Epic of the Etheriasti: Scott Murphy

Poxxil scavenges the Mortal Realm to find the slightest remnants of ethereal energy, be it from tears or from long-dead warriors, all to feed his ever-growing thirst for power. Few things capture the nature of Poxxil better than the painting “Poxxil the Scourge.”

A painting is worth a thousand words, and so we bring to you an interview with Scott Murphy, the painter behind the brilliant and whimsical piece:

1. How did you develop the concept for this piece?

When I was first contacted by Ricky Lovas, the art director, about creating this piece, he sent over some background information about Poxxil, and a little description about what the team was thinking for this scene.

We wanted to go for a dark almost de-saturated forest scene as if Poxxil has sucked all of the color and life from the world…which he is more or less doing. I was sent some photos of the Poxxil sculpture to make sure I had a good visual of the character, and I was ready to start creating some early concept ideas. Knowing that Poxxil is a scavenger, it was important to show him going around collecting small remnants of life energy. I knew that having the bright bit of spirit flowing out of the boot would really stand out against the drab surroundings. Coming up with a concept was really quite simple since the character is so interesting already. It was just a matter of fleshing out the world around him and embellishing details like the unfortunate soldiers, the various hidden skulls, and the fungi to emphasize the nature of death and decay that he leaves in his wake.

2. How long did it take to finish the painting?

The whole process of concepting, photo reference, refined drawing, color study, and final painting, took about a month. The final painting itself took about eight days I think. I’m always juggling a few different projects so nailing down an exact number can be difficult to gauge sometimes, but I know I spent some extra time on this one because it needed to have all of the extra little details and I just had a ton of fun working on it.

3. How do you prepare to begin a painting of this nature? What tools do you use?

I use a number of different tools throughout the project. I often do my early concept or “thumbnail” sketches digitally in Photoshop. This gives me a quick way to try out a lot of different ideas and easily combine or change parts as I go. Once a preliminary sketch is decided on, I go out and gather reference material. In order to aid in painting a semi-realistic scene I need to have images of real objects to help me figure out lighting and form on invented elements. So I went into the woods to take photos of trees and fungi near my studio. I have a small skull model, so I took various photos of that with the correct lighting. When I don’t have something readily available in the real world to take photos of, in this case the main character Poxxil, I created a little clay sculpture of him to light how I envisioned in the concept sketch. This way I can get the most visual information before starting to paint. After reference is gathered, I put it all together in a refined charcoal drawing. This stage I am designing what the whole composition will really look like for the final. I try to pay attention to every detail to make sure it all looks right since it’s much easier to adjust a drawing than it is to change a final painting. I do all this painstaking early work before painting because it allows me to be completely prepared when I am executing the final. There’s nothing worse than getting to a section of a painting and not having a plan, sometimes it might turn out great, but it could also potentially ruin the whole piece! In the end I use oil paints on wooden panel to create the final artwork.

4. Do you use any references when painting for the COTD?

Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I always take my own reference photos when possible. Even when I am supplied with some photos of the actual characters, I will often want different lighting or poses, so I do those shots myself. Especially when creating a world that doesn’t truly exist in the real world, but needs to look and feel like it really does, that’s when having good reference will help connect the dots between fantasy and reality.

5. What was the most challenging aspect of creating this piece? Rewarding?

I think the most challenging aspect was making sure that the background colors stayed dull and muted so that the spirit energy could really stand out. That way the viewer can quickly and easily see the main part of the story here. Then as they look around and take in the other details, the rest of the implied narrative becomes more apparent.

Most rewarding was definitely having the opportunity to work on such a cool painting with a great character! Having a lot of artistic freedom to create this image really allowed me to put myself into this scene and imagine all of the grim details to help flesh out the world. I love the aesthetic of the Court of the Dead, so this one was right up my alley!

6. What is your faction?

According to the survey I am of the Faction of Spirit, which I agree with more or less, though my aesthetic I think runs more closely to the Faction of Bone.

7. Would you like to live in the Underworld? What would be some of your features / powers?

Sure! It seems like a pretty cool place in all of it’s gothic glory. I’d likely be court artist with the power to paint all kinds of cool underworld battle scenes and portraits of it’s various inhabitants.

8. Do you watch or listen to anything in particular while painting for COTD?

I get too distracted if I have something visual on while trying to paint, so mostly I listen to music or audio books. In this case I was certainly listening lots of death and black metal, particularly the albums by Cultes des Ghoules and Sulphur Aeon that were released around the time I was painting this one, great atmosphere for doing dark work. I also believe I was in the midst of a re-listen to Joe Abercrombie’s “First Law” trilogy. The grit of those books really jived with painting this piece as well.

A huge thank you to artist Scott Murphy for his incredible contribution to the Underworld! If you’d like to see more of Scott’s work, you can explore his magnificent creations on his instagram account.

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Rise, Conquer, Art!