Thursday, 15 November 2012

Blast from the past. FT 148 July 2001






Here’s an old FT cover from the ‘archive’ (the huge stack of magazines in my cupboard that threatens to punch a hole in the floor and which represents about 15 years of illustration work)

Watching the new series of ‘The Hour’ last night prompted me to dig out this cover and is the perfect excuse to show FT cover girl Romola Garai before she was a famous actress. 

The Art direction is by Etienne (who else?) and the photography by Alex Howe - who told me at the time she was obviously going to be a megastar someday.  My rubbish contribution was the shockingly badly modelled F86 Sabre flypast and sunset backdrop. This was in the early days before Cinema 4D and I had to use an odd assortment of apps to model and render everything in an excessively convoluted way – with some glaring limitations, obviously.   

Clearly this cover was the whole inspiration for the hour* and I reckon the BBC probably owe us all millions in royalties :)

*Okay maybe not.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Test printing of promo metal signs.


Above are two test prints on metal for a possible range of faux Victorian tinplate signs that I'm thinking of making to promote my latest project.
I can see have some explaining to do…
Over the last few years, in my spare time, I’ve been working on my, as yet unnamed, Top Secret Graphic Novel Project (I really need to come up with a better working title).  So far I’ve got 35,000 words in 190 pages of script, covering approximately 1/3 of the first storyline plot, with enough extra bits that I didn’t have room for that would probably fill another two volumes. 

I’m doing the whole thing myself as this is one project that I want 100% control over.  This means it’s taking forever - and I haven’t even started the layouts yet :)  I am considering doing a Kickstarter project to fund the printing of really good quality bound hardback books - but that’s still a long way off and not definite by any means.  I'll set up a separate site to deal exclusively with the project once I’ve made more progress and actually got some content that I can show.  But I thought these were so cool and I've been keeping this project under wraps for soooo long already I had to say something before the big vein on my right temple pops.
It’s set in an alternate reality version of 1890’s London - the term Steampunk grates on me and I’d argue that this isn’t part of that genre, but I suspect it will end up being labelled as such regardless of what I say.  I'm not going to go into any detail yet about the story or characters because I want to build up a body of work that I am comfortable with first.  At that point I’ll then start to release bits and pieces online before working up to putting out the first chunk in print form.  The prequel will be released free online, the opening sequence and maybe the first chapter - depends how long that turns out to be or rather where I decide to break the story.  I 'm not ruling out doing something for iPad/tablets but have no idea what or how yet.
The Victorians were very keen on advertising, just about everything that didn’t move (and quite a few things that did) was plastered in ads.  This doesn’t often come across in TV and Film because it would give the art director and props master an aneurysm and would get very busy, very quickly. I’ll be using ads and bill posters throughout the story to hopefully cut down on long-winded exposition.  I don’t want huge speech bubbles filled with boring backstory or captions that take up half a page when I can have a poster for a travelling circus in the background of a panel that plants the germ of an idea in the mind of the reader much more subtly and succinctly. 

It occurred to me that as I already know what a lot of these ads will be (as they’re essentially chunks of script) that I should get these designed early on so that I can establish the various companies, products and ‘rules’ of this universe in the reader’s minds from panel 1.  The ads will crop up many times throughout the course of the story but may not be 100% legible in any one frame as they’ll be incidental to the action.  I planned to have full versions of the ads plastered all over the endpapers of the book so that if people want to read the original in one go, they can.
About 20 seconds later it clicked that I could also use these ads to promote the project in the early stages before pages have even been pencilled. 

It was always my intention to make up a series of double-sided postcards to look like cigarette cards with character portrait on one side and some blurb about the character surrounded by fake cigarette card styling on the back (as at least one of the characters is closely linked to a specific brand).  I thought they’d make nice little ‘impulse buy’ bits and pieces to flog at conventions - if I ever got to the ‘lugging books around cons’ stage that is.  
After looking at several graphic novel projects on Kickstarter it occurred to me that the fake adverts might make really nice rewards/perks for backers who pledge X amount to the project.  While I was looking at tons of reference pix of Victorian adverts I kept seeing old tin signs and realised that would be a perfect format to present the ads.  After a lot of searching I finally found a company in the UK that would custom print my design on steel or aluminium plates.

Above are the results of the first test printing at 30cmx40cm - the largest they can print and a perfect size for this project.  I made two versions of the same ad.  The first is a pristine version that was printed on steel which I am going to leave outside to weather naturally (after I’ve kicked it about a bit).  For the second version I tried out various fake ageing techniques in Photoshop and had the resulting image printed on aluminium.  Apparently the inks are not particularly colourfast in direct sunlight so these may still fade a bit but they won’t rust. 

I have to say I am seriously chuffed with the results of the test.  My rubbish photos don’t do them justice (ignoring my pathetic design for a minute).  They’re shiny, shiny and feel like a really good quality object in your hand.  The aluminium one has a very similar weight and flexible feel as tinplate.  The steel one is reassuringly substantial without being silly-heavy.  I was worried that they might turn out to be extravagantly decorated razor blades but they’re nicely rounded and smooth along the edges. 
Many thanks to Martin at designasign for doing such a brilliant job and turning these test pieces around in a couple of days.  What a star.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Latest Cryptid illo: Yeti


Yeti Abominable Snowman Nepal Tibet


Here's my latest cryptid illo to plug some of those unsightly gaps in my folio, the Yeti.  I've been meaning to do one of these for ages but never got around to it.  In the end I had too many elements to fit into one painting so I am also working on a landscape, double page spread, version with 1950's mountaineers.  However I'll come back to that at a later date. I went a bit snowblind painting this and want to try something new next. 

Update:  Wasn't joking about the snowblindness.  After a restorative G+T I suddenly noticed a couple of things that were really annoying me in the composition, so went back and repainted it.  The new and improved version has now also been uploaded to the print area of my DeviantART pages.  I doubt anyone has even noticed.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Loch Ness Monster

Loch Ness Monster Urquhart Castle

After a recent conversation with a book publisher I realised that there were a few gaps in my coverage of various Cryptids and that it would be handy to have more stuff available as stock illos. Therefore I’ve decided that whenever I get a break between paying jobs to work my way through the list and to right that wrong (Uh oh - massive Carry on up the Khyber flashback).

First up is the Loch Ness Monster. I’d forgotten that I’d got a collection of plesiosaur models and not really done anything with them up until now. In the end I settled on the Styxosaurus as the others all look at bit ‘glove-puppety’. As I was suddenly free of any art direction I decided to make it pretty inoffensive (no blood) in a vague hope that this might make it more marketable. I probably spent far too long looking at pictures of ducks bottoms during the making of this. Enjoy.

PS.  have just signed up with DeviantART (really annoying name) as an experiment while I try to organise a new website host.  Here's the link for what it's worth.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Fortean Times issue 287 cover

Just arrived in the post, Fortean Times issue 287 – Titanic Premonitions. Etienne’s original cover idea was the image on the right (which appears as a full page inside). I suspect (but cannot prove) that the head may in fact belong to Etienne himself (photo by David Newton). I was asked to do a quick 3D model/render of the Titanic sinking for use inside the head. It was supposed to appear quite small and be all swirly/premonition-y around the edges so didn’t need to be too detailed or fussy with people etc.

However the Great Old Ones decreed (from The Tower of Solitude) that the merest glimpse of the outline of Etienne’s head did offend their eyes greatly and might scare people off before they’d had a chance to part with their cash. So the head idea was dropped and suddenly my little Titanic 3D scene was promoted. However circumstances conspired to prevent me doing any more (possible Titanic curse?) as I promptly came down with a disgusting lurgy-bug-thing that wiped me out for a fortnight.
Luckily Etienne managed to save the day by clever addition of the newspaper montage which nicely echoes the form of the iceberg and also gives the image that Pathé News feel.  If I’d known that it was going to end up being used so prominently I’d have run over the whole thing with a wet (digitally speaking) brush to soften up some of that CGI-ness and added some people (although at this scale they’d only be a couple of pixels per person and would have been a bit of a faff on).
The scary thing about doing this illo was the realisation during rigging and texturing the model (which is a royalty free one I bought as I didn't have time to make one from scratch) of how few lifeboats there actually were on the Titanic (only 20 – enough for only half the passengers and crew).

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Fortean Times issue 285 cover


Brief update – the first in over a year. So what?! Read the disclaimer, I don’t have to tell you nuffink, see! Besides, I've been far too busy doing secret stuff and wittering away on Twitter to bother with updates. Most of the stuff I've been working on I can't disclose yet (if ever) so there didn't seem much point.

That there, up there, is my most recent cover illo for Fortean Times issue 285 – March, so technically still relevant despite being in the shops for nearly a month. It’s always nice to be able to paint the end of the world, even more so when you get to show the destruction of the errant colonials.  As you will know in all disaster films it doesn’t count unless it happens to Americans, so I was happy to oblige. I got to go all John Martin on them, did feel a bit sorry tho for Canada copping a lot of the collateral damage - soz, but it is the end of the world.
Unusually for me, I am totally okay with the massive 2012 right across everything - that was always going to happen, and the composition actually looks a bit lost without it.  Slightly confused by the odd smudge which seems to have materialised mid Atlantic, above the 1, obviously some sort of Fortean Phenomena as the paint is digital.

In other news, the Lindworm cover I did for FT 264 has been selected for the Association of Illustrators Images 36 exhibition/bookthing, which is nice.


I’m currently working on yet another pitch poster for Cannes 2012, but not sure when/if I’ll be able to show it here. Never forget, the first rule of pitch posters…

Also I’ve been asked to work on a children’s book/tv pitch project but can’t say any more about that yet (haven’t done anything worth mentioning yet anyway).

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Chupacabra Cursed My PC! FT 271 Cover Art,Out Now.



Here is my latest cover for Fortean Times issue 271, Giger's Chupacabra. Sorry for the delay in posting, but I suffered a total PC meltdown on the eve of the deadline for this piece (I spent deadline day running around town trying to get it uploaded to FT). A virus totally fried a couple of my machines and then the great Xmas delivery fubar/snowmaggedon/moronic suppliers conspired to prevent any spare parts from reaching me until this week. It is looking like it will take me another 2-3 weeks to get all my old software/plugins prefs/profiles etc reloaded and I can get back to where I was in mid December. On the plus side it gave me an excuse to tidy up the office/studio and order some new toys. A shiny new Wacom Cintiq 21UX is somewhere in Germany right now with my name on it, stay tuned....

BTW the story behind the cover image is that new research suggests the original sighting, that gave rise to the Chupacabra stories, may have been influenced by the 'witness' having seen the film Species just before. The brief was to create a Chupacabra in the style of HR Giger (who designed the original Species creature), had hardly any time to do this but learnt a lot about character rigging in the process (I only ever rig 2-3 models per year and always forget everything after each one). The original image has a separate layer of background stuff in order to fit the expanded composition of the full page, it was removed for the more restricted view on the cover.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

FT 270 cover, out now. UFO star of Bethlehem


Just a quick post as I have deadlines looming all over the place. Here is the cover to Fortean Times #270, the Xmas issue. There were initially some problems with the CMYK conversion as the RGB original was way out of gamut due to my reckless use of lens flares on the main lighting render. However, I think it came out ok in the end.

I am finding the new FT cover layout to be a bit of a challenge as it's so top heavy and increasingly difficult to come up with compositions that work for both the cover and full page. Maybe this just pushes you to be more creative? Dunno about that, but I was pretty happy with the way the composition worked out for this one. It was felt that the cover needed to be more of a Christmas card for the readers, which is why the subject is not really representative of the feature article as a whole but just one element of it.

Working on this cover reminded me of junior school where I would be ‘volunteered’ to paint the Christmas themed frieze on the classroom wall every year during my lunch hour. I would be stuck inside painting silhouettes of wise men, palm trees, blah blah, while everyone else was outside throwing snowballs with rocks in and getting ‘scrubbed’. Yes, my schooldays were like the deleted scenes from Kes.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

15 Artists in 15 minutes

A new game via Cassia's Blog. The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen Artists who've influenced you and will ALWAYS STICK WITH YOU. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I'm interested in seeing what artists my friends choose..."

Here goes, in the order I can think of them, not necessarily the right order:

1 Joseph Beuys (I liked him so much I even bought the hat)
2 Antoni Tàpies (he taught the man who taught me everything I know about printmaking)
3 Egon Schiele (the best draughtsman ever)
4 Oskar Kokoschka (fantastically-spastically-scratchy drawing and poems about fish)
5 John Heartfield (hardcore photo-shopping before computers)
6 Joseph Cornell (because I like to put things in boxes)
7 Marshall Arisman (25 yrs on and still trying to be him)
8 Brian Bolland (I am the Law!)
9 Alexander Rodchenko (I would also go to work in overalls if I could get away with it)
10 Richard Scarry (accounts for a large proportion of my earliest memories of illustration )
11 George Grosz (mainly the lithos of sex murders – weird but true)
12 Frank Bellamy (Outstanding draughtsman and Comics artist )
13 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (2nd greatest draughtsman ever)
14 Roy Cross (Airfix box artist)
15 Frida Kahlo (a ribbon around a bomb) I once went to a Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery and literally bumped straight into Max Von Sydow - 'Ming!' I gasped, he laughed - actually a very nice man.

Friday, 24 September 2010

How to Create a Portfolio & Get Hired?

Don’t ask me – ask the AOI’s own Fig Taylor. She’s just brought out a new book which tells you exactly how to do all of the above. It is a thing of beauty and full of good info, there’s a particularly good bit on page 65 which has lots of my FLICK stuff on it.

I am slightly worried that there is such an obvious need for this book - degree courses ought to be teaching this stuff. If the illustration forums over at the AOI and other places are anything to go by then it would appear that colleges are churning out illustration students who don’t know the basics about the professional side of being an illustrator. This means the market is flooded with people who are so clueless they accept jobs for peanuts and bring down the rates for the entire industry. If there is an illustrator in your life, then please buy this book for them (they’ll probably be skint).

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Flick in the USA and Fangoria Interview

Flick is getting a proper US DVD release October 26th thanks to Peace Arch Entertainment and a bit of PR from Fangoria mag. As a tie-in I did an interview with Fangoria last week which has been posted to their website, you can read it here. Apologies in advance, I do sound like a bit of a tool, think its because I blathered on way to long and they had to edit me down to something more manageable.


I should point out that, as mentioned in the final paragraph of the article, the next project we are working on is a werewolf movie called 'The Scratch Room'. The teaser poster should have been included but seems to be missing - so here it is.

Friday, 10 September 2010

FT 267 cover out now: The Magical Battle of Britain


Here's the latest FT cover, which subscribers seem to be getting today so I guess it's ok to reveal now. The cover feature is about a group of British witches that apparently got together and decided to stop the Blitz and turn back the Nazi invasion by giving Hitler and Co the willies. Sounds very 'Dad's Army' to me which is probably why it was so much fun to illustrate. Another of those covers that had to be submitted in layers because the final cover layout was fluid - and sure enough got changed at the last minute when the strip along the top was added thus pushing everything else down a couple of inches. The knock-on effect means that several elements had to be dropped from the composition in order to fit everything in. These things happen, besides you can see the original as a full page inside (or below if you can't wait). I was more annoyed when my brother pointed out that my painting of Hermann Goering looks a lot like Gazza, I can't see it myself - there's not a single roast chicken or fishing rod anywhere in the pic.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

FT 264 Lindworm cover - out now.



I've just got time to quickly post this, the latest cover for FT 264, The Lindworm - which subscribers are starting to receive today. This was about as much fun as illustration gets, Sea Serpents vs Vikings - how can you not have fun doing that?

Really busy on another magazine cover for which the deadline is my birthday so I'll have to get it sorted well beforehand otherwise my plans for spending the day in the garden with a bucket of Pimms will evaporate and the post brithday sulk will start early again this year.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Quick update, not stopping....

Have been doing various things that I can't talk about due to non disclosure issues. I've just finished some Cannes stuff and some other film stuff and I'm just about to start another film job that I can't talk about either.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Latest magazine cover. FT 261 out now


In what people are already calling 'the special' and 'bumper 100 page issue', my latest cover for FT 261, Jesus in Britain is out so probably ok to show this now. I had thought the strapline was going to be Jesus' Gap Year in Glastonbury' and in keeping with this idea the original image had a layer set containing woad face paint and Glastonbury VIP pass wristband, but obviously this didn't make it to the final layout. It would probably have been a bit too busy anyway. I did manage to sneak in the Ogham script on the staff that reads Glasto Rocs (sic) no K in Ogham alphabet unfortunately.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Quick update, no time to chat...

A quick update to say that I've just finished the latest Fortean Times cover illo, FT 261 Jesus' Gap year at Glastonbury which should be out soon. I 'll post a pic once the subs start to get their copies.

It's that time of year again and I've got two pitch posters to do in time for Cannes so things will probably go quiet again for a while and once they are over I won't be able to post them as they will of course be top secret.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

My Latest Magazine Cover - FT 258 Out Now.


Have a head full of cold so I'm taking a few days off as I actually forgot to breathe through my mouth this morning and nearly suffocated - that's how spaced out I am right now.
Haven't posted anything for a while so here is my latest Fortean Times cover which was completed a couple of days before Xmas and is just appearing on shelves now. Yet again my father modelled for the 'evil' hands of the Illuminati - I don't know if it's down to my rubbish painting or the varnished cover but his hands look more waxy and less realistic than the doll's. I was having a lot of problems with monitor calibration during the painting of this so maybe that's it or maybe Etienne airbrushed them a bit - dunno.
I also had a very nice email from a fan this morning and as a consequence of which my old Jebus illo is now available to buy as prints from Imagekind.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Straight to DVD....Do not pass go. Do not collect £££'s


So the DVD is out, a year after the Premier at Raindance and despite screening at just about every film festival in the world and picking up some big name fans like Tarantino and John Landis it never did get a proper release. I assume this is down to the fact that the distributors blew their wad on promoting Lesbian Vampire killers - serves em right. Because it didn't get even a limited art house release none of us get the deferred part of our payments so everyone is skint and back at the drawing board.
Apparently John Landis saw the film on the strength of the poster and now has a copy in his B-Movie poster collection - if true then this represents the best compliment I'm ever going to get.
The DVD has actually been out for a few weeks now but I've just been too annoyed/depressed/busy to post this until now. I had to buy my own copy from Amazon (Grrr) and if you are keen to help me earn literally pence in royalties then hurry on over there - while stocks last (seriously they only had one left in stock this morning).
As you can see from the above photo:
My monitors obviously need calibrating
My office looks super clean thanks to Canon Lenses.
I now have fat hands!
Whoever added the review quotes to the cover is being a bit economical. The full quote from Eyeforfilm.co.uk reads, 'The requisite gore is no match for Braindead but there’s enough style and aplomb to give this the makings of a minor cult classic and a suitable addition to the rotting canon.' While the Twitchfilm.net 'superb' quote actually reads, 'Liz Smith is expectedly superb as Johnny's senile mother, providing some perfectly timed laughs, and Dunaway is an other worldly presence, managing to make the most of a largely clichéd role.'
Fortean Times have also just posted their own review here. I can't really argue with it, having just seen the film myself for the first time I reckon 2 stars is about right. I am not that happy with the way my comic strip transitions look but then that's mainly down to my inconsistent drawing style from panel to panel. I can console myself that during the comic strip transitions the speech bubbles are voiced over by the cast, which means that I wrote some words that Faye Dunaway said in a film - should probably have asked for a script credit as well :)
Not a great surprise though to see that someone forgot to include me in the technical credits; for comic strips, storyboarding or concept art. Instead there's a huge department head style credit in the opening titles that just says 'Illustrations by', which is pretty impressive but also pretty meaningless to most people (even most illustrators) - this also means that I probably still can't qualify for an IMDB entry.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Life on hold .....Rewiring in progress....

Rewiring is underway and already behind schedule - no surprises there then. Currently reduced to checking my email once a day via a dodgy old laptop in a plastic tent in the spare room. I am not having fun. Normal service will be resumed......I have no idea when.

Monday, 20 July 2009

FT252 cover is out.


The August issue of Fortean Times is out now, although I wouldn't recommend browsing it in WHSmiths as there are some gross photos of people with various things impaled in them on pages 4-5. FT seems to have strayed into NUTS territory this month.
The more observant of you may notice this is yet another cover to feature a guest appearance by my dad as model - hair by David @ Sweeney's, Jacket by Boden, styling by accident.