Just before Christmas I finished working on an unusual project for me. I was approached to work on a few comic pages for a Kickstarter campaign that was aiming to secure funds for a much larger project.
Scarecrow V is essentially a horror story, but a lot of the horror comes not from the usual slasher or murdery type of stuff, but instead comes from the more day to day horrors of the meat industry.
The pages were finished in time for the New Year which is when a lot of people choose to go vegan after overindulging over the holiday period. The Kickstarter campaign is coming soon so we’ll see if it gets funded.
I was always a Turtles kid. I was OBSESSED with the cartoon when it played in the UK. For us they were the Teenage Mutant HERO turtles as “Ninjas” were just too goshed darn violent for the vulnerable minds of British kids. In our version they even had to edit the show so that you never saw Michelangelo’s Nunkaku as they were illegal at the time. Swords? No problem! Two sticks connected by a string? How dare you? Lock them up!!!
When the film from 1990 appeared in cinemas my Dad grudgingly took me along. I had already watched the behind the scene’s documentary and managed to record it off the TV onto VHS and watched it hundreds of times. So it was fair to say I was excited.
We came out of the cinema and I was blown away and declared it a cinematic masterpiece. Dad never let me forget that! The best film ever! I stand by that. Sure, Vanilla Ice would come along later and rap “Go ninja go ninja go!” and spoil everything, the turtles would travel in time, sure… but that first one was clean. And yes, I know you can see the actors eyes peeking out through the mouths of the turtle suits. I didn’t notice or care.
Now that I’m an adult and a full time artist, (and if I had access to the turtles’ time travel device) I would no doubt blow my younger self’s mind by telling him that one day he would actually work on the Ninja Turtles himself and find a small place in their story.
This year I nervously attended “Comics Salopia” in Shrewsbury and queued up for portfolio reviews. I’ve had some bad experiences at Comic conventions in the past. My style isn’t typical and that’s sometimes met with a resistance. But when I met Chris Ryall from IDW and he said the words “Is there any property we have that you’d be interested in working on?” there was only one word that squeaked out. “Turtles?”
It didn’t happen immediately. I had to pester them a little. At first I got the “We don’t have anything for you right now.” emails and despaired. But I kept at it. I even started to mock up my own Turtles comic to show them. Just a three page, self contained story about Raphael dreaming of an endless battle while being in a coma. I was determined to wow them! They would have no choice dammit!
My birthday came around and on the way to get my car to drive to my birthday dinner, I found my car had been smashed to pieces when an elderly driver got confused and hit the wrong pedal. No one was hurt, but it made my birthday pretty miserable.
Then….the day after, an email arrived. The best email ever. There was a cover spot open. IDW had a Ninja Turtles cover they needed doing, and I was going to do it! My birthday has now been officially moved!
I worked very hard on it. It had to be perfect, and I am pretty proud of it. Dad would be amused, and would likely roll his eye a little too, but I’m pretty sure he’d be proud too.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on my entry for the Posterspy competition to design an alternative poster for AMC’s hit show “Preacher”. There’s some really good entries by some incredible artists so we’ll see what happens.
This was done using a blend of techniques from both the 3D and 2D world. My intention was to have the realism and and vivid lighting and shadows that come with 3D design, while also paying homage to the show’s comic book origins with some traditional inking and crosshatching.
It’s my first attempt at a film poster so I’m pretty happy with the results.
In other news, on Friday night Claire and I attended James Newton Howard’s first ever live tour performance at the Royal Albert Hall. It was my first time visiting the hall and it was incredible to say the least. We heard many of his classic scores including music from The Dark Knight, The Village, The Hunger Games and many more. Howard himself seemed an incredibly likeable and humble man who gave a lot of credit to the people he’s worked with, and he even let slip that his colleague and friend Hans Zimmer was somewhere in the audience. That sent an excited murmur through the crowd to know we were sharing the space with two musical legends!
Having a great year so far on the illustration front. I’ve been working on an amazing project with author Mark Morrow. Mark is putting together an amazing graphic novel adaptation of his novel “Dangerous Children”, a tale of interdimensional travel, cyborg teenagers, robotic rhinos, and wall climbing jet cycles. So plenty of scope for an illustrator like me! It’s a really collaborative experience as I’ve been working with Dennis Fallon and his team of story board artists, and Shari Wickstrom who provided concept art. My job is to provide the final artwork for the whole novel.
The project also has some ties with LucasFilm and Star Wars veteran Gary Rydstrom who’s been offering guidance and feedback on the project. It’s all going really well so far!
I’m coming to the the end of my comic project and it’s been a huge learning experience. I’ve picked up a ton of new tricks and my workflow is a lot smoother.
The author seems pretty pleased with the results and is now in the middle of a rewrite to make sure the art and text blend together seamlessly.
I’m hoping to get more work in book covers after this, but also have plenty of comic work coming in too. Can’t wait to get to the end of this one and see the finished project. Just two more pages to go!
Towards the end of last year I landed one of my favourite jobs to date. Scott Devon approached me with a really exciting project, a short graphic novel full of mythical beasts, magic and mystery. Some comic creators are afraid to veer away from the standard pen and ink method, but Scott wanted me to go nuts and illustrate the hell out of it! Hopefully this is what he had in mind.
Ever since I was a little kid copying pictures of Judge Dredd from 2000AD comics, I’d had a dream of one day working in comics. I pretty much abandoned the idea when I left college and found all the artistic idealism had been sucked out of me. I entered the real world, got a job in a bank and proceeded to be miserable for the next few years.
I finally shook off the grey fog and dusted off my long forgotten drawing skills and painstakingly began to work.
One tiny job doing a book cover for an indie author led to another, this time a slightly bigger author. Then another and another. The ball started to roll and I got better and better. Now I’m starting to attend comic conventions and meet the makers of those same comics that I would copy while lying on the living room floor. Now when people ask me what I do, instead of muttering something about being in banking, I get to say that I’m an artist. When I say that I pretty much pinch myself and think “Holy crap! I AM an artist! How did I manage that?”
Next month I’ll be heading the the International Comics Expo and then to Comics Uncovered the next day. I’ve only ever been to one other Comic convention, that time a fun visit with my brother Sean to the London Film and Comic Con where we enjoyed goggling at the bizarre cosplay sights and I got to meet Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica!
This time it’s Comics Uncovered for a day of workshops, talks from comic pros and the nerve wracking portfolio reviews. I’ve decided to submit my work for reviews and I’ve got appointments booked in with DC, Titan and Markosia.
I’m pretty nervous, but I’ve been working hard and building up a number of images to show them. Time to get some business cards I think!
This one I’m particularly fond of. I’m a huge fan on Stephen King, especially the Marvel Comics versions drawn by Jae Lee. So here’s my own attempt at a Dark Tower cover. If you’ve read a single King book you’ll probably be familiar with some of the characters as the Dark Tower books seem to touch on pretty much every other King book there is. There’s connections to the Stand, the Shining, Hearts in Atlantis, Rose Madder, and IT to name just a few.
This image was completed really quickly. I already had a design for a cowboy character prepared in Zbrush from another project so I was able to breath new life into it here. This image was completed in just one day.
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.
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.
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.