Merry Drift-mas: 2016

Aieee, the image-making technique we do not speak of… Photography! Anyway, here’s some photos of this blog’s writer-gremlin doing some great big art at das supercool, independently-owned indie record store the Drift Record Shop in Totnes and having tons of fun in the process…

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016

I was painting (with real-life acrylic paint) the Christmas window at Drift. (I’d even go so far as to borrow my partner’s screen-printing ink hand-tray. Shh!)

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016

Working at this size after spending countless hours noodling over smallish bits of paper with varying sizes of ink marks was fantastically liberating. Look at the little twinkle in my bloodshot eye…

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016Cool records to be seen in the background, artist thankfully not in shot…

Drift Record Shop Robin Stylus Christmas window 2016The idea behind this was to clobber people in the eye with the massive, bold design as they walked up Totnes high street. I drew the outlines with a chunky liquid chalk marker to get them looking crisp before proceeding to block in with good old-fashioned paint and a brush.

Click the Christmas robin to be taken to Drift's classy-as-ya-like Instagram feed!

The finished thing! The idea is that the robin is using his beak as a stylus. y’see… Yep, it’s rude, we’re trying to provoke some kind of reaction here…

Many thanks to team Drift for the photos! You can peruse their wares by visiting their website, here.

The Chronicles of Deva: Revel

The year’s racing to an end and I haven’t even shown you all of The Chronicles of Deva characters I drew for Susan Ruth‘s series of prose novels, so let’s get right down to it.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

This is Revel. He’s a wayfarer. A wanderer. He lives outside and avoids people for the most part. Let’s not call him a tramp because that wouldn’t have any romance in it. An anyway, he’s ever so pretty. In a damp hedgerow kind of way.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

I had loads of fun with this, making him look a bit appealing, but still functional. (I enjoy solving problems about costume and possessions in character design, they’re problems I’m interested in that can easily be solved…) He also had to look a bit battered and run-down from all the sunlight. cold nights and dewy mornings.
Note the little drawing in the bottom left where I own up to this guy basically being my take on Snuffkin from the Moomins. Because I’d love to be Snuffkin from the Moomins. Who wouldn’t?

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: RevelCertain things set down or being refined; how he wears his gear and in what order and layers.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: RevelAnother stage of refining. I think the feedback was to not make him quite so weathered. (artists love drawing weathered and worn things, get them to draw something fresh or pristine and we struggle…) It might not be so obvious from the roughs but the cape is made of piece-meal bits of sackcloth.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

First rough for final image. Standing stones close in.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

Second rough for the final image composition, bit more space and the viewpoint slightly higher up.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

A scan of the lineart drawn with a dip-pen (Tachikawa G nib like those ‘mangaka’, nib fans) and ink over pencil lines. You can see the carvings on the standing stones a bit better here than on the final image.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

Watercolour greyscale texture painted on. Still imperfections in that and the linework at this stage before they got tweaked out in Photoshop. Not that any of them were huge and glaring at all, I just knew they were there, was all.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

Quick grab of the colours going behind the art in Photoshop. I’ve had to make these darker to show, as the way they’re done translucently (I’m surprised the dictionary on my web browser has that as a word, I’m possibly even more impressed that it’s a word at all) in Photoshop means it hard to show them without them looking odd.

Chronicles of Deva character roughs: Revel

The final again, just in case you’d forgotten what it looked like. The colour approach was – as with all the other images in this series – ‘limited palette’, which might make them look like a little bit of a non-event in the world of computer colouring where amazing levels of saturation abound, but the idea was to go for a more vintage look, with more restrained use of colour.

Next: the healer!

The Chronicles of Deva: Fafnir

So here’s some milestones. The first is that my partner Becky and I now have a beautiful baby son – called Sebastian – who’s about a month old and he’s amazing. He’s everything we could have wished for and more. We’re so happy.

The second milestone is nowhere quite so monumental. Case in point, it actually passed me by for a while until I twigged recently: I’ve been keeping a blog for ten years now.

Ten flipping years!

Sporadically occassionally for sure (hello, deadlines!), but the averages work out to fairly regular updates, which ain’t so bad. Blogging wasn’t exactly a brand new thing when I started back in 2006, these days it seems a little bit too… Static, in these days of multiple feeds on mobile devices. But oh well.
Everything is content and we’re all content providers now compared to a decade ago. Most of all; all content can be Shared and linked to.

So let me show you something: here’s another character portrait from Susan Ruth‘s ‘The Chronicles of Deva‘ prose novel series. This is Lukas Fafnir, debonair young gent about town. (The town in question being Chester in Chestershire, in an alternate 1920s…)

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

Fafnir might be a bit of a peacock but he’s quite the bird of prey underneath all those fancy feathers too, he was a soldier in the civil war that ripped apart the setting of The Chronicles of Deva. He’s done some horrible things and sometimes no amount of preening can hide it.

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

He’s got dependencies. Drink, drugs. Excess. And he even has an eye for one of the main characters of Deva, Felix Skryker.

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

It’s one of those things that appeals to us as human beings for some reason; that the very beautiful is also somehow very broken. (Wether this is because we’re simply jealous or because we know that to project such beauty takes its toll is another matter entirely.)

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

Here’s “morning after Fafnir”, hung over and coming down, groping about his suite wrapped in a gown.

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

The rough for the finished portrait, in which we needed to see him looking a bit mean. He’s just arrived at some gathering of the rich and powerful (by post-war standards) and might even be looking slightly rough around the very edges… But he could still casually put down his drink and wring someone’s neck.

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

The linework, drawn with a dip pen and ink and then grey-toned with watercolour paints.

Chronicles of Deva character: Fafnir

And the finished thing again.

I wonder if I’ll still be blogging in another ten years. Maybe… Blogs might have gone the way of newspapers or magazines by then. What I do know for sure is that our son Sebastian is going to be ten years old by then, so we’ll see what he thinks.

Next: The great outdoors!

The Chronicles of Deva: Xanthe

Running through more of the characters from Susan Ruth‘s ‘The Chronicles of Deva‘ prose novel series and the visualisation and portraits I did of them.

Here’s our keystone character; she holds everything else together and all the other characters revolve around her: Miss Xanthe Chance.

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

She’s grown up in imposed exile, in hiding, so she has a very developed mind thanks to being cooped up all the time.

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

The rest of her family seem to have been wiped out thanks to their position in the civil war that the United Kingdom went through (the ‘Deva stories are set in an alternate 1920s) they were all far too brilliant for their own good.

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

Figuring out some costumes for Xanthe, her almost-prisoner scavenged garb and then the highfaluting frocks she gets put in when she’s introduced into high society.

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

Copious note-taker. Polymath Xanthe’s many pursuits include astronomy and star-gazing. A good starting point for a portrait:

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

Here’s Xanthe still in the cell of the tower she’s practically imprisoned in, looking out of the high window with eyes on the stars and a heart fulla yearning.

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

…Worked up into a pen and ink drawing with black watercolour paint wash.

Deva character: Xanthe Chance

…And scanned in and colour-tinted with Photoshop. Officially this is ‘limited palate’ colour (though I might have gone overboard with the dark grey-blues) to give these pieces an old-timey, vintage (1920s) feel and I think it works.
You might have noticed her face has changed a bit in the last picture, the worry was that our girl genius – while she is supposed to be stunningly beautiful – was looking like a little bit of a bimbo with all that moony face-pulling when she should instead be set with steely intellectual resolve.

Next: More of that High Society! (A little bit too much, in fact…)

The Chronicles of Deva: Skryker

It’s high time to talk about ‘The Chronicles of Deva’ series of prose novels by author Susan Ruth. Susan brought me in to do some covers and other arty bits (more on those later) for her series of books and I drew and painted some portraits of the characters too. The series has the fantastic setting of an 1920’s North-West England in the aftermath of a civil war between the North and South of the country (how very North American, or erm, Korean. Or Irish, even. Ahh, the list goes on) and focuses on the fragile group of characters who make up the ranks of the fragile acting government, beset from dangers without and within.

First up, let’s start on the safe ground of the main male protagonist: Stryker… Felix Stryker.

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

Stryker is a minister (the civil kind, not the religious kind) and maintains a security force and espionage network…

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

He has a touch of a young Abraham Lincoln or slightly-older Mr Darcy about him. Very well-dressed, maybe even on purpose to avoid suspicion and always seems to be about to receive a phone call or be called away to some kind of derring-do(!)

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

Messing around with exact facial features. Getting everything down the same in every expression or quick drawing and then repeating it at-will is something that takes lots of work.
Oh and just in case you were wondering; yes, it’s possible that ‘Skryker’ could be a pseudonym. You’ll have to keep reading the books to find out though.

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

So here’s a rough for the portrait; Skryker at night, shadowed, tucked away in a cobbled side-street near his ministry, partially lit by ornate lamps while the fog and mist of ‘Deva’ (the city of Chester no less, going by its Roman name) rolls in and around, concealing things and then offering fleeting reveals in the faltering light… This is what he’s all about. Oh and he also looks like Cary Grant a bit for some reason. That guy!

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

I decided to retire the lamplight halos, they were clobbering the whole ‘some things are hidden’ thread too strongly straight into the reader’s eyes. This is our clean-cut hero, after all.

Unfortunately I don’t have any in-progress images of the pencilling or inking of this character portrait image, so we go straight to finished linework with grey tone wash. Susan wanted these pieces of artwork to have a classic feel, like, say, book illustration around about the 20’s, when the books are set. Drawing linework with a dip-pen and ink and then putting in tone with watercolour paints on a real piece of paper definitely helped get this.

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

The analogue bit finished and ready to be scanned:

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

And then here’s the scan tidied up.

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

For all of my talk about classic feel, it now now time to, arm, unleash Photoshop. Just for limited colour values though! We had all of our informative parts off the piece down by hand, this was the last boot into legibility and the finish line:

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

And here’s your finished thing. The tower in the background actually had its angle straightened up thanks to the magic of Photoshop.

Chronicles of Deva: Felix Skryker character roughs

Sauve fella.

Next: Skryker’s weakness!

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in Print

Some photos of the very plush, oversize-hardcover of Bartkira: Nuclear Edition, now in print and available from your friendly local comic shop!

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Here’s some of my art in amongst some amazing work from industry veterans and trail-blazing newcomers, the perennial AkiraRalph spread!

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

So Bartkira‘s a whole thing, you know. Here’s an outstanding mural by Erik Veldmeijer and Frans Boukas at the Incubate festival in Holland. (Photo by William van der Voort.), some Mulhouse / Tetsuo cosplays, memorabilia and a Bart / Kaneda tattoo(!)

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

The title page with Bart / Kaneda and an interior spread with Milhouse / Tetsuo by project co-editor James Harvey:

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Warwick Johnson Cadwell draws frenetic city-wide cataclysms like it ain’t no thing:

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition in print photos

Due to the grey area/public domain spot the work exists in legally, all profits from the sale of the book go to charity; OISCA Coastal Forest Restoration Project in Miyagi Prefecture and Save the Children, as chosen by Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon. So you can know your pennies are going to a good place in return for you being able to put a slice of buzzing pop-culture madness on your bookshelf.

Exalted: All Along the Watchtower

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

The last in the series of illustrations I did for the interior of the forthcoming Exalted third edition ‘EX3’ role-playing game book from The Onyx Path publishing. Here, it’s sunset over the mountain city of Medo and it’s time for the changing of the guard. The living guards are joined by the ghosts of their ancestors who take the night shift of watch duty over the ramparts of the city when the sun sets.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

This is something of a world-building piece with one main character in it helping to communicate the setup of the place too. The brief was to show a valley and a mountain range with wooded lower slopes, great city walls with crenelations, our main guardswoman, the friendly ghost appearing, others appearing in the background, and that the guardswoman had a small bone on a necklace around her neck that she was playing with.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

After lots of playing around with angles and compositions to try and get as much as I could into one image, I decided to clobber the composition with a sledgehammer of simplicity… Get things fairly straight and layer them up. Keep it simple.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

I coloured up my linework to make this colour rough to show to the art editor and creative director. The feedback that fed back said, ‘can we darken it up a bit and make it look like it’s definitely night-time drawing in?’ So I got out the pot of darkness paint.
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

My Onyx Path pals definitely had a point. Anyway, next up was printing out a blown-up rough and light-boxing some pencils from it onto another piece of paper.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

The friendly ghosts that would be dropped on top of proceedings – in proper translucent, ghostly style – were drawn on another bit of paper.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

Colour flats! Hey, this didn’t take long! I wasn’t going to flat every single tree trunk and canopy on the hill-side since I could do that much later in the process with a few flicks of a brush and produce much better results. Is it clear how much fun I was having drawing her protective sou’wester? I was.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workingsRage, rage against the dying of the light.
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workingsRage, rage against the shoddy artistic workmanship of just dropping in the brush strokes from colour rough from earlier on to build up a bit of texture, to get the painting going.
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workingsWorking in the darker tones, shades and shadows. It’s funny how just the linework visible over this makes everything look a bit like it’s in relief or something. Anyway, no time to reflect, it’s time to put the highlights on:
Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

The sun’s dipping behind the mountains, so there’s only so much light being thrown around. You could argue that there’s a mountain behind the viewer which could bounce the light back onto the scene, but we’ll leave that alone for now. And in general.

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

Some more feedback on making the main character a bit more rosy so we could pick her out a as living, breathing pink thing in the gloom as opposed to a statue. I love doing limited palette work, so every once in a while I need a nudge like this. Anyway, the friendly ghosts in lamellar armour had appeared and we were done!

Exalted third edition EX3 RPG art workings

And here’s a close-up of some of the detail. The character’s face was a little bit out of my usual style, and it was only after the fact that discovered that there was no such thing as an ‘Exalted look’ in this edition of the game. Ah well.

Even though this is the last piece from this series I’m showing off, it was – paradoxically – the first one I finished. I’m kinda funny like that. I learned a lot on these illustrations. The book was finally on general release a few days ago, so sidle along and pick yourself up a copy if you’re a roleplayer. The book design is really incredible, so fresh-looking for an RPG. ‘Medo’ – the region the piece of artwork above is set in – gets a mention in the blurb for the book, so that’s cool. Oh and If you’re one of the fancy types on Kickstarter who’s getting a metallic slipcase version or similar, then I salute you.

Dev-Con 2016 Sketches

Some sketches from the Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention earlier on today:

Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention sketch

First up, two from Celtic Fenian Mythology. First; Sabh, a naughty wizard, her doe form, Fionn, and definitely not a wi-fi symbol. (Turns out celtic knotwork can look too simplistic if you take plain elements and then crop them too much. Anyway, knotwork was a bit more a monastic thing, so I need to harken back to simple knotwork-like motifs carved in stone more.)

Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention sketch

Second, fiery Tuatha De Danaan fairy Aileen and Fionn. The idea is that the Tuath’ are definitely not elves with pointy ears and spindly bodies – because that would be predictable and lame – but impossibly beautiful and perfect beings where the guys look as gorgeous as the girls and the girls look as powerful as the guys. Kind of like a race of supermodels. I think I need to put a bit more work into fleshing this particular idea out though; we’re winning in the unsettling, asexual disco-diva look stakes, but it needs a little something more too…

Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention sketch

Tank Girl!

Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention sketch

Boba Fett from the old Star Wars films! I really should reference this guy properly at some point! Visual memory of Cam Kennedy‘s Dark Empire comics art is not enough!

Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention sketch

Wonder Woman, who seemingly still isn’t allowed to wear trousers. Somehow. Hope you like that battle swimsuit you seem to be stuck in, you symbol of female emancipation. (I wonder if a male audience and male creative teams might have something to do with this..?) Anyway, I gave her a nice skirt.

Dev-Con Plymouth Comic Convention sketch

Wolverine, drawn with copious photo reference of Hugh Jackman! That Hugh!

Bartkira: Nuclear Edition!

The Bartkira project (pop culture mash of the Akira manga redrawn with characters from ‘The Simpsons’, here’s the tag to check everything about it on the blog so far) just keeps getting better; there’s been gallery shows all over the world – including Tokyo – tons of press and Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo’s even looked it over, apparently. Now there’s going to be another print version (the first was an exhibition companion from Rotten Oak) out through a mainstream channel, which is cool:

Bartkira Nuclear Edition cover

Published by Floating World Comics and Nucleus, Bartkira: Nuclear Edition is a full-colour, hardback book with just some of the 6-volumes-worth of comic pages reproduced inside, including some of mine from the project! Like, ohh, this kind of thing:

Bartkira double page spread

There’s a startlingly involved blog entry on my pages from the book here. Also in the Nuclear edition are a whole gang was amazingly talented indivuals including Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Tom Neely and more. See the full list here.

The book will be out in comic shops worldwide on the 30th of March. Here’s the Previews listing for it. If you’d like a copy, please get in touch with your friendly local comic shop (preferably an independent one like Gnash Comics or OMG Comics near me) and let them know. It might speed things up if you give them its code – JAN161028 – but that’s not essential.

Bartkira Nuclear Edition, boyeee

As part of the launch there’s going to be an exhibition at the Nucleus gallery in Los Angeles that runs from the 9th-24th of April, with an opening shindig on the 9th from 7pm-10pm, if you’re in California!

So if you’ve not seen anything about Bartkira creep into your feeds yet, do seek it out, you can read it online for free, check the twitter hashtag or check the tumblr tag. It’s a truly amazing… Happening; it really makes you realise just how good a shape comics, illustration and the dizzy sense of genuine community are in these days. It’ll only get better too.

Exalted: Crash Test Funny

Want to get your mate round and go for a nice drive down the road in the Exalted role-playing game universe? Too bad, because Volka The Exalt here’s seen your chariot coming a mile off AND IS GOING SMASH IT TO BITS WITH ONE PUNCH:

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

So this is going to be printed on one half of a page of the Exalted Third Edition book from The Onyx Path Publishing with a column of text going down the other half. I’m guessing the text will be about how Volka here (who is definitely female, believe it or not, I was going with the brief here) is able to do this kind of thing without breaking a sweat because of her special Exalt powers.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Starting off in my sketchbook, I was trying to find a way of communicating everything that was going on while still making it dynamic. A really simple side-on view of Volka at one end and the chariot at the other with the punch in the middle. We didn’t have a landscape format to fit all of this in though… And anyway, it would be boring, like the side elevation of a plan. Some foreshortening was required! It ended up being quite a lot…

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

So here’s the rough I came up with. The chariot and its contents had to be flying apart – which was handily in the brief – to separate them in three dimensional space because it stopped them overlapping each other when it came to the foreshortening…

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Volka’s a great character (androgynous and she’s got a great skintone, all of this came from the brief) so it looks like I got to define her look. Whoop!

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

The final linework that went into the finished piece, drawn with an automatic pencil on bristol board on top a lightbox (I think).I didn’t get Volka’s mouth quite right, but that got fixed later.
I’m now gonna introduce a double-up wall of work-in-progress screengrabs; the long, thin images I’ve put up so far prompted a bit too much scrolling on your part, so this should be easier. You can thank me later.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

First up – on the left – are the colour flats, taking the fairly precise linework and knocking it down into shapes – the individual colour choices aren’t too important at all at this stage. Ignore the darker blue blob in the sky for now. Next – on the right – I dropped the hastily-daubed colour info from the colour rough straight on to the final to serve as a kind of under-painting.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

A couple of quick progress grabs of Volka’s face coming together.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Next, I worked in some dark shades to get the modelling of the forms now present in this final piece down. Then I worked on over the top with highlights, to model further. There was some proper painting with ‘local’ colours going on a little bit too.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Working over with different colours and getting towards a kind of ‘detail’ level here. Volka’s leaf-mail armour took a while, but it was probably worth it.

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

The pink glow is Volka’s ‘Anima Banner‘ – a light show shroud that she emanates when she’s using her special powers. I was starting to work into the environment more here and soften the elements further away from the viewer in the composition to give a greater illusion of depth. And how much chariot’s just been broken up. The guys in the chariot are supposed to have a kind of Mesotopamian feel to them, which was fun. In fact, the whole flipping’ piece was loads of fun!

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

Final textures and tweaks. It was decided that Volka’s right leg should be moved further into the composition to make her look a bit more rooted in the scene and increase the depth, so I duly did that. Initially I thought the bonkers figure work suited Exalted, but the edit probably makes the image work a bit better…

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

You can see here how my working ratio didn’t quite match the printed image ratio. Anyway, we’re done. Here’s some detail grabs, in case you’re keen:

Exalted Third Edition illustration progress

G’wan, Volka.

Next time: Ramparts ‘n’ Revenants!