I was recently contacted to do a little job that turned out to be exactly the kind of work I love.
Sarah Mackie has written a great story of time travel set in an apocalyptic future full of natural disasters and personal tragedies. Weirdly it was titled “Out of time” which is the second time I’ve worked on a story with that title.
Sarah had a very specific idea of what the cover should look like and I managed to complete it in record time. I think character based images that are full of atmospheric lighting effects might be my speciality.
When it came to that nervous moment where I have to show the client the first draft Sarah came back right away with the words “WOW! Nailed it!”
I love to draw lighting. Maybe I should do an illustration of Thor! Or even Tesla!
I thought I’d do a little recap of how things have been going since I left the world of banking and started on my journey to become a professional artist.
Since taking the leap into full time illustration I’ve taken some pretty big strides with my work. I’ve shifted from being solely a photoshop artist to primarily using Zbrush 3D as my main piece of software. Zbrush gives a totally different effect from most other workflows out there, and by using it I can achieve incredible textures and detail including everything from atmospheric lighting to animal fur and chainmail.
Since going full time I’ve had a lot of great projects to work on including a children’s horror series published by Wayland, a number of fantasy covers, comics, children’s books and even a couple of projects from Hollywood writers and producers. Not a bad start. I’m finding that my best work is usually based around animals and I seem to be attracting a lot of authors who write about adventurous beasties such as this cover for Gila Basalo’s “Bugsintown”.
Aside from continuing to work on children’s titles, my other target is to work on comics. I’ve put together some pretty decent mock covers that I hope will cause a stir at conventions and land me some work.
To this end I’ve been lucky enough to find support and encouragement from one of the big names of the comic world, Charlie Adlard. Charlie is the current artist on the incredibly popular Walking Dead series, and he’s been kind enough to help promote, guide and nudge me in the right artistic direction.
It’s been a great year so far and I can’t wait to see what the next big project might be.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a post so it’s time to get back to it.
This month has been all about landscapes since I’ve been commissioned to do a series of fine art images to hang on the walls of a local gallery. It’s been a really good exercise for me as I’ve picked up a few new tricks. I’m a sucker for a good rainy day so I wanted to get this across in a couple of the images.
The reaction to the images in the gallery has been really amazing. They seem to be the front runner for the gallery best seller this year. This image seemed to be missing something until I added the bobble hat to the fisherman!
I think each image has been slightly better than the last as I’ve learned new things and refined the technique.
This was probably my favourite….
But then I did this one and it’s now my new fave! I’ve got a great fondness for Barmouth harbour and especially Isis Restaurant where I used to work as their pizza guy. Hands down my favourite place for a spicy pizza.
I’ve really enjoyed doing these and may do a few more depending on the demand in the gallery.
In a few days I’ll be attending a prestigious event. My nephew Rafferty is turning 4 years old. I’ve been indoctrinating him over the last year or two and he’s now thoroughly into superheroes. A while back his Mum asked me (with a raised eyebrow) who this “Bruce Wayne” person was that Rafferty kept talking about. I knew then that my work was done. He was hooked.
So the theme of Raffy’s party could only be one thing. Everyone is coming as Superheroes and Supervillains. I asked Raffy what he thought I should be, and he said with no doubt that I should come as the Joker. Being a huge nerdy I wanted to go as something a bit more obscure, but Raffy’s wish was my command. So I sent off for the facepaint and a prison inmate uniform. The uniform was rather bright and clean, but a muddy puddle soon took care of that. Now it’s sufficiently grubby and gross. I also stencilled in the word “Gotham” above the preprinted letters “City Jail” to give it that nice extra detail.
Now for the face. Using the cheapest nastiest facepaint I could find I thought I’d have a test run before the party. I got a bit freaked out as I worked, as I started to look a wee bit creepy. I shaded in the natural lines in my face so that when I grinned the shadows fell in the right places. White highlights really worked to make certain areas pop out and seemed to actually lengthen my nose somehow. The wonders of makeup. And this was the final result.
Not too shabby. But I may have gone too far. The 4 year olds are going to CRY!
But it was interesting to see how my illustration skills transferred onto facepainting. Using the simple set of paints I was partially able to mimic the lighting effects that I use in Zbrush all the time.
The ‘Out of Time’ enhanced graphic novel is picking up steam and more people are joining the team. We’ve now got Brian Philips on board as our Unity developer, so he’s the guy who’s going to be adding the cool special effects to the comic panels. I’m a huge Bladerunner fan, so pretty much every scene in Out of Time is drenched with Bladerunner-esqe rain that Brain will be creating with the Unity engine.
We’ve also got Jessica Haeckell working on marketing and web design, but even more interestingly she’s also going to be the real life basis for one of our characters. Jess is a musician, artist, costume designer and all around creator. So when Don suggested she literally step into the comic, she jumped at it.
I now have the daunting task of capturing her likeness and putting her into the comic. Jess is excited to make a real life representation of Millenia’s suit, so she can cosplay as the character during the first issue launch at the Phoenix Arizon Comic Con.
The art seems to be improving with each panel and everyone seems to be really excited about the project. Add to all this the relentless plotting and scheming of Don Christoff, and his determination to use every marketing trick in the book, and I’m sure we’re going to have a successful outcome.
Don just dropped a bomb on me and announced that he’s landed us the rights to use a Hawkwind song on the soundtrack. It took a while as the band were on tour in Europe and had to give permission, but now they’ve given the project the thumbs up!
I’m very impressed with how Don seems totally fearless when it comes to self promotion. I’ve always been caught in that trap of having some talent, but being rather shy and humble about it! Not a great trait in a professional artist. So working with Don has been a real masterclass in beating my own drum. If I don’t do it, who will?
Author Rob Peecher recently got in touch with me regarding the artwork for his Civil War series.
The story revolves around self professed coward, Jackson Speed as he lies, cheats and bed hops his way through the American Civil War. I’m a sucker for a roguish character, so when Rob asked me to help him rework the covers on his series I quickly agreed.
As usual I worked hard to create interesting lighting and shadows (that’s kind of my thing) and i think it worked out pretty well. I had great fun designing all the details for both Union and Confederate uniforms (there’s a hint of what happens in the story!) and Rob was really helpful with providing me with lots of historically accurate reference materials.
Rob was delighted with the final result and the book should be available on amazon soon.
I found myself with a little spare time recently so I decided to try and illustrate one of my favourite scenes from the Harry Potter series. I always loved this moment when Dumbledore shows us just what he can do, despite being wounded.
It was great fun to design all the different types of Inferi in various states of decomposition. But I think my favourite thing about this image is the look on Harry’s face as he watches in awe.
I’m really happy with how this one turned out and if you scroll back to the beginnings of this blog I think you’ll see a progression.
A few weeks ago the “Fatman on Batman” Kev Smith inspired me to try my hand at a Batman illustration and I came up with my Batcave seen below. Mr Smith apparently saw my tweet about him and was kind enough to hit me back. In his last podcast he was chatting about Twitter and said he “hit back an artist the other day.” No idea if that was me, but I choose to believe it was! Thanks Fatman! Gave me buzz!
I thought I’d follow it up with a Superman image, this time focussing on the environment instead of the character. It’s kind of inspired by Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman. It didn’t turn out exactly how I planned, but it’s still not a bad effort. I like to think it looks like a piece of concept art for the movie that never was.
What should I do next? Maybe Billy Batson arriving at the Rock of Eternity for the first time before he becomes Captain Marvel! Shazam!
After a hell of a lot of work, the first book in the Data Beast series is soon to be published. “Bullies and the Beast” is the first adventure featuring two young friends who accidentally conjure up a their own personal monster. The series is aimed at young people who don’t necessarily like to read that much. Good news for an illustrator as the pictures obviously play a big role in trying to get them interested in the story.
The book was written by Andrew Fusek Peters, the author of dozens of other books and graphic novels. See my earlier posts to hear a bit more about him.
Although book one is just coming out, three others will be hot on its heels. All the work is done, with finishing touches being applied to book four at this moment. With each book I was seeing a jump in the quality of my work as I was slaving away day and night. Book four is my favourite by far as it’s set mostly in the dark, allowing me the chance to do lots of dramatic shadows and lighting.
Hopefully the publisher is happy and will want to use me again. When people ask me what I do, it feels amazing to be able to say that I’m an illustrator. It usually causes an eyebrow to be raised or a smile to break out across the asker’s face. Much more so than when I used to say I worked in a bank.
Now I want to keep the ball rolling and land my next big job.
For the last few months I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts and stumbled across a great one by movie director Kevin Smith. “The Fatman on Batman” is a brilliant listen for people who take their comicbooks seriously and Mr Smith has been able to attract some amazing people who have had a hand in bringing Batman’s world to life. Guest have included everyone from Adam West to Mark Hamill. A lot of people don’t realise that Luke Skywalker’s longest running role has actually been as the Joker in the Batman animated series and the Arkham games. Who knew that the Jedi Master could get so evil?
The show inspired me to turn my illustration skills to depicting the Dark Knight himself. I wanted to show a side of the invincible Batman that we don’t often see. Hurt, battered and patching himself up. The image was made up mostly in Zbrush with compositing and final touches done in Photoshop. Who shall I do next? Spiderman maybe? Superman in the Fortress of Solitude would be challenging. I reckon I could make some pretty great crystal effects with a bit of work.
Watch this space to see what I come up with.