Custom Character Portraits

By AvatarArt

Look, Ma, No Restraint!

As proof of Gamer Bling’s burgeoning bourgeois popularity, he was recently approached by the proprietors of AvatarArt to review their goods products services stuff. Yes, Gamer Bling’s influence is spreading, growing more powerful every day! Sort of like a carbuncle!

The other sign of Gamer Bling’s increasing popularity is the rise in the number of spam comments hitting his site. Which is even more like a carbuncle.

In case you missed it, the takeaway message of these last two paragraphs is that if someone tells your friends about Gamer Bling before you do, you will no longer be a shizzlin’ tubular hep cat. Do not let your name be so defamed. Be on the cutting edge of Gamer Bling’s cultural revolution (now with less communism and mass murder than all previous cultural revolutions)!

Before this column digresses into a careless revelation of Gamer Bling’s master plan to seize control of all of the Dark Chocolate M&M factories in the world, he will return to the original brief, to wit: character portraits are cool. And blingy.

Oooh… it’s a one-handled two-bladed three-pointed four-sectioned war scythe. It may not be practical, but it sure looks good. Which is kind of the point of this whole review. Or website, for that matter.

Proper role-players have characters that are far more than two-dimensional templates. They develop a psychological profile of their characters, complete with characteristic speech patterns and behavioral idiosyncrasies. Gamer Bling does this, ergo he is a proper role-player, although you may disagree once you read the below.

AvatarArt creates custom illustrations for your characters. And, by way of a review, Gamer Bling will walk you through his experiences with AvatarArt in real time. And today is the happy day that Gamer Bling has decided to start.

Gamer Bling first selects the type of character portrait he wishes to have, from an inexpensive “Basic” pencil sketch to an “Immortal” full-color illustration. Since Gamer Bling only indulges in the very best of role-playing excessories, he chooses Immortal. Then an ordinary mortal role-player would be forced to pony up their hard-earned doubloons to secure the services of AvatarArt for the process. Gamer Bling, on the other hand, invokes gamemaster fiat to pay his illustration in full. House rules, you know: the gamemaster is always right. These tasks now done, Gamer Bling takes a break to rest his weary brain and sip some mead.

Since AvatarArt has not taken any levels in telepath, Gamer Bling must then provide a character description. Gamer Bling decided to test AvatarArt’s patience with a little good-natured teasing. Here is Gamer Bling’s first character description, sent via email (on 10 Sep at 9:44 p.m. EDT) with the subject line “Gamer Bling’s Character Description”:

“k like hes this powrfl rouge who like toaly rox and stuff and hes got his kewl gear and hes rilly short”

Now we’ll sit back and see just how long it takes AvatarArt to place Gamer Bling on several spam lists in retaliation.

* * *

Well, within thirteen hours—pretty good time, since AvatarArt presumably sleeps—Gamer Bling received this humorless reply:

“We’ll need more to go on to start. Here is the part from our site that will provide you with the info: “We’ve developed our own Creation Guide to start this imaginative process, which you can download as a WORD Doc here. This form asks you to think through how you’d like your idea to look, to help us best show your imagination.”

Gamer Bling draws two potential and not mutually exclusive conclusions from this. One is that, despite the fact that Gamer Bling writes long, humorous reviews, AvatarArt thinks that Gamer Bling is so rabidly geeked out about his character that he is incapable of writing anything other than such nigh-unintelligible drivel. The other is that AvatarArt sees so many widdling emails of the sort Gamer Bling just sent them that they no longer bat an eye at them. Either conclusion is bad news, and a poor reflection on the state of American edumacation.

So save AvatarArt the trouble, and fill out the commission form.

Now that we’ve satiated the gleeful little prankster that lives inside Gamer Bling’s head, we can get serious (sort of) about Gamer Bling’s character, who is another gleeful little prankster that lives inside Gamer Bling’s head and occasionally makes forays onto the tabletop.

As you may have read elsewhere, Gamer Bling joined a new role-playing group. The gamemaster is taking us through a fairly high-powered campaign set in Eberron. We are heroes, after all.

Gamer Bling decided to play a kobold rogue named Gleek.

The Mark of Storm looks like it was drawn by an overzealous Oriental calligrapher. And Gleek was created by an unstable Occidental middle manager.Little did Gamer Bling know that Gleek was actually a Siberys kobold with wings. Gamer Bling did not ask for this; it was decreed by the gamemaster. Also, as time has passed, Gleek’s dragon heritage has grown ever more powerful. Manifesting a dragonmark and breathing fire when in a fit of rage were both rather interesting moments.

Gleek has also started taking levels in sorcerer. He likes him some dragon and wants to be just like them.

So Gamer Bling’s description is of where Gleek stands at the moment. The following description was sent on 11 Sep at 8:45 p.m. EDT.

“Gleek is a young Siberys kobold with wings. He’s a 5th-level rogue / 2nd-level sorcerer with a manic chaotic-neutral gleam in his eye and a fearless snarl from which small wisps of smoke occasionally arise.

“The egg from which Gleek came was recovered by Karrnathi soldiers during a raid on an Emerald Claw necromancy research temple. When he hatched, he imprinted on humans, and has been a little unstable ever since as nature and nurture war within his tiny reptilian heart.

“Standing a bit shy of three feet tall, Gleek has a lean build. He’s kind of hyperactive, and as a kobold his typical mode of transportation is to hop. His skin is light toned (I am still deciding) and he has deep golden eyes.

“He is prone to streaks of cowardice and recklessness. He typically carries a light pick and/or hand crossbow, and wears leather armor, perhaps emblazoned with a Karrnathi wolf.

“His prized possession is a unique item that he pilfered while exploring a temple (never mind that it woke a mummy): a short scepter with a head carved in the shape of a dragon’s claw, the talons of which clutch a Khyber dragonshard that has the Mark of Storm within it.

“He should be in a moody urban background, like something out of Siegfried or Nordic stories. Have him in a 3/4 front view, just charging into combat, left to right, like maybe he just slew someone and is turning about to take on someone else (from behind, preferably). Very kinetic.”

That’s a fairly substantive description of our little draconic psychopath. Let’s see where this gets us.

* * *

And, the next day, we find out.

First of all, it turns out the fine folks at AvatarArt do not play Eberron. So they don’t know a Karrnathi wolf from a Dunkin’ Donut. But at least they were able to Google the Khyber dragonshard. Here’s what Gamer Bling got:

“Just a quick communique to let you know that we have received the ‘real’ info for the Gleek commission and look forward to bringing your hyperactive hopping kobold to life. In fact we have top men working on it now. Top…men.

[snip while they ask for game stats, etc.]

“Finally, if you find something from Siegfried or a Nordic stories that is especially inspiring for the background, feel free to pass along. You should see the first draft 3-4 days after we have all the additional info.


“P.S. In regards to our earlier response, do let your readers know that we have seen literally all sorts of requests and lack of edumakayshun aside, it is not uncommon to read a very confusing ‘character description.’ so for our sake, for artists everywhere, and for DMs, ’tis better to have more character description than less.”

Aha! They have committed the first and most egregious error of all project management! They have committed to a timeline! All timelines must be padded. Gamer Bling knows an engineer whose approach to estimates is to increase the numeral by one and the unit of measure by one. Thus three days becomes four weeks. So either they don’t use this rule, or Gamer Bling will see a first draft in 2-3 hours.

Meanwhile, Gamer Bling will go grab his Eberron sourcebooks and scan the national crest of Karrnath for them. Therewith probably violating some copyright rule and bringing legions of Hasbro lawyers down upon his head. Such is the chaotic nature of Gleek’s creator.

* * *

Aaiieeee! It turns out AvatarArt is using the secret engineer’s estimation algorithm!

For the very next email in Gamer Bling’s inbox was also from AvatarArt, and contained the first draft of Gleek!

Since Gamer Bling knows everyone is as curious as he is (or should be), here’s the art:

Stand and deliver! Well, Gleek is standing, and he certainly looks like he wants to de-liver someone.Will you just look at that handsome guy? Wow, what a ladykiller. And Gamer Bling means that in the most literal way possible.

There was a note, too:

“Our top men have come back with a sample. (Time zone differences are helpful that way) This is just a first draft so please provide a list ‘o changes, the more specific the better. And again, game stats + additional info for 4 Eberron specific things = helpful.”

So now Gamer Bling will muse upon this work of art for a short while and continue his missive later. Although you want to see more art, Gamer Bling is loath to rush this. He prefers to savor the moment.

* * *

Now Gamer Bling gets to play art critic. First we’ll examine what is different in the drawing from Gamer Bling’s vision. All of this will explain why it is important to be as clear as possible when describing your art commission; the written word is not as effective as face-to-face discussions. After all, writing down “It’s about this long and this wide” is pretty useless if one can’t see the hand gestures to go with it. Gamer Bling knows. He did that on the phone once. Gamer Bling’s friend strung him along by saying “Uh-huh” at the appropriate times until Gamer Bling felt the absolute fool. More than ususal, that is.

Character: First, we definitely have the manic gleam in the eye. Gleek looks… excited in a slightly insane sort of way. That’s good. Maybe a little more snarl in the lip, but we’re solid. Wings, check. Smoke wafting up from the mouth… well, that probably gets added during the color phase.

Gear: Well, the hand crossbow is too large. It looks like a light crossbow. Aside from that, we’re on target.

Background: Check. Although the feet of a dead body might be a cool addition.

Pose: Gamer Bling asked for a 3/4 view. What he meant was a 3/4-front view; what he got was a 3/4 rear view. In a 3/4 front view, Gleek’s shoulders would be addressed toward the viewer, but offset to the right, as though he were facing an imaginary person at the viewer’s right. Instead, Gleek’s back is to said person. This makes the wings (nicely sketched, by the way) the dominant feature in the illustration.

Stance: Here is the biggest weakness in the illustration: both of Gleek’s feet are on the ground! He’s hyperactive, travels by hopping, loves to backstab, and is prone to fits of hysterical bloodbathery; why, then, is not at least one foot in the air?

Gamer Bling asked for a kinetic illustration; for those who have graduated college with a degree in Nintendology, that means a picture showing movement.

This is a pose that could be held by a model while the painter quickly sketched. There is motion implied before the image was captured, and the sense that further motion will happen after, but Gleek is not necessarily moving at that moment in that image. In fact, the image could be of Gleek threatening someone and thus avoiding an attack, or of Gleek scanning the battlefield after picking all his enemies’ noses (with his pick, of course).

Now a pose with one or both feet in the air? That would require Ralph Macchio with his crane technique (and Gamer Bling shows his age once again).

There comes a time when one must realize the limits of one’s skill. Upon reflection, the original pose that Gamer Bling had in his mind was very different from the one envisioned here. Part of that is because of the misunderstanding of a 3/4 view. Part of that is because the pose drawn is not kinetic; there is not sense of motion caught in progress. But Gamer Bling must also recognize the sad fact that the pose he had in mind was also, shall we say, fairly generic. Even overused.

Therefore, if AvatarArt can address the issues of facing and kinetics (and Gamer Bling believes they can), Gamer Bling will be happy. As to the actual exact pose that Gleek has, Gamer Bling is not going to specify. Why not? Gamer Bling is not an artist. He is a reasonable cartoonist, having been a staple of his college paper, but not an artist. And he believes artists should be employed to be creative, not to slavishly be what is called, in the parlance, a wrist.

Gamer Bling could stick-figure a pose. Or he could use a 3-d modeling program to generate one. But better still to let AvatarArt cut loose, and show off their creativity. Thus Gamer Bling has sent them an email condensing this discussion (and adding a few fiddly bits here and there). The email was sent on 17 Sep at 9:14 p.m. EDT.

Let’s see where this takes them. (Cue manic “Gleek cackling” SFX.)

* * *

The very next day, the very next sketch arrived in Gamer Bling’s email. Let’s take a look at it, shall we?

Uncle Gleek wants you! He wants you dead, or dismembered, or fleeing… take your pick or take Gleek’s pick!Well, Gleek is definitely more kinetic in this illustration. Having apparently picked on (or picked off) someone not his own size, he’s rounding about ready for more action. His wings, while present, are not as dominant as they used to be. He’s got the Karrnathi crest on his chest, a Batman utility belt around his waist, and the hand crossbow seems more appropriately sized. And he has a loot bag to “help” with the dead body later.

Over all, Gamer Bling is a happy hoppy kobold.

Now let’s address the minor quibbles. Gamer Bling says minor, because he feels that AvatarArt is almost there.

The head-on approach does not quite cut it. The head of Gleek in the first sketch looked much more like a kobold to GB; foreshortening is a challenging technique to employ for long-muzzled animals, and it appears to rob Gleek of much of his 115% crazed snarl. In addition, it appears that Gleek’s eyes are looking down. As someone just under three feet tall, the inference is that he’s planning on spiking someone’s instep. Or maybe he just spotted a valuable gem lying on the ground.

Shifting the point of view to the left (so that Gleek appears to be charging someone to the viewer’s right) would allow Gleek’s regal profile to play into the picture more, as well as make the motion in the picture easier to sense. It would also make it easier to adjust his eye angle. There’s our first adjustment.

Second, love the corpse (an observation, not a necrophilic command). But if Gleek is a cowardly psychopathic back-stabbing thief rogue, should not the corpse be face-down? Ain’t no way Gleek likes himself a fair fight. Nuh-unh.

Speaking of which, we move to the third point: Gleek appears to be moving like a fighter. His posture is fairly erect. If we’re shifting to an angled POV, one other thing we can do is to make his charge seem more slithery and sinister. Think of the bad overactors from early cinema, and what they did. That’s what this bad overwriter from early blogdom wants to have.

Dropping Gleek’s head from an upright humanlike stance to a more horizontal growling-dog stance, and angling his body profile would help would they not? Gamer Bling thinks so. Gleek is more dragon than human, after all.

And thus the above few paragraphs have been sent as of 18 Sep at 10:24 EDT.

* * *

There was evening and there was morning, and the first day of waiting began. Having gotten used to immediate gratification, Gamer Bling was appalled that no new sketch had appeared in his inbox. He threatened to complain to the manager! He threatened to sue! He threatened to launch a pre-emptive missile strike!

Okay, actually he shrugged his shoulders, went upstairs and worked on other things. Although he must confess that he was a little disappointed. He has grown to enjoy this process. 😦

And there was evening and there was morning, and the second day of waiting began. And on the evening of the second day, lo! There came to be an email from AvatarArt! And behold! There was…

No new sketch.

What there was, though was a detailed message about why this was the case. Gamer Bling shares this with you now.

“Regarding some of your requested changes, we wanted to share with you our thought process to show that there is indeed a method to the madness of character portraits. So here are the ‘whys’ as to some of the creative decisions which made Gleek 2.0 into what he was:

Judging by her posture, she must be preparing to swing a military pick. Either that or her white ribbon just cut her in half.“Attacking with a pickaxe calls for a certain type of movement since the weapon is not balanced as a sword/mace would be. This action must also be forceful (involving much motion of a shoulder/waist twist and turn) because a pick axe is neither as sharp as a sword or covers as much surface area as a mace. Being something in between a piercing and a blunt weapon, a pickaxe needs both very strong as well as controlled force behind it- the point ideally is going into flesh or a spot where the armor is weaker, such as a joint. And preciseness requires controlled focus.

“Which brings us to the eyes. We had them pointed down as the strategy for such a short creature as Gleek would be to cripple his opponent. That would most likely be accomplished via either a swift hit to the back of the knee or right through a foot to hobble the target. Once a ‘giant’ is toppled over, the playing field is more level and these initial blows would then be followed up by successions of attacks to the back of the skull, neck or clavicle – the last in order to pierce clear of any bone directly into the heart. So yes, Gleek is looking down because we imagined him eyeing a big bullseye on his next opponent’s foot.

“In addition to having the eyes follow this strategy, we tried to keep the posture as realistic as possible for these techniques. In the initial BASIC Level draft, Gleek was indeed staticish as swinging a pickaxe from side to side would necessitate a well anchored stance to maintain some semblance of balance. Gleek 2.0 is in between hops. Now from what we know of kinesthesiology, there are essentially 3 main parts to the process of moving:

• anticipation (which is usually translated in bringing the posture into a prepared for movement state, ala crouched or semi-crouched),
• the actual movement itself (where the body de-tenses itself, thrusting forward and is usually presented as an elongated shape – arms, legs in a pretty straight posture, pushed to the back)
• the end of the movement where the body returns back into a crouch-like position due to gravity

“Hence Gleek shown more erect to capture a ‘realistic’ kinectic look that is not as sneaky as the original draft. But to convey the sneakiness seems to, by biology, require more of a staticness. We’re admittedly having issues conveying both the sneaky and the stabby given his choice o’ weapons and how he’d have to use them.

“On another note, as for the soon-to-be-searched dead figure, certain credible sources have confided to us that a backstabbed person can twist while falling and end on the ground face up. Just FYI. We can have the boots faced down if you prefer.

“The rest is food for thinking. Please mull it over awhile and get back to us with your thoughts.”

Gamer Bling first reaction was, “Why can’t they just draw what is in GB’s fertile little mind?” But once Gamer Bling realized they’d have to pry it open and look, that option didn’t look like such a good one.

Gamer Bling’s second thought was, “What exactly do they mean by ‘certain credible sources’ “? Do the top… men at AvatarArt really know people who can speak with authority that folks can twist as they fall after being murdered by a pick stuck through their back? This gave Gamer Bling a distinctly uncomfortable feeling, so he locked all the doors and windows, drew the blinds, and laid his loaded shotgun across his lap, just in case. And he sent his wife and kids outside in case any of them had been turned into double agents.

But then he realized that the certain credible someone was probably not Guido ni Cappero, but in all likelihood just AvatarArt’s gamemaster, because the gamemaster is always right. And there was much relief. Especially from the wife and kids, who know better than to argue with Gamer Bling when he has a loaded shotgun.

Gamer Bling’s third thought was, “Hmm. These artists are thinking seriously about their work. Obviously, they want this third sketch to be right, while still preserving a little wiggle room for a potential fourth touch-up sketch. Equally obviously, they don’t want to waste their time if Gamer Bling isn’t being clear.”

So now they’re asking Gamer Bling to think. But Gamer Bling is a reviewer and a critic, jobs that require one not to think logically, but rather to pound out emo-styled spleenery onto the keyboard and call it art! Or at least art criticism.

Still and all, Gamer Bling will do this here thang. He will think and ponder.

But only in the line of duty. Don’t expect it to become a habit.

* * *

Allow Gamer Bling to apologize for the long gap since the previous update. He had a business trip, followed by getting ill, followed by The Gamer Bling Official Companion getting very ill (she always gets the worst of it), followed by needing to catch up on all manner of work and home projects.

But now it’s time for more Gleek goodness. Or, more precisely, chaotic neutrality.

Having had more than enough time to mull things over, Gamer Bling sent this short autumn-themed missive to the fine folks at AvatarArt:

“Having mulled this over for some time, Gamer Bling believes the dichotomy between artistic license and realism can be readily solved. The crux of the problem seems to lie in the fact that Gleek is being drawn attacking with a pick, which necessitates a lot of ‘not the kinetic hyperactive hopping aroundishness that Gamer Bling envisions.’

This is a kinetic pose. Not very realistic, but it's fun, so who cares?“The solution seems simple.

“Gamer Bling does not need Gleek to be in the process of attacking with a pick. Gleek can be moving in toward the attack, charging toward another foe, but not striking at that moment. ''I care! I care very much, thank you!''Consider Gleek to be taking the move action through a chaotic battlefield to engage another person. Sort of like a halfback turning the corner or cutting toward a hole, rather than running up the middle, head down, arms protecting the ball, just about to get tackled.

“Is that clear? Does it solve the problems?”

The aforementioned email was sent on 23 Oct at 3:33 p.m. EDT. And now we are back to waiting. At least, Gamer Bling is. Y’all have waited quite patiently for the next update.

* * * 

Gamer Bling received his reply on 27 Oct, in the afternoon. Unfortunately, he didn’t check his email until much later than that, it being the weekend.

Here is AvatarArt’s reply, along with the requisite sketch of Gleek:

With such a detailed study of musculature, Gamer Bling is tempted to call this one “The Stinker.”Good to hear back from you and that you & your wife are feeling better. We indeed understand what you’re asking and have enclosed a sample sketch hopefully illustrating as such. If this is what you want, we will add details, and move on. If you’d like something different, please advise us on that.

Gamer Bling’s commentary? Gleek in the nude! Awesome!

The pose is kinetic. He’s looking up at his next victim, or more accurately at his next victim’s kidney. All that’s missing is a nasty snarl on his muzzle.

So Gamer Bling advised AvatarArt of this on 28 Oct at 1:11 p.m. EDT. Since this is just about the time the Sunday NFL games kick off, he expects no reply from AvatarArt until after Monday Night Football. 

On we move!

* * * 

Smile nicely for the sketch artist. He just wants to—gah! What are you doing? Put that pick down! Down!At 6:52 p.m. the following day, Gamer Bling received a double-check sketch featuring the improvement of Gleek’s snarl, which only enhances his roguish / sorcerous good looks. Gamer Bling immediately fired back an email quoting his approval. After all, would you say “no” to a face like that?

* * *

And on Halloween, just two days later, Gamer Bling received this work in progress from the top… men at AvatarArt. You can see how Gleek is really coming together. Well, except for his little kobold psyche. That’s kind of tearing apart, thread by thread.

they're not just for breakfast anymore.''

Aside from cackling like a manic kobold when he saw this, Gamer Bling also also sent the fine folks at AvatarArt a note to the effect that, since Gleek has now found an amulet of mighty fist +3, he no longer uses his pick, sticking instead to his claws. The artists seemed fine with the idea of not drawing a pick, and were happy to toss in a pendant for the fun of it. As soon as Gamer Bling provides them a description. Which he will. After he finishes writing this. Which he hasn’t yet. Because you’re still reading. 


* * *

Of course, immediately after writing those words, Gamer Bling got caught up with taking Gamer Bling Expansion #1 (belly dancer) and Gamer Bling Expansion #2 (Spider-Man) out trick-or-treating. And by the time that he got back, he was convinced in his deluded little mind that he indeed had sent off a description of the amulet to AvatarArt, when in fact the top… men at AvatarArt were sitting around and twiddling their thumbs (which is what Gamer Bling calls it when artists work on anything other than Gleek).

Until the day that Gamer Bling reazlied he was having little koboldic delerium tremors, and a little quick research showed him that in fact he had not sent a description of the amulet. D’oh! So he sent one in on 16 Nov at 1:51 p.m. EST.

He received a reply from AvatarArt some 1 day, 23 hours, and 19 minutes later, wherein AvatarArt openly admitted that they had been working on other projects twiddling their thumbs. They also included a more detailed and shaded Gleek with said pendant in living black-and-white, the details of which shading and pendant Gamer Bling shows here:

Look at that dentation! Sure beats the PVC-strip dentures that that lame-o Barney has!

So there we are. Gamer Bling remitted his stamp of approval, and onward we progress! (Immediately after Gamer Bling triple-checks that he sent the approval.)

* * *

Then, just in time for Turkey Day, meaning at 6:35 p.m. EST on 21 Nov, Gamer Bling got the fully penciled Gleekster with the following message:

The pencil shading is pretty much done on this; i.e. a MASTER Level piece.  All that remains is the color layering. Two things: does Gleek has a preferred color scheme for skin and scales) and would you like this to be a day or a night shot?

Any other color preferences/ideas appreciated.

Gobble gobble.

Gamer Bling will spend Thanksgiving giving thanks for such a splendiforous rendition of a pencil-necked Gleek.

Needless to say, Gamer Bling gobbled it up. Gobble gobble. (Gamer Bling is such a turkey.)

And responded that very night with color considerations that, in the interests of dramatic suspense, shall be kept secret until the grand unveiling! Well, secret from you, that is. Not from AvatarArt. That would be kind of dumb.

* * *

And now, a brief intermission.

* * *

And now, at long and luxuruous last, Gamer Bling will unveil the final portions of the amazing character art that has been too long withheld from public viewing. You see, Gamer Bling must confess to committing the cardinal sin of bloggers: he allowed Real Life® to interfere with his blogs. Christmas, a vacation, a lung infection, house repairs, and the like all prevented him from completing this review in a timely manner. There are a few other lame excuses too, but none of them are important, germane, or intelligible, and thus none will be explored at this time.

In short, while this review started out in real time, it did not finish in real time, and Gamer Bling does not want anyone to think the worse of the top… men at AvatarArt for his pathetic personal procrastination. On the other hand, you do get rewarded with some amazing ad-lib ad-hoc alliteration.

AvatarArt sent Gamer Bling a piece in progress to ensure that they were on the right track with the color scheme. The base colors were laid down, but with no shadows or highlights (which is not exactly true; Gleek is a highlight reel in and of himself). But AvatarArt was on the right track, as you can see below.

Gamer Bling would make a comment about this, but Gamer Bling is a play-by-play commentator. He needs a color commentator for a sidekick.

And, finally, on 15 Dec at 6:02 p.m., just in time for the holidays and their requisite turkey, presents, and flu, Gamer Bling got a 1024×713 full-color JPG of the final draft of that most magnificent melee mauler of malevolent men, Adventuring 1, 2, 3; psychopathic murder 2, 3; hero of Karrnath 3; thank you to my excellent friends; thanks Mom and Dad; love ya, Eberron! Onward and upward to someday be a dragon!king of the killer Karrnathi kobolds, student of sinister sorcery, debonair and devious dragonkin, and rip-snortin’ roguish rapscallion: Gleek! And, if you click on the image from his high school yearbook, you can prostrate yourself before Gleek’s full-color greatness!

So there you have it. You’ve been walked through a portion of the life of Gleek, kobold extraordinaire, and his realization from a psychotic figment of Gamer Bling’s imagination to a fully realized electronic rendering, which has infected a stray figment of your own imagination with psychosis.

Next, Gamer Bling will regale you with the reactions from his friendly (if jealous) local gaming group. Until next time…

Weak Points

Let us first examine the primary weakness of getting a custom character portrait. To wit:

What if Gleek dies? It would have happened, except that the GM thankfully failed to notice that one of the boss monster’s items had the dragonbane enchantment… otherwise, another 2d6 of damage in each of the three attacks that hit our favorite kobold in one single round would have sent Gleek right into the cold-cuts drawer of the refrigerator. 

This fear is, in fact, why Gamer Bling is somewhat loathe to give Gleek levels in any spellcasting class. Gamer Bling’s mystical characters have had notoriously short life spans. The last one he played was swallowed whole by a giant lizard. As his fellow adventurers tried to save him, one errant blow detonated one of the alchemist’s fire potions (which in turn detonated the other five potions) carried by the dwarf-turned-lizard-chow-turned-gooey-red-mist. No, this is not a joke.

In any event, having your character die an ignomious death whilst halfway through the commissioning process would be a crown-royal pain in the dice bag. But there is always some small consolation…

The speed with which characters advance these days is another concern (though not quite a deterrent) in Gamer Bling’s eyes. Back in Gamer Bling’s day, we had to hack through mountains of goblins just to get the party’s thief up a level, and we liked it! And wizards took more than twice the experience to advance! Nowadays we’re talking speed; a mere thirteen encounters to go up a level, and traps count!

Does this impact your art? Yes. Even as the top… men at AvatarArt worked on their greatest illustration, Gleek advanced two levels and got a few keen new magic items. One of which was eyes of the eagle, which Gamer Bling declined to have represented on his character art. Somehow a bespectacled kobold is less than terrifying.

For people who play more often than Gamer Bling’s group does, this sort of delay could cause your art to be made rapidly obsolete.

If you’re incapable of communicating your vision, then there’s that weakness. But that’s yours, not AvatarArt’s.

The only other weakness that Gamer Bling can come up with is that these illustrations are not done in acrylic or watercolor on canvas, suitable for framing. Gamer Bling will have to find his Louisville slugger and have a discussion with the top… men at AvatarArt.

The Bottom Line

How can you not love this?


Bling Factor: 10
Quality: 9
Utility: 3
Price: $25-$100, depending on how valuable you consider your vision.
You need: One per character.
Hope you can keep yours alive. (But see also Character Life Insurance.)


For any commission that mentions this review (best done by using this link), AvatarArt will give you, the loyal reader-turned-art-connoisseur, a $5 discount.

The Future

AvatarArt has said that if business goes well, they may scale up the GB discount structure. Plus, if you read the comments below, you’ll see even better things awaiting the future of your character. So get commissioning!

9 Responses to “Custom Character Portraits”

  1. Thanks for the review! I can’t wait to see the final version. The AvatarArt web site has some really great examples of the color art. I’m thinking of getting some art done for my son’s character for Christmas (in addition to one of my character, of course!)

  2. The final version is indeed up. Just click Gleek’s lovely mug above. It had to be linked, because it was far too large to put in this blog, and Gamer Bling wanted everyone to see all the loving detail that AvatarArt put into it.

  3. As a tragically hep cat who knew about this wonderful piece of gamer bling known as Avatar Art I must say…

    They are professional, talented, and in the grand scheme of things inexpensive when you consider the high quality of the final piece you receive. I have had several commissions done and I’m proud to point out that I have been inspired to help create wonderful pieces of art.

  4. Hello Gamer Bling devotee. The Top Men at AvatarArt would like you to know that we have taken Gleek’s wellbeing into account. After a little artistic discussion, we’re instituting an official policy of 1/2 off (aka 50%) further portraits of previously done characters.* This means that should Gleek ever feel the need to don his ‘eyes of the eagle’ or even take a level(s) in sorcerer, he can be updated in an entirely different pose for a small sum.

    Furthermore, although our signature on most messageboard posts reads, “If your DM has to decide between killing off the character that is just a stat sheet or the character with a kick-ass portrait, who do you think is going to bite it?”, we do recognize that there are some nasty monsters out there. (i.e beholders) So, if your illustrated character(s) one day somehow still falls, we will do their part in the death scene for free.** Yes, FREE. F-R-E-E.

    Lastly, while it is our artistic policy to never sell off the original piece, prospective patrons might consider having their commission enlarged and printed on top quality paper, then framed. This has been done as a wonderful ‘Thank you GM’ gift for several groups, who had all their characters from the party together, with the finished 24″ by 36″ product put into a suitable poster frame.

    We personally have a giant-sized (3′ by 5′) vinyl banner of our mascot, Tark. Next up is a life-sized one. Anywho, the point is that even without the original, by using the digital high rez PDF file, you are able to print out as many sweet copies of your own as you like or have good folks @ Kinko’s make colossal versions.

    On behalf of the entire AvatarArt team, I’d like to thank both Gamer Bling & Gleek for a very fun project. Said our lead artist, “Kobolds…why did it have to be kobolds…”

    Thanks and good gaming,

    Steve G.
    Project Manager

    p.s. Necessary Legalese:
    *= discount applies up to & including the Level the original commission- you can’t order a BASIC portrait for $25 then later ask for 1/2 off your $100 IMMORTAL version. Well, you could ask, but we’d say ‘nein’ in a very, very mean voice.

    **= we’ll create your dead guy/girl/kobold for free. The thing(s) that killed them have to be paid for. Ditto for backgrounds or additional characters, familiars, or mounts not previously ordered in the original commission. We’re trying to do a cool thing here, so don’t try and hose us, capiche?

  5. I just got my final version from Avatar Art. It is simply awesome.

    Steve is just as professional as stated and the art work is unbelievable. The coolest thing is how adept they are at taking my verbal description and making an image that looks like what I’m seeing in my head. I was really impressed.

    My GM even commented on how cool the duster coat my character wears looked…so maybe it will get a sweet enchantment at some point 😉

    I’d be happy to post my final image so that everyone could see a second example if there’s a way to do it with WordPress.

  6. Gamer Bling will graciously post this link to this wonderful image. Because it’s cool. Though not nearly as cool or kinetic as Gleek. And, unlike in Gamer Bling’s image, everyone is alive, and that’s just no fun.

  7. Can anyone create an avatar from this screen?

  8. Of course. Gamer Bling can do anything.

    Except keep a job, apparently. But that is neither here nor there.

    Which image dost thou wish for an avatar to be made from?

  9. This review convinced me to try this out for my favourite character, a rogue/fighter, and she came out fantastic. I am very pleased with the job they did, and the iterative rounds of changes ended with a illustration I think really captures my mental image of her.

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