Concept Art Request Example


This is the text from the original email I sent to Jeff Dee commissioning the iconic Thopas illustration. On reflection it is probably over long. I had no idea what I was doing and am a huge fan of Jeff’s art. His work in the B/X books and early TSR modules was my first introduction to art that wasn’t drawn specifically for children, thus the fond memories. Although I will not copy his reply straight from email (I haven’t asked his permission) I will summarize it at the end of the post.

Here is the description for the Gnome miniature that represents our primary NPC and company mascot named Thopas. I tried to err on the side of greater detail. If there is anything you need clarified please let me know.

Hi Jeff,

Here is the description for the commission.

Thopas is an old PC belonging to my co-author that has had many incarnations throughout the years. Now he is existing in comfortable retirement as an NPC in our publication.

Mini Description (Scale: 28 mm)

Height: Standing at approximately 3 ½ feet on a good day, it is unlikely that Thopas would impress anyone with either his physique or stature. This is a source of entertainment for the good folk of Whisper and a bit of a sore point for the gnome.

Body Type: Thopas has never been accused of being an Adonis, though he has more than compensated in his appeals to the fairer sex with his renowned silver tongue. He remains a little bit doughy, wrinkly.

Hair: Thopas is bald, save for a small patch of hair to the rear of his pate. He sports a handlebar mustache (6-7″ in diameter) which curls slightly at the ends, of which he is quite proud. On his chin sits a well-defined, well-trimmed, triangle-shaped beard that reaches down to his upper chest.

Expression: Confident, self-assured, and mischievous. His pension for deriving pleasure from others’ minor misfortunes has left him with a permanent wry grin/amused sneer.

Eyes: Large, round eyes (combination of crazed and annoyed)

Primary Clothes: Sporting a close-fitting, ankle-length torn robe, Thopas has spent a lifetime perfecting his unique fashion sense. We’re looking for some kind of embroidery (or other decoration) so it doesn’t look too plain.
An overcoat or tabard would be fitting as well. Please use your best judgement on this.

Secondary Clothes: A hooded cloak covers Thopas’ back, though he never actually wears the hood. Instead, he lets it fall where it may, usually lazily to the side or rear of a shoulder. The cloak is clasped on the sternum with a silver bone-in-metal (more bone than metal) broach. He wears a corded belt ( with small animal pelts that hang down every 8 inches or so, for decoration.)
Weapons: On his right-side on the belt is a dagger in a hard leather—bone-shaped—sheath. He holds a 5’ weathered oak staff (with deep, worn grooves) with a ram’s skull set at the top, jaw, nose, and horns pointed out (feel free to elaborate on this in a way that you feel looks

Waist Items: He wears a pouch at one side and a goat horn slung over his shoulder that sits at waist level.

Shoes: Sandals? Leather Boots? (Whatever looks feels natural or the drawing)

Pose: Thopas stands with his feet apart, knees slightly bent. The bottom of the staff is near his left foot, leaning outward. His right hand, forward from his chest, holds a gnome-sized skull, which he is studying and smirking at. The skull is facing toward him and his mischievous expression (slight laugh or wry grin) is focused on it. This pose is intentionally meant to reflect the ‘alas, poor yorick’ monologue from Hamlet.

For a hint of movement in the figurine, we were thinking that a showing a slight breeze to help ruffle his garments would keep him from looking to staid. One this front we really would like to rely on your experience.


Zach Glazar, Lesser Gnome

The response I received from Jeff soon after was that he could create what we described. He mentioned that he would not be able to get all the items on Thopas’ waist that we listed as they would be invisible. Although he would do the color at a later date (I did not expect Whisper & Venom to be printed in color at the time) this is the final illustration after two very short exchanges about compensation.

No, I was not disappointed. Although I get my art almost exclusively from Lloyd Metcalf for all my projects now I am indebted to Jeff for taking our commission seriously when there was not any evidence he should have done so.l

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