Saturday, 13 May 2017

Frankenmay Process

I had this idea for a political cartoon. Theresa Maybe and her cobbled together monster of lifeless Conservative  policies. After a year spent dismantling public services she is suddenly all for the working classes in the run up to the snap general election on June 8th 2017. That was the nub of the idea. Cobbled together policies and a slogan that is so 'We're all in this together' bland and meaningless she might as well be saying 'UP YOURS'. The one thing the UK is at the moment and that is STRONG and STABLE. I live in the North of England and it is particularly GRIM, especially for anybody involved in the 'creative arts'.

I digress, back to the illustration process business in hand. Above is the blue pencil sketch which was to become the underdrawing to this piece. Using a lightpad I drew with a dip pen and ink. It is NOT TRACING but using the sketch as a layout guide. I use a dip pen because I find, it is difficult to get precise lines and creates a more spontaneous and lively looking drawing.


Saying that, I liked parts of the drawing but there was something about the monster's open mouth, a lively and spontaneous decision I decided to go with when I was drawing that now didn't feel quit right. Was the lifeless monster crying out in pain? Laughing? Listening to dance music? Focus needed to be on the creator, the real monster in the piece. Also I didn't like the lettering, it looked a bit rushed and I knew I could do better.


There were a lot of lines and time involved in that first inking attempt. I did the next  drawing with a Pilot Parallel Pen which  is a thicker mark making tool an was a little bit quicker to ink with. I loved the look of the monster  in this one, stoic in life or death, putting up with the madness of an evil social engineer. Wasn't too happy about her hand though and the face was a bit off too. In the tradition of the best editors I liked a little bit of something from each drawing, "Could you just use the best bits from both drawings and..." Gah!


Which is what I did in Photoshop. Overlaying the two inked layers and erasing the worst bits and keeping the lines I really liked. A bit like cobbling together my very own perfect monster of a drawing.


"Alive, ALIVE! The drawing is ALIVE!" That line coincidently comes from the 1931 black and white Frankenstein film, I viewed this scene on YouTube for reference and the next line is "Now I know what it feels like to BE GOD!" which is quite apt for the way the Conservative's money grabbing low wage poverty inducing polices have been sneaked into place. The money, OUR money is still there, it's just trickled up to the top. STOP IT!


I threw a back and white tint over the top just to reference the original film a bit more and it helps to push the speech bubbles forward too.

Frankenmay and Her Monster


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Book Cover Illustration
'The Knights of Shire'


The commission was specific in that it had to be an image of a tram on Chantry Bridge in Wakefield (which was a real thing in the 1950's and 60's). David (the author) sent me descriptions from the book that talked about specific things, like the ads on the side of the tram.


I started with a thumbnail sketch illustrating the authors initial brief. Then I did a tighter pencil drawing from photo reference of trams and bridges and a quick trip out with my camera (I live 10 minutes down the road from the bridge). It became obvious that the bridge is a totally different design from how I first sketched it.

My first attempt at inking was with a dip pen using a light box to ink over the pencil drawing, on a fresh sheet of heavy weight cartridge paper. The lines were too fine and a bit hesitant, making the inked drawing feel like a colouring-in book illustration.

I was much happier with the second attempt at inking using a Pilot Parallel Pen. This time I forgoed the light pad and inked over the pencil drawing instead. The texture marks are a lot bolder and say 'stone bridge' more than the dip pen’s cross hatching. The whole image feels more individual and unique to me.

I scanned and sized the black and white drawing to 300dpi at A3 in Photoshop.

Next is the tedious act of Flat Colouring the elements in Photoshop, this allows me to select areas of the illustration when I'm texturing the colours later on adding highlights, shadows and textures in Photoshop. Using light to bring interest and focus to areas of the image. Although the bridge and tram are real things the book has an otherworldly edge to it which I wanted to convey.

I sent the image over to David for approval who sent it on to his designer who did a quick cover mock-up of what the cover might look like.




The final cover looks different as the designer incorporated character and book series logo which you can see over on the Amazon website here.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Sketchbook Scenes from
'To The Stars By The Hard Ways'




So I came across this Russian film on Youtube, via a music video which recommended that I watch Ran by Future Islands next, which I did. From their I was intrigued by a thumbnail for a track called 'Like The Moon' which someone had made an unofficial video for. I liked the imagery, wasn't sure whether it was old ‘old’ or modern, filmed in the style of an old movie but liked it enough to follow the link. The film has a few titles and has had several releases over the years. I'm going with 'To The Stars By The Hard Ways (1981/2001)' and yes, it is bonkers (inflatable robots, rainwear capes as everyday clothing etc), considering Star Wars was well in the world at this point it was a throw back to the cardboard SFX ‘outer space’ films of the 70′s.

For all its low budget Sci-Fi imagery it has a serious eco warning in that all the pictures of the dying planet Dessa were filmed here, on Earth.

Per Aspera Ad Astra (1981), Richard Viktorov, with English subtitles