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?”
Really exciting to see the amazing reaction to my latest image in the ongoing Barmouth series. After showing the image on facebook, so far I’ve reached 10 thousand people in just a couple of days. That’s by far the best reaction I’ve had so far. The comments I’ve been receiving have been overwhelmingly positive.
“You make our town come alive with these drawings.”
“I love it.This picture not only captures the look of Barmouth, but also the character and “feel” of the place”
When I first started this series I had no idea if the local people would like my style and the fairytale look for the images so it’s really gratifying to see this reaction.
I’m not sure where to draw next, but I’ve had a few requests for the church and that means I might be able to fit in the famous (C)arousal cafe, complete with its oft stolen letter ‘C’.
In the 90s there was a pretty cool anime out there called “Guyver. Bioboosted Armor.” There were a couple of terrible live actions movies, but they never came close to nailing the awesomeness of the cartoon. I loved the design of the bio-suit and I was always doodling it while I watched the VHS tapes of the show.
When I first started getting into illustration as more than a hobby I attempted a version of the battered Guyver helmet. At the time I was pretty happy with it, but now it makes me cringe!
Last night I decided to take another crack at it, and it’s really gratifying to see I’ve made some progress over the last few years.
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!
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.
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.
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.
And pick up a copy of his book on amazon.co.uk!
Being a digital artist is pretty great, but in one area it’s annoying. Not to be too mercenary, but one of the most lucrative parts of being an artist is the sale of originals. And when all your work is created in a digital space then best you can hope for is a limited edition print. But somehow even that doesn’t have the same feel as an original where you can see all the brushstrokes and imagine how the artist once stood before that very canvas just as you’re standing there now.
So I decided to find out if I still have the artistic chops to make something without the help of Photoshop, Zbrush or Painter. Just plain paper, pencils and an eraser. I thought I’d use one of my own digital images as a springboard and kind of do a retroactive original of my Mad Hatter picture.
Hmmm…starting to enjoy myself.
Ok, not too bad for a first attempt. I haven’t touched a pencil in about 4 years, so I’m fairly happy. I’ll keep at it and see if I can resurrect the old skills. So you never know, you might be able to pick up one of my originals some time soon. This one is destined for the States, going to my friend Suzanne. She made me a wooly hat recently, so it’s only fair that she gets the Hatter!
Don’t forget to check out my work on my other sites!
Being an illustrator with a bit of photoshop skill can be fun when it comes to dealing with kids. My nephew Rafferty is starting to really use his imagination in his games so when we took a trip to Newborough woods in Anglesey I saw the chance for a bit of fun.
I’d recently heard about a guy who took his star wars mad kids to a huge forrest and convinced them that the ewoks really lived there. He soon had them sneaking around hunting for ewoks and running away when they got too close, taking photos the whole time. Of course he then simply had to photoshop a bunch of ewoks into the photos and they had hard proof of their adventure.
So why couldn’t we have a similar adventure? Rafferty just happens to be a big fan of the Gruffalo, and we even saw a rare red squirrel as soon as we arrived, as though inviting us to start the story.
So we told him we were going on a walk and to be on the look out for Gruffalo. At first we had to convince him that the swaying tree in the distance was the result of the great beast stomping through the woods, but in no time at all he was declaring that he could see it for himself! When Janet (his mum) hid behind a tree and screamed at the top of her lungs that the Gruffalo was after her, Rafferty (all of three years old) ran to her rescue, shaking his fists in the general direction of the danger.
When we got back home and packed the little man off to bed, I set to work. I whipped up a Gruffalo in Zbrush, then shopped him into our dramatic pictures. Not bad for an evenings work. Now we have the fun part of showing Rafferty that his adventure was real!