then added to the 3D bump map to make them stand out from the surface. The moss was painted using Ron's Grunge brushes in various shades of green and brown.
To this was added a handful of scattered Viking artifacts spilled out from the deck and half buried in the sand. For these I turned to my trusty set of medieval props from Merlin Studios, including two Viking helms, two shields and a double-bladed axe. Like the hull, the texture maps for these were grunged up considerably in Photoshop, this time using Ron's Rusty Metal brushes. And lastly, the image was flipped and color corrected to match the front cover art.
This animated sequence shows a portion of the cover art development, from rough pose and layout tests through prop composites and lighting changes. This was done in order to determine the final placement and posing of the main characters before high resolution renders were undertaken.
The animation contains a sequence of eight images with the following properties:
This remained the "temporary" cover for several years, throughout most of the writing and art production process, even long after the characters and their costumes had been changed extensively. Notice that Alberich has no facial or arm hair yet, and the Rhinemaidens all have the same hair and clothing, just in different colors. Moreover, the Rhinemaidens' skin is all the same, with a simple fish scale pattern on their legs and torsos.
See the "Working Art" tab for more on the development of this scene, and the Character pages for how the figures were each created.
This was the final test render for the outer book jacket of the first volume in the Ring Saga series. It is designed for a 7" x 10" graphic novel format with something like a 1" spine. The front cover and rear panel sections were created as separate pieces layered over a full-sized background so that the overall width could be adjusted depending on the final page count of the book. The piece itself was created as a 3D render using Poser 7 and around a thousand individual models, give or take, most of which are plants.