Exalted: Flamey Shoutyman

The first from the next round of ‘Exalted’ RPG illustrations I did for The Oynx Path publishing house – who you may also know from their ‘White Wolf’ name – when I say ‘RPG’, I mean the offline, analogue kind of Role-Playing-Game that springs out of a printed book near some paper character sheets filled-in with pencils and dice clattering around, with graphics provided by our ape brains.

Exalted RPG Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Glory' Illustration

You want to see the shouty flames bigger? Click if you can stand the heat…

Or in this case, a visual from my ape brain. So this is a ‘Solar’(fine, upstanding) ‘Exalt’(person with special powers) projecting his ‘Anima Banner’(special power lightshow aura) at the viewer. He might have just defeated one or both of those armies in the background.

Exalted Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Gory'

Doodlin’ with noodlin’s! This was fairly simple as far as briefs go, but I still wanted to nail it if I could…

Exalted Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Gory'

First attempt at a rough to show was a bit too close-up (the top one) so I started again. Exalted fans will also see that I started off with the wrong Exalt ‘caste-mark’ on the guy’s forehead. Exalts’ caste-marks also glow when they fire up their Anima banners.


The same pencil rough with some colour slapped over the top (and a tiny bit of repainting on the face) to make a colour-rough to show.


The linework that started off the finished thing! It was pointless drawing the flames of the Anima banner because they’d be ‘additive’ – rendered with light – during the digi-painting process, drawing them with the dark ‘contour-lines’ of a pencil would be silly.
Although most of the detail was going to be lost, I still had fun coming up with blazing sun motifs on the guys armour and detailing smashed-up siege engines and fallen troops.

Exalted RPG Anima Banner artwork process - pencil linework in Photoshop

A closeup of the linework before the colour palette gets unleashed…


Colour flats! About as soon as I did these, I realised that I didn’t really need them on this piece. Still, having the blocks down to pull selections out of later on is always handy.
Once again I took to isolating the colours from the colour rough and using them as a kind of under-painting to get the brushstrokes going. The worse thing is a blank canvas, as the saying goes.


A bit of the rough, soft painting on some of the lower layers from the piece. (Generally there are ’nuff layers going on. I discovered colour-coding the label layers in Photoshop on this series of images.)


A quick snap from while I was painting. The goal is to pretty much obliterate the pencil lines by painting over them and turning the piece into a proper painting as a result. This guy’s face was looking a bit too manic, so I made him assume a more determined look as I went on (check the final image for the difference) this should be someone that we feel some kind of connection with – even if it’s a small one because he’s flaming us – not a gibbering maniac who looks like he’s gonna incinerate us.

Exalted RPG Anima Banner digi-paint progress - character's face

Further to my previous waffle, here’s the guy’s face changing brushstroke by brushstroke…His hair was better here, but his face was still a little too drawn (oho) and eyes too buggy. More about the firey bit in a second!


Some of the detail going into the armour and the rest of yer man here. The gaps in here are for…


The firey flames of fire! (The fine checkered backdrop here means it’s transparent in a series of layers.) These came from all over the place.


Always eager to get a bit of our reckless industrial past into the drorin’s, this lot is mostly from photographs of welding sparks.


But before you’re thinking ‘Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century’ ending sequence, this is a similar thing but trying to get a bit of manga speedlines style rushing motion into it…
(Oh and the blue lines are guides for the dimensions of the final piece.)

Exalted RPG Third Edition EX3 Solar Exalt Anima Banner 'Divine Glory' Illustration

Last shout: here he is again, just in case you needed reminding. Click for a bigger shout…

Next up: soothing, darkened rooms!

The Burning Sands of Exalted

A piece of art for the 3rd Edition of the ‘Exalted’ Role-Palying Game from Oynx Path – formerly White Wolf – this is one of five environment pieces that each focus on a different ‘continent’ (it’s not that simple in Exalted’s world) that spread across the bottom half of two pages of the book as it falls open.

Exalted RPG 3rd Edition 'The South' setting illustration

You want the big? You click. You not click? You use finger. Wiseguy.

Exalted is a game that deliberately casts its main characters as ludicrously powerful semi-divine heroes that could step out of a colourful anime, manga with lots of speedlines or kung-fu film with flurries of fists, magic, legendary swords, explosions, dust clouds and other shiny derring-do that’s fairly unique to the setting, so it’s all loads of fun to draw.

Exalted 3rd Edition EX3 Logo

The book – thanks to the very sucessful Kickstarter campaign that spawned its printing will be an amazing thing in itself too; hard-backed, special endpapers, embossing on leather binding, metallic edging and metallic alternative covers… The list goes on, so once it’s out and in the hot little hands of role-players around the world (along with clutches of ten-sided dice, no doubt) it’s going to be a very lovely thing indeed.

(Talking of role-playing, I flippin’ love role-playing. I was introduced to it as an adult by some friends and I think it’s an amazing way to spend your time; collaborative, imaginative, story-telling with no need for any expensive or exclusive paraphernalia to get in the way of enjoying spending time with your friends. I love board and card games but it’s role-playing that puts you straight into the brains and personalities of the other people sitting around the table with you. Anyway, I’ve digressed far too much.)
Let’s talk about pretty pictures!

The piece was to not only show off the desert setting, but also to include pre-existing character. (This is one of the fun bits of being Work-For-Hire) Admiral Sand. So off I went to find reference for him. I also learned a lot about the setting. And what a Lunar Exalt is. There’s a lot to it. Lunar exalts are a bit feral-looking or were-wolf-y, it turns out. I did have some fun making up some caravan guards though. Notice me using what I thought was the ‘Exalted style’…

Exalted Environment

So the piece needed to have some draw but also pull the viewer in with a bit of human drama, so I started trying to figure out how to balance these in up with thumbnails in my sketchbook.

Exalted Environment

So this was the final rough thumbnail sketch from my sketchbook adventures – focus in on the Admiral (on the left) and the lead attacker of the tribe of Lunar Exalted (on the right). The Admiral’s trade caravan and the tribe of bandits serve as the setting.

Exalted Environment

This is the colour rough (with copious notes!) that I sent of to the Art and Creative Directors. There’s a few things to pick on here too, like how I didn’t want anything to disappear down between the centre page spine too much.

Exalted Environment

Next: scaling this up and producing some linework. I printed out the above rough and lightboxed off this linework with an automatic pencil, to get that kind of anime styling a lot of Exalted art has. If I ended up going over this later on with paint, that was fine. I just needed the shapes in there.

Exalted Environment

Next: I needed a quick source of some kind of underpainting to start off the piece and then work over the top of to give it some depth, so I knocked out some of the layers to just get this rough backdrop. It looks crap at this stage, but the worst thing with any kind of painting (digital or analogue) is blank canvas.

Exalted Environment

Next, I flatted in some colours of the characters just so they didn’t get lost. Note the note reminding myself about drawing on the blue-haired bandit leader’s luminous tattoos later on.

Exalted Environment

Knocking the linework back a bit, I got more into highlights and shading… I had started to paint in the harsh sunlight and shadows (complete with shadows being cast in the dust swirling in the air) that were in the rough, but… I just couldn’t make it work. It was too much. Just slapped down in a rough it worked okay, but when it came to the finished thing it was too much and it ruined the look of everything in the picture. So I opted for a bright, slightly washed out approach with bright colours reflecting the sunlight.

Exalted Environment

Next: one of the perils of going at it hell-for-leather towards a deadline: not having all of the information. It turns out that in the world of Creation in Exalted doesn’t use cool-looking elephants as beasts of burden – camels are okay though – they use an original animal called a ‘Yeddim‘! Here’s one being painted over an existing elephant:

Exalted Environment

So they’re big, shaggy, blunt-snouted quadrapeds. Kind of like wooly mammoths with no trunk or ears and wide mouths. Meanwhile, the entire piece was being worked into. Background colours were being put in.

Exalted Environment

Getting around to putting the odd detail in. I should have said before, this piece has loads of ‘bleed’ – spare space – around the edge so the layout artists could be a bit versatile with it. Also some of it could be lost as part of the printing process. So the ferocious guy in the top-right corner wouldn’t look quite so much like a disembodied head and pointy-stick in the final print.

Exalted Environment

Talking stuff through with the editors, two things came up about the leader of the bandits; one, she looked like Sonic the Hedgehog, Two, her face should actually be pointing towards the guy she was supposed to be fighting. At least someone was paying attention. I was probably getting too comsumed with trying to draw her face to look anime style. Anyway, here’s the old face:

Exalted Environment

And here’s the new one, which actually obeys the laws of psychics and perspective, and lifts the whole character, I think.

Exalted Environment

Getting there now, the lines were still getting knocked further and further back, and now everything was in place I was trying to establish more of a feeling of depth by hazing out the more distant characters.

Exalted Environment

Last leg now, final tweaks, desperately trying to get it to look more like painting than an illustration with linework and then colour afterwards.

Exalted Environment

Apart from knocking things even further back, I was now getting into highlighting everything to try and make the sun look more harsh. It also helped it look a bit more like it was lead by the brushstrokes. At this point, you usually lose objectivity completely and then that means you’re finished and it’s time to move on!

Exalted RPG 3rd Edition 'The South' setting illustration

You want the big again? You click again. You not click? You use finger again. You big wiseguy.

And then I was done. Phew. It was really good fun and I learned loads doing this piece.

Also, here’s a cropped version with just the main figures in, in case some of you are squinting too much at the previous pics:

I didn’t realise, but this piece was used as one of the rewards in the Kickstarter campaign for the book as one of a series of wallpapers. So that was cool.
You can check updates on the project on the update roll for the Kickstarter, or on the Facebook page for Exalted.

Local lads John Spelling and Dom Reardon did some pieces for the book too, so that was cool. John did most of the work that informed the final 3rd Edition logo above. It was nice that our remote little corner of the backwater island was well-represented in this world-wide project.

I did a few more pieces for the book of totally different things from the Exalted world and I’ll be sharing those soon. The other ones don’t involve quite so much sand in your pants, so check back for them sometime soon, Yeddim-herders.

Bartkira: Volume 3 and Animation Unleashed!

Woo-hoo Tetsuoo, today sees the release of volume 3 of the BARTKIRA project – the community drive overseen by James Harvey, Ryan Humphreys and Alex Jaffe where hundreds of artists redrew Katsuhiro Otomo’s 2,000+ page Akira manga with characters from The Simpsons!

Bartkira volume 3 cover

Click here or on the cover image to read it! The cover itself is made up of about six(?) different interpretations of the same Katsushiro Otomo image.

You can recap my artwork for the project here. My pages run on p251 – 255 in the third volume, but don’t go skipping to them because there’s just so much fantastic art bursting out of this thing. Will there ever be a print version? Probably not, because of many different teams of lawyers in different countries would have so many problems with such an object existing. The internet helps us get it available in the ether though, and you can read the fruits of hundreds of artists’ labour online at your leisure.

Also, there’s an online map compiled by Alex Jaffe here of where on – and all over – the globe all of the hundreds of contributors are!

Batkira Contributors Online Map

I’m on there with other local lad Jack Teagle, who I was really pleased to see was on-board on the project.

As if gallery shows in different countries, including Japan, the US and the UK, loads of press coverage – including me seeing one of my spread pages turn up in a ‘Best Fan-Art on the Web’ article on Buzzfeed – weren’t enough, the project’s now followed Akira’s jump from manga to cinema and has gone into the realm of animation! Another gang of amazing, talented people have now produced a re-animated version of the original Akira theatrical trailer with Simpsons characters set in Neo-Springfield!

Sweeter than a squishie drink from the Kwik-E-Mart laced with government brain pills!

Letters from Lawgiver

Some Dredd-drawins from the Lawgiver Mk. II con

Judge Dredd convention sketch

Here’s the man himself. I like edge-lighting.

Nemesis the Warlock from 2000AD convention sketch

Since it was a 2000AD con (naturally) and 2000AD’s about more than Dredd, I thought it was time to draw some Mills-verse stuff. The ABC Warriors and the Nemesis the Warlock shared universe was the stuff I got the most out of reading 2000AD, so here’s Nemesis the aforementioned warlock…

Blackblood from the ABC Warriors convention sketch

Blackblood from the ABC Warriors. He’s a naughty robot with a pirate captain / skellington / snake robot styling thing going on. What’s not to love?
I idly draw the ABC Warriors every once in a while when I should be doing other things. Some time in the future I’ll have to put up a great blog entry of scanned sketchbook pages they’ve appeared on over the years…

There were other sketches too, but putting them all up would just ruin the mystery, wouldn’t it?

Mega City BS1

'Lawgiver' Bristol Judge Dredd Convention 2015

I’m off to the futuristic hive city of Bristol* in a couple of days to exhibit at what’s going to be a proper amazing little UK comics-comic convention: ‘Lawgiver’ Mk II, a Judge Dredd convention. Also there will be top local sorts Jock, Dom Reardon, John Spelling, the constantly refreshing Rob Williams, the constantly refreshed Boo Cook, the refreshingly fresh Dave Taylor, the (still) fresh-faced Dylan Teague and a ton of other top-flight UK comics talent.
(People who’re good at seeing the interconnectedness of things might sense a theme developing here from my last post. Ah well.) See you there if you’re going!

* : Post code ‘BS1’, pun fans.

Wall of Dredd

A little Judge Dredd sampler I’ve been sitting on for a while (not literally, it’d crease):
Judge Dredd cover colour sampler The linework on its own:
Judge Dredd sampler ink linework And the little thumbnail that started it all off:
Judge Dredd cover sampler thumbnail sketchSome composition roughs for the piece from my out-and-about sketchbook. (Which reminds me, it’s about time I uploaded a bunch more scans from that.)
Judge Dredd composition roughs At one point I was thinking about a Robocop homage/mickey-take. (Once upon a time – before the 2012 feature film was released – it was remarked that Robocop was the best Judge Dredd film that didn’t actually have Judge Dredd in it.) Oh and there’s a blob of Becky‘s wall marker on there too:
Judge Dredd cover composition roughs

Ask any British person and they will tell you that Judge Dredd haunts their dreams and flows in their very veins. (They’ll also start talking to you about the weather.) I’m no exception. (On both counts.) Other countries might have amazing heroes or incredible styles and opulent comic industries in comparison to our odd little transatlantic sideboard scene, but we have Dredd. Wether you like him or not, he’s ours. Going through my sketchbook to get roughs to post alongside the finished artwork up above, I thought I’d scan in some Dreddoodles too…

This is me thinking about the Mega City One Judges uniform before I started drawing the final thing:
Judge Dredd uniform sketches Judge Dredd uniform sketches

Further along that thread, Judge helmet doodles. Each one is different:
Judge Dredd helmet concept sketches

A doodle of Mega City One, which is as much a character in the story as Dredd is, and similarly, everyone draws it a little bit differently:
Mega City One - Judge Dredd Doodles

Shouty, stubbly Dredd with meaty neck. These last two are for when I was drawing a Dredd sample script for 2000AD.
Judge Dredd doodles

Dread again with some other friends, in red pencils this time, in case you were falling asleep:
Judge Dredd Doodles

Don’t worry, I’ll be over to shake you if you do nod off.
Judge Dredd Doodles

This one’s from 2003 or so, and is a bit embarrassing, but I do quite like the Judge Anderson down the bottom.
Judge Dredd Doodles

Another fairly early one. The little Dredd heads are an indication of the difference you can get between two Dredds:
Judge Dredd Doodles

And another. If you draw Dread’s visor with a straight top, he looks really dopey:
Judge Dredd Doodles Judge Dredd Doodles

Some Justice Department Techs and other folks:
Judge Dredd Doodles

Female judges are always cool:
Judge Dredd Doodles

Bulbous brainpan and that bloody bird. The eagle shoulder pad can be tricky:
Judge Dredd Doodles

Thanks for making it all the way down to the bottom of the wall of Dredd. Now please disperse in an orderly fashion before the authorities arrive.

Celebrate With Cake

Oyy, long time no update. Sorry, I’ve been busy. I do have a bunch of cool stuff to show as well as the usual blog backlog though, so let’s get right to it with an easy update…

Yes, this is silly. Here are some cakes I drew for my illustrator pal John Spelling‘s birthday. If you were at the British Library‘s ‘Comics Unmasked‘ exhibition, you might have seen his work on the ‘Fight the Power‘ anthology on display there. Apparently the Ctrl-Alt-Shift Unmasks Corruption anthology I worked on was there too!


Anyway, cakes! John likes a card game called Fluxx. He’s already received a custom, home-made, fully-playable edition of Garth Marengi’s Darkplace Fluxx for a previous birthday. John also likes cake. So ‘Cake Fluxx’ was inevitable, really.

Cakes for Cake Fluxx special birthday edition

So while these were just quick little things to be printed at about the size of a postage stamp for a mate, I still found myself rather getting into the art, describing as much as I could and getting something interesting going on with the colours. Then I looked up what Sun and Moon Cakes are. What are they..? You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

cake flux cards

Printed up, they look like this… Am I a big enough nerd to not get excited when I see something game-a-rific with my art on..? No.


The amazing Henry Flint and Jock did some art for this too, y’know. I suspect these two sets of Fluxx might probably be the most remarkable bits of custom gaming in existence.

Anyway, stay browser-tuned for more art-for-games waffle, of a more mass-produced bent…

Happy Holidays 2014!

Highly Questionable Santa - 2014 Wishing you and yours a Happy Holidays and all the best for 2015!

Could this be the end for Highly Questionable Santa..? (Quite possibly, because the artist can only think up so many scenarios featuring him…) If this is your first Santa-ing and for some reason you’d like to see more, Santas of Christmas Past are here.

And to all, brand-new or jaded in matters of ‘HQS’…

December Dev-Con Doodlin’s

Some sketches I did for eager folks at the Plymouth Dev-Con last week. The con happens in the city guildhall where cosplayers mill around underneath hanging tapestries gifted to the place by Napoleon’s nephew and Cuban mahogany panels line the walls.
But enough about that, on with the pop-culture frivolities!
Convention sketch:Spider-Man teams up with Judge Dredd in a non-canon fashion. Dread remains unimpressed. As usual.Convention sketch:This is supposed to be that (Green) Arrow fellow from the telly series. Came out looking more like the lesser known television character ‘Druid Bigface’.
Convention sketch:British character ‘Union Jack’ from Marvel, who seems like a dashed paramilitary sort.
For good flag-emblazoned-fellows, see ‘Jack Staff‘ by Paul Grist.
Convention sketch:HellGirl! Apparently there was a one-shot comic this character… I was aware of the Duncan Fegredo pin-up in one of the Hellboy collections with ‘Hell-Girl’ gags (which was actually a reference to Fegredo and Peter Milligan‘s ‘Girl’ comic from Vertigo at the time) but this was a new thing and I only had the brief of “Butch girl Hellboy!” to go on, so I came up with this.
Convention sketch:Classic Flash. The Bloke with the Shiny Helmet. I decided to give him some lovely trousers to balance him out.
Convention sketch:A Tusken Raider from Star Wars.
Convention sketch:

And finally, Moomin!

Archive: Grand Decadence

Have a look at something from the archives: development sketches I did for a comic written by Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol. The (very) loose plan being that it might be a miniseries from Image once it had been kicked around.
These were scribbled… Mostly six years ago. Gulp.

The idea being that the story followed this big-bloke/little-bloke pair of main characters as the rest of the insane world they lived in… Happened to them. I seem to remember having great fun pushing the big-bloke/little-bloke idea visually, then being egged on by Kieron and going even further… (See below.)

Big Bloke: ennormous, shouty, murderous.
Character development sketches

Character development sketches

…”Death Wigs.”

And the little-bloke; quiet, studious, intense, possibly not made of real matter.
Character development sketches

Character development sketches
Character development sketches
Character development sketches
Character development sketches
Character development sketches
These spreads were about as developed as it got…
Character development sketches

Supporting characters now; first up is a meddler who was even more horrible than the main characters. I might’ve pushed the androgynous, cross-dressing angle too far…
Character development sketches
Character development sketches
Character development sketches
Character development sketches

Terrifying love-interest:
Character development sketches
Character development sketches

Possible villain:
Character development sketches

And some cannon-fodder cannon-fodder.
Character development sketches