Images From Around this Blog!

17 August 2016

Painting Process - Brain Dead's Disaster Ahead

Hot off the drawing board is the latest album cover for L.A. thrash band Brain Dead.  Once again, I get the pleasure of illustrating the adventures of Billy Brains for these guys.  This one marks my fourth outing for their music, having done the label for their EP and the covers for Indoctrinator and their team-up with Six Pack of Doom.
Having rediscovered a taste for working in physical media lately, I wanted to do this one as a full-on painting, with as little computer work as possible.  I thought it might be interesting to post some of my process for this piece, so I tried to remember to photograph the piece at each stage of progress.  Click any of the images to see them at a larger size.

Seen below are the major inspirations for the painting, Alex Ross and Robert Williams.  I turned to Ross for technique, as he's one of the few artists I know who's not afraid to work with straight black, and because I wanted to experiment with his style of underpainting.  William, meanwhile, informed my sense of design and color choice.  Although they may seem like an odd pairing, when I got into it, I discovered they were more alike than you'd at first realize.  This is probably due to both having their roots firmly in the comic industry and bringing that perspective to their work.



The band sent me a fairly detailed description of what they wanted to see in this piece.  It was just up to me to tweak the design a bit, then execute it with detailed touches of my own.  My first step was actually to gather some photo reference for the piece and paste together a sort of digital collage, tweaking the elements until I got the composition I was looking for.

Working in Sketchbook Pro on my tablet PC, I turned that collage into a "pencil" drawing where I laid in some of the details I wanted to see in the finished piece.  This was roughed in color in Photoshop and sent to the band for approval and/or corrections.  There was only one critique to come from this; I had originally placed logos of other bands as stickers on the dashboard, intending them as a tribute to some of Brain Dead's musical influences.  They decided they didn't want them there, which makes sense in retrospect, as that might cause legal issues.  So even though I thought it would be a cool tribute, I removed them and later replaced them with parodied versions of L.A. area radio station logos.


Once the composition was nailed down, I chose my work surface for the finished painting.  A nice big (20 x 30") piece of cold press illustration board did the job.  It had a bit more tooth than I like on my boards, so I applied about half a dozen coats of gesso, with sanding in between.  When that was done, I had a nice bright, white, smooth surface on which to paint.  I blew up the color rough to size and had it printed in 11 x 17 sections that were taped together to make a full-sized print.  With this and a 6B pencil, the drawing was transferred to the board.

After each session at the drawing board, I will stand back for a few minutes and just study the piece to make sure I like the way it's working out.  After transferring the drawing, I decided that the composition seemed a little too stiff for my liking.  The solution was to change Billy's pose to something more dynamic.  I think this gave more energy and interest to the piece, while still maintaining the balance of the composition.


Once I was satisfied with the drawing once again, I started in on the underpainting.  This was done in two passes, one to just pick out the forms in black, with no concerns for shading at this point.


The second pass added grey tones that I hoped would show through in the final painting.  Alex Ross uses gouache for his color work, which is naturally more transparent, but I find that if I thin my acrylics enough and work quickly enough, I can achieve a satisfactory level of transparency as well.





Now I'm ready to start blocking in the color, starting with the background.  I'm pretty sloppy at this stage, as I'm not concerned about colors overlapping too much until I get into the detail work.  I've learned from studying the work of artists like Boris Vallejo that it can be a benefit to have some mingling of color to create subtlety in the finished work.

From that point, it's just a matter of laying down the color in several layers, working from "back to front" for the details.  The big challenge for me was to render the borealis behind Billy on the right, as this was something I had never attempted before.  I had actually rendered this in a completely different way before deciding I didn't like the results and painting over the whole area and starting again.


More detail work.  You can see that the thing is finally starting to come together.  Note the bands of black at both sides of the painting.  As this is for a CD cover, the painting had to be square, which meant that I had leftover space at each side of my board.  I coated these areas in black and tested out my borealis technique on them.  This leads to an interesting result later on.


Nearly there.  All the major colors are in place and most of the details picked out.  Here, I'm trying to work out things like light and shadow, plus tiny details like the photo CD's in the visors, and the faux radio station logos on the dashboard.


And done.  There's a few tweaks left to do once I have this thing scanned, but otherwise, it's complete.  There's still a few things I'm not entirely happy with, but I learned long ago that I'll never be completely happy with any piece of work, and there comes a time when you just have to put down the paintbrush and call it a day.  If I give in to the temptation to continue tweaking a piece, it will end up overworked and possibly just a big brown/grey mess.

You can also see now what I ended up doing with the empty space off to the sides.  I thought it would be fun to do quick, impressionist portraits of the band members (plus Billy!) from photos on their Facebook profiles.  These were executed in about 5 minutes each, using a square brush loaded with titanium white, with a bit of black to pull out some details.  I'm not much of a portraitist, but this was a quick bit of fun.

A closer look at the band portraits.





And, finally, the finished piece with all the digital work done and the band logo dropped in.  This is, more or less, how it will appear on the CD cover.  The sharp-eyed fans on Facebook seem to have been having fun picking out all the details and metal music references worked into the painting.  I won't spoil the fun by listing them all here, but there are quite a few in there.

This is one of the most fun pieces I've done in years, partly because of the subject matter, and partly because I really enjoyed getting back into acrylics to this depth.  It helps too that I actually enjoy Brain Dead's music (Indoctrinator was my soundtrack more than once while painting this) and the guys are great to work with.
While you're here (you are still here, right?) let me suggest you check out Brain Dead's music over at Bandcamp and on Facebook.  If you like your music on the heavy side, this will definitely please you.  These guys really bring the goods.  Watch for the new album, "Disaster Ahead" to drop there soon.


22 June 2016

New Work Published: The Disremembered Word by Dr. David Brzezinski

Actually, I think this one's been out for a while, and it's been complete for even longer than that, but this is the first time I've actually seen the Amazon Listing for it.


 

I've done several projects for David Brzezinski (in fact I'm just starting out on another one), and he always presents me with a challenge. 
This book is a dystopian YA novel with a clearly Christian theme.  While I don't specifically do religious themed work, the description of the cover was interesting to me, and the idea of trying a different method to create the image allowed me to approach the project with a certain measure of objectivity.
For this one, I was inspired particularly by the work of John Picacio, and I wanted to experiment with creating the subtle tones he gets for some of his work.  A close up look at this cover would have you think it was done in pencil.  It was...sort of.  I drew the whole thing using the pencil tools in Sketchbook Pro, then colored it with a limited palette and minimal shading in Photoshop.  It was a surprisingly laborious process to get the pencil tones just right, but the control it gave me was fantastic, and I think the end result was worth it.
If you are, or know, a younger reader who would enjoy a Hunger Games-esque story, I recommend you give this one a try.  While you're at it, check out David's other work; you'll find a few more covers and such I did as well.


25 May 2016

Now Available: The Journals of Simon Pariah #3!

Available now in print and download options is "The Journals of Simon Pariah" #3.  The story this time around is "Dust and Bones", in which Simon travels to the mountains of Tibet to attempt to rescue the inhabitants of a Buddhist monastery from the onrushing tide of Chinese Communism.  What will he find there, and will he be in time?  You will have to read it to find out.



Warning:  This issue is not for the squeamish.  Not for violence as such but for...well, you'll see.





Issue 3 is available at all the usual outlets.  Choose your option below to order your copy.  As always, comments and criticisms are tremendously welcome, either here or by email at info@aimcomics.com.


Get Simon Pariah in print at Amazon.com.

Get Simon Pariah in print at Amazon.ca.

Get Simon Pariah in digital download at DriveThruComics.

Click below to get buy issue 3 in pdf format right now!


Buy Issue 3 on Gumroad!

14 April 2016

Now Available: Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 6

The latest book from AIM Comics, "The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit" Vol. 6, is now available via the usual suspects.  Head over to AIM Comics to get the skinny.


Also...just look at that cover, will you?  Ian kicked ass on that one, and it was a delight to color.  Some jobs are just too much fun.

28 March 2016

If anyone's still reading this blog, they'll see that I've had a bit of a creative slump in recent months.  It's been hard to find a) inspiration, b) time and c) energy to work on anything worthwhile.  This has been for a number of reasons, chief among them being:

1) I've put aside my Fiverr gig and stopped doing free work for anyone.  As a result, it seems that fewer people want your work when you're not giving it away, or selling your time for a fraction of what it's worth.

2) The dreaded personal issues.  The bane of every blogger and creative person.  I won't drag out the details, and the issues are not resolved, but I think I'm handling them with a little more balance right now.

After waking up a little and realizing that I'm not getting any younger, while the projects I want to work on are only piling up, I am making an attempt to get a little bit of creative inertia going.  I'm basing my current efforts on the idea that it's better to do a little each day and move something...anything!...forward than to spend a lot of days doing nothing and try to be creative in bursts, or when inspiration strikes.  This way, I get to keep a sense of some kind of accomplishment while maintaining a balance with everything else in my life.

The result so far is that I've got several projects currently active (meaning they are on my drawing board and being worked on, as opposed to being something I'll get to "someday").  Those include:

1) Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 6 for AIM Comics.  The book is nearly done and should be ready to go within a month.

2) The Journals of Simon Pariah issue 3.  You'd think since I'm still mainly scanning and cleaning up old work, I'd be faster with this...but I'm not.  Nevertheless, it is getting done.

3) New album cover for Brain Dead.  Yup.  Watch for it.

4) Supernatural Horror in Literature.  Years overdue, I'm finally making real (if tentative) progress on the illustrated version of H.P. Lovecraft's essay.  This is a labor of love, so it's not going to be done real soon, but it definitely running at a higher priority right now.

In addition, I'm adding new work to my Etsy store.  The originals I sell there are less demanding than some of my other work, but more fun to create.  Plus, it's a fun way to clear out some of my comic book collection.

So stay tuned....it will arrive slowly, but for anyone who's paying attention, there is definitely more work coming!

04 March 2016

Coming Soon: Dread Streets

I've just turned in the cover for this project.  Check out their website to see the first miniatures made from my work, and watch for their Kickstarter project.  Lend them a hand if you can, and get in on the ground floor of a great new game!



Dread Streets



I'll post more of the work here as soon as it's available online.

15 October 2015

Fear is the Mind Killer! - Dune Poster at Patreon

Recently completed and newly added to my Patreon feed, here's my tribute to Frank Herbert's "Dune" series of novels.  I can't believe it took me this long to get around to reading these books, but now that I have, I finally recognize what great works they are.  The first novel deserves its place as a masterpiece of science fiction, and the following novels are, for me, the kind of world building I like to see around a story of such scale.  This is the kind of approach that films such as Star Wars and Star Trek (and to a lesser degree the Marvel Cinematic Universe) have the potential to develop.

Core to the Dune series, and for me an important theme of the first novel, is the idea of overcoming fear through an effort of self-determination, as represented by the Bene Gesserit creed.  It was that idea that inspired this piece, a strong visual image of a single person against the vastness of the desert.  It is, I think, a subtle depiction of the kind of heroism I find echoed by many of my favorite authors - Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ayn Rand, and now Frank Herbert.

As this is not an officially licensed work, I cannot make it commercially available, but a limited selection of prints will be available to my Patreon supporters.  You can find the link in the sidebar.

Click the image to see it at a larger size.