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!

Exalted: Muscle Mary and the Infinite Sadness

The next in the series of ‘Exalted’ Third Edition role-playing game (“EX3” to the cool kids who’ve been waiting for it to be released) from The Onyx Path publishing. (Even cooler kids might know them by their old household name of ‘White Wolf’.)
Here, we learn it’s not all explosions and cheesy grins in the land of ‘Creation’ in ‘The Age of Sorrows’, some people are having problems too:

Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse illustration

So yer big man here is an ‘Exalt’ character – an individual who has special powers – the only problem is that with great exalted power comes crap responsibility: you have to suffer ‘The Great Curse’. This curse comes from the enemies of your godly Exalted ancestors, the ‘Primordials’. As the Primordial old-school-rulers of the world were overthrown and destroyed by the Exalted forces, the Primordials cursed the usurpers to feel miserable sometimes and occasionally lose control of their emotions. (Yeah, I have days like that too.) Tiny here is suffering and is no help to his friends who’re fighting off a Realm legion attack.

Anyway, here’s me at square one doodling out some ideas in my sketchbook.Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Oh the anguish:
Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The quick linework for a rough to send to the editor:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The same linework quickly coloured up:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

That was all good so I took the rough linework, blew it up and lightboxed this final piece lineart from it:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The colour flats. The idea is that you use these to grab selections of figures and elements to have in your toolkit for later on when it’s all gone wibbly and is hard to get back into:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

The quick colours from the rough used as a bit of underpainting and then worked into, to start the ball rolling:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Giving the folks in the background a bit of attention for a change. And should say the blue lines are to mark the edge of the image:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Getting there. And yes, our linework’s pretty much disappeared so I guess this is officially a painting now:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Working in further, getting everything differentiated and trying to pull the background and other elements out of the gloom. It goes against type that the main character in the foreground is the one disappearing in the murk, not everybody else stuck at the back. (Pro Tip: The gloom represents GLOOMY EMOTIONS.)Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

A quick work-in-progress screengrab:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Here comes the sun: getting it nice and cheerful in the background so the foreground can look more depressing:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

Putting in grass textures, details and some tweaks:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art workings

A bit of colour wrangling and we’re finished:Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse illustration

Some grabs of details; our Realm legionnaires, heavily-armoured heavies that seem to be one of the many recurring visual motifs of the setting:
Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art detailAnd some super-friends getting a bit of screen-time:
Exalted Third Edition 'EX3' Great Curse art detail

Next time: exploding vehicles!

Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays for 2015 with Highly Questionabe Santa

Wishing you and yours the very happiest of holidays, hope you’ve had a great year and here’s to an even better 2016! Sorry to drone on (oho), but could this be the end for Highly Questionable Santa..?
And, as is tradition, the apology: Sorry. (For those not so familiar with early-eighties animated features for all the family, see: This here YouTube video )

– All the very best from Lee & Becky.

(And if this is your first ‘Questionable Santa’ing, you can familiarise yourself with the previous times he didn’t stay away here.)

Exe-treme Etchings

Some of the sketches I drew for folks passing by my table in artists alley (which always sounds like it’s the dodgy part of a convention) at the Exeter con this weekend:

Chewbacca. There’s some kind of Star Wars film coming out soon isn’t there..?

Iron Man! I was all juiced up for robot funtimes because the lovely John-Paul Bove was on the table next to mine.

Everyone’s favourite world-saving layabout, Richard Cole the journalist from the Power of Five series.

Iron Man meets Thor. Because comic conventions are all about the pull of recognisable characters, so why not play at some alchemy with that?
(Also, as I had to explain to some people, it’s truly made by the Hammerstein from the ABC Warriors in 2000AD style hand-hammer…)

Exalted: Ursa Massacre

The next in the series of Exalted RPG interior illustrations isn’t all quiet, unassuming and expecting you to take a seat, settle down and take in all the detail, instead it SUDDENLY THROWS LOADS OF HOT BEAR VISCERA RIGHT IN YOUR STUPID FACE:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Hoo boy! Apologies, bear fans, nature-lovers, and er, just about everybody. The creative director and the art editor made me do it! Okay, crap excuse. Anyway, this is an image of a ‘Lunar‘(feral, tribal) ‘Exalted‘(person with rare, special powers) having to defend herself from some wildlife while she’s on a nice hike in the mountains.

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

These are the first series of rough thumbnail scribbles I scribbled in ma travellin’ sketchbok. The image is of a woman ripping a rampaging bear in half with her mad powers. I knew the bear would be suspended in the air, so I was wondering wether to show it hanging above or being looked down on.

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Here was what I came up with for a rough to show the creative director and art editor. In amongst the bears with the unfortunate bear in the air (hey that rhymes) towering over the viewer. Next, I coloured it:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

The scene is set in the mountains in the snow, but I didn’t want to just rely on a white and light-blue colour scheme like so many wintery images seem to have by default… It’s far too clean and plastic-looking. Instead I deliberately went for saturated purple and red colours. The thing that looks like a ghost crocodile is the woman’s ‘Anima Banner‘, a lightshow aura that surrounds her while she’s activating her special powers. (And providing a bit of comment on the situation too, by the looks.)
Here’s the very restrained linework I drew for the final piece with a mechanical pencil. (The pencil gives a fine line with just enough variation and weight to keep it a little bit interesting:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

…but talking about line qaulity is a bit academic because the eventual goal is to cover it up with digital paint! Here are ‘the flats’ for the image:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

…placeholders for putting particular colours in particular parts of the image. Once I got the shapes I down, I then straight away changed the colours to these:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

You can see some of the stone and rock textures I dropped in too. Next I worked into the lowlights and shades:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

I threw some blood on it too… Next up, the highlights went on and the background were worked into:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Here’s a quick screencap of me working into the lady’s face. It was much more squished at this point and I had to fix that. Also, the eyes being at different levels. Oy:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

While we’re doing cutways, here’s on of some of the textures and whatnot without anything else in the way:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Then working into it all some more…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

More importantly the crocodile anima banner went in. The title for this image in the art notes is ‘Grusome Triumph’. Yup. There was some head-scratching about how transparent(?), translucent(?) or semi-opaque(???) it should be overall and in particular bits, but we got there in the end:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Then a bunch of fixes and overpaints, working into it all the while, doing the odd lighting trick:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Then we were getting more into details and plugging away at all the brushstrokes needed to make the furry bits look furry:

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Fozzy bears duly fozzied, I was pulling the dark bits forward and making the light bits stand out, trying to get as much depth as I could out of the piece. (Which is a challenge because there’s only so much depth in the composition before we hit the sky…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

And we were done! I even signed it and everything. The piece was cropped, the idea being it’s a tall, thin illustration to take up one half of a page of the book running from top to bottom, leaving the other half free for text. (Apologies if these are a bit hard to view in the blog and need lots of scrolling, I’m sure they’ll look good in the book thanks to the lovely Oynx Path folks!

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Here are some close-ups of interesting bits of the piece, in case you were tired of squinting…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

Because I took the time to put all of these brushstrokes into the bear’s fur, you’re getting a close-up of it…

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

This bear is concerned. I’m sure you would be too. (Also, check out the textures and whatnot on the mountains in the background!)

Exalted Third Edition RPG illustration workings

 Next time: Super-powered people struggle with everyday things too, you know!

Not-November Noodlings

Some sketches I drew live and dangerous for folks at Plymouth’s ‘Dev-Con’ today:

Brushpen comic convention sketch

Link from the Legend of Zelda! There I was with a couple of sketches in front of me wondering what to draw next and then a couple of people dressed as Link walked past…

Brushpen comic convention sketch

Fionn from the Fionn Mac Cumhaill stories I’m currently pulling an outline for a graphic novel together from. The visuals aren’t set yet, but this is a tryout for a young (and fairly New Wave-looking) Fionn.

Brushpen comic convention sketch

Here’s Sabha, another character from the Fionn-filled ‘Fenian’ stories. I wasn’t really warmed up when I drew this one so I think the features of the face look a bit odd…

Brushpen comic convention sketch

Deadpool! There are many deadpools drawn at cons. I’m getting to a stage now where I can use it to channel Yoji Shinkawa – the Metal Gear game series concept artist – a little bit… All army dudes, body suits, protective gear, pouches and gizmos. And samurai swords (or is it a ninja sword because Deadpool’s supposed to be a ninja..? So they should be straight instead of curved, right?) Yes, just like Metal Gear.

Brushpen comic convention sketch

Doctor Doom lookin’ ominious.

Brushpen comic convention sketchThis guy’s from the Fallout 4 game trailer. I get more requests for game characters these days, it’s all good, these are the characters that people’s imaginations live with these days, they just don’t happen to be on newsprint.

Brushpen comic convention sketchDredd!
Brushpen comic convention sketchSpider-man. Man, those web patterns on his costume are fiddly.

Brushpen comic convention sketchMikasa from Attack on Titan.

Brushpen comic convention sketch

A “fairy tale princess” for Diana Mizuru (whose picture book ‘The Gingerbread Man’ is really good!) impossible drapery on dresses that mix kinds of ages of medieval costume are fun!

Brushpen comic convention sketchBatman. Is he mired in the agony of being a creature of the night, a melancholy that wraps itself around him like a dark cloak? Or has he gotten muddled up while changing his bat-duvet cover..? You decide!

Brushpen comic convention sketchClaire from Resident Evil / Biohazard. Only now do I realise she looks a bit like Lara Croft. Ah well. I actually had reference for this character provided in the form of an action figure. I think that was a first.

Once you get into the flow (hoho) of using a brush pen, the art comes out really quickly. Lines are down in no time and then going into detail with such a bold line with such variety of weight just seems to muddle everything up, so you skip it. It really keeps you drawing fast and ready to blitz on with the next sketch.