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Joker Make up

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.

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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.

Out of 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.

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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?

Jackson Speed!

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.

Speed book sized 1

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.

Creating a graphic novel

I’ve always planned on creating a graphic novel of my own but never felt quite ready until now. I was recently approached by Don Christoff to help him bring his ‘Xtempore’ story to life. I’ve read a lot of scripts over the years, and the thing that usually first jumps out is the thought “Well I wouldn’t have said it like that”. But in this case that didn’t happen. Don’s script, particularly his dialogue was tight and snappy and the subject matter was right up my street.

Xtempore is a cat and mouse tale of time travellers, artificial intelligence and knife wielding lunatics, all set in post-pandemic dystopian world. It makes for a rich world for me to illustrate and it’s a hell of a lot of work. Most comics are created by a team featuring a penciller, an inker, a colourist and a letterer. But in this case it all falls to me.

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Working in Zbrush means that the early stages of a project like this are quite slow as I build all the required models. But once I have them I can manipulate them repeatedly and move the characters into the correct positions for each frame, making the work go faster and faster. This means I don’t have the problem of always being careful to make the characters look the same in every panel, as it literally is the same model. I create the base of the image in Zbrush, then add inking layers in Photoshop, andassemble all the panels in Manga Studio.

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It’s all coming together nicely and both Don and I are really excited about the project. Coincidentally my brother got me a ticket to Comic-Con in London next month. So I’ll be able to meet a few other comic creators and show them what I’m producing.

Dumbledore and the Inferi

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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.

Fortress of Solitude

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!

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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!

 

Data Beast begins to growl!

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.

 

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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.

 

In the Batcave

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?

Batcave

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.

 

 

Zbrush Power

I’m continually amazed by how amazing Zbrush is. Every update Pixologic releases seems to be a massive leap forward. I’m late to the party as I’m sure every other Zbrush user is well aware of the BPR filters, but I had no idea. What a muppet I was to be ignoring this amazing feature! While before I would have spent ages lighting a model just so, then exporting it to photoshop and working over it for hours, the BPR filters let me instantly add multiple effects, tints, hues, glows, noise, and many more. 

Just testing it out, I took an old model I made of Garth Nix’s “Sabriel” character and started playing. With just a little experimentation I quickly managed to create a really nice effect. This is likely going to change how I work significantly. 

Here’s my little test image. 

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St Ignifer’s Rise

 

Many years ago I attended Lancaster university and had by most accounts a pretty awesome time. I went through a phase of joining every society under the sun and paid visits to the Hip Hop society, the Karate club, the Archery club and many more. It was in the Karate club that I met a guy called Mike Grist. God knows Mike was a lot better at Karate than me and I still remember the session where we were partnered up and had to pummel each other in the stomach and the way I groaned after the class.

 

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Years later and Mike is living in Japan, and has become an explorer and prolific writer. This is taken from his page:

 

“Michael John Grist is a 33-year old British writer and ruins photographer who lives in Tokyo, Japan. He writes dark surreal fiction, with stories published in numerous pro-fiction magazines. He also explores and photographs abandoned places around Japan, such as ruined theme parks, military bases, underground bunkers, and ghost towns. These explores have drawn millions of visitors to his website michaeljohngrist.com, and often provide inspiration for his fiction.”

 

I contacted him last year to see if he would consider me as the supplier of his next book cover. Mike kindly agreed and very soon I was working on the cover for his first fantasy novel “St Ignifer’s Rise”. The image is done is my usual mix of 3D and 2D imagery. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I’m especially proud of the scars that cover the face of the main character Sen. Zbrush is perfect for that kind of job.

 

The book is finally on release and is available for purchase through amazon.

 

Check out Mike’s site for some pretty great book reviews, ruins articles and other bits and bobs.

 

http://www.michaeljohngrist.com/#sthash.ZjJS6i5q.dpbs

 

And pick up a copy of his book on amazon.co.uk!

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saint-Ignifers-Rise-Ignifer-Cycle/dp/1496165748

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http://www.michaeljohngrist.com