Angelic Warrior

Biblically, angels are messengers and warriors, guardians and protectors. I developed a depiction of an angel as warrior, inspired by superheroes and fantasy characters. Here’s how I created it.

I began by sketching the figure, drawing several versions on transparent vellum until I got the proportions, movement and anatomy correct for what I wanted to communicate.



I developed one final preliminary drawing – the comp – and transferred it to the illustration board.


The final drawing was transferred to the board and detailed with colored pencil to blend with the colors I would use in the painting. Once the drawing was finalized, I covered the entire board with frisket paper and then cut away some to reveal the background areas.



I began the painting process by laying in dark and light washes of transparent watercolor. My go-to brand in Winsor Newton for both watercolor and gouache, but I also use M Graham. I always work with high quality watercolor brushes made with synthetic sable.


For backgrounds, I generally work from top to bottom. After layering a few washes of increasingly dark blues, I applied a lighter series of washes to the lower background areas, including a couple dry brush washes to create texture.


Then I added some spatter to the top and bottom areas. I use a toothbrush for this, with gouache. I build up rougher textures and gradients which will add visual interest and play well against the smoother textures on the figure.


I developed the entire background area before peeling away the remaining frisket to reveal the figure.


Starting on the figure, I first addressed the most important aspects – face, hands and weapon. These are the primary elements that tell the story. I first apply a light wash over the face, neck and hands, and slowly build up form and cast shadows, being careful to retain areas of reflected light. I decided upon a Caucasian flesh tone for this guy (I’ve painted others darker), and used a base wash made of naples yellow, yellow ochre and alizarin crimson.


Once the skin tones were laid in, I switched to the garments. At first, I was going to keep them light – white, but I decided the figure would appear more powerful and active if the clothing was dark. The initial wash was light and scrubby as I determined the shadow shapes.


So I continued to build layers of color, using a primary triad, until I had a full range of values from light to dark, and rich blues, reds and golds.


I used gouache and colored pencil to add detail to the sword and skin areas, and corrected the curve of the cape to depict a more accurate contour. Then I finished the detailing with more saturated colors and accents. With my signature added, it’s a finished work.



This illustration is available as a digital print from my store.

Alvalyn Lundgren

Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and principal of Alvalyn Creative, an independent consultancy providing brand strategy design and bespoke illustration for more than 30 years. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business school and podcast for creative freelancers. She teaches design and design practice on the college level with design schools and programs.