Thursday, 8 October 2009

Retro post - Warheads character sketches.

After last week's Knights of Pendragon post I though I would return to the second series I worked on back in 1992. Warheads was part of the Mystech line of books brought out by Marvel UK in the early 90s and featured some sterling work from fresh talents like Dougie Braithwaite, Dermot Power, Liam Sharp and Gary Frank amongst others. It was an incredibly enjoyable time creatively and we were given pretty much free reign to 'go for it' as far as the art was concerned.

Paul Neary (the senior editor at the time) saw my convention sketches and had asked me if they could form part of the new Marvel UK series of books planned. Warheads was written by Nick Vince (the Hellraiser and Nightbreed actor) My original designs and sketches were tweaked to fit in with the story and vision of the book and work began in early 1992. Unfortunately a series of family events meant that I had to leave the series (my biggest regret) and although the book continued it eventually got cancelled further down the line. I only ever drew 30 pages of this series but it remains a very personal favourite work.

I have included the original convention sketch (completed the day before the 1991 UKCAC) and character sketches (Leona, Misha and Dean, their original names) As much as I like clean and unfussy artists' work such as Hugo Pratt, Mazzuchelli and Craig Thompson... there is an 'everything and the kitchen sink' aproach that I can't resist from my love of Geof Darrow, Otomo and Moebius. Most of the artists who dismiss this bludgeoning approach appear more concerned with the hard work and effort (and lost page rate) in producing a page like this than for any artistic or stylistic reason. It is what it is.

I always like the line from Se7en (later in the film when they are driving to the desert) when John Doe tells Detectives Mills and Somerset that 'Wanting people to listen, you can't just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you'll notice you've got their strict attention.' I like that line and have it as a mantra (whenever possible) for my approach with my art. Not known for a quiet whisper, it has been a while since I last roared. Here's something to remind you...


Hypersonic was a book I worked on in 1992 for Tundra Publishing and was written by Dan Abnett and Steve White. It certainly played to my creative strengths (hardware and sci-fi crap) and was great fun to work on.

The story centered around the pilot Wesley Anger and was set in a near future war scenario. Our hero is captured by a covert military team and introduced to captured alien technology that allows pilots to be 'jacked in' to the craft forming a symbiotic link with the 'living' plane providing full 360 degrees vision. The hardwiring was similar to HDMI links and USB links we have now but we only could use audio and video cables of the day (primarily SCART and coaxial although the future intentions were there)

Really enjoyed this series. Dark Horse Comics eventually picked it up and we were given a sterling colour job by the talented Dave Nestelle. The environment he created for the characters and story was astounding and the seven year delay proved beneficial for the belated release. No collections as yet but I may pester Dark Horse with some new artwork to encourage them (after the success of the Lords of Misrule release last month!)

Knights of Pendragon.

Currently in Spain surrounded by the most amazing Gaudi architecture. Very inspiring.

This week I thought I would post up my new cover for the Knights of the Pendragon cover and give a little information about the process involved. Knights was the first book I worked on (some twenty years ago) and still remains a favourite with fans. Panini are now intending to publish the first nine issues in one single volume later this year with the remaining volume to follow next year.

I have also included some of the original sketches for the cover with this post. I found it difficult to return to the characters after so long away and the final design was limited by how much of the first half of the story we could reveal. The Red Lord and the Bain were later on in the series and could not appear on this first cover. The final climactic battle with the Green Knight (as great a cover image as that would have been) was also out of the question. The 'Ultimates' inspired group shot (although interesting) failed to excite and a late sketch proposal of a wrap round cover proved difficult for the production as the back cover design had already been approved. So many things to take into consideration.

With so many options in mind I took the decison to draw our heroes (and villian) individually to allow for re-sizing and positioning. This proved very helpful in choosing each character's prominence relative to Captain Britain who was always front and centre. Brady Webb at Panini and myself went through many ideas before settling on the final design shown here... our heroes charging defiantly towards the reader. A fairly simple idea (you may think) but a cover is the singular most important selling point of any medium (be it a cd, magazine or comic book cover) The cover has to be attention grabbing and instantly promote interest in the product and a desire to see more. You can see this logic on any newstand or comic shop shelf.

Very pleased with the final choice of design and thanks again to Brady Webb for his guidance and input and to James Offredi for his colour work.

Turning Point - Fall of Liberty trailer.

Drawing comics is not all I do nowadays. Occasionally there are opportunities to work with animation companies on storyboards or concept design. Recently I have been fortunate enough to work with the guys (and girls) at Axis Animation on trailers for console games. One of my favourites was the Turning Point - Fall of Liberty game trailer.

My comic book storytelling skills were definitely put to the test as there were constant revisions to the drawings from the original script. Working alongside Wiek Luijken$(the director and also an accomplished aviation artist) and Jonathan Kray (Lead Animator) made it easy for quick edits and approaches (especially as clients were always requesting changes on a daily basis) My 'on site' status also helped with some subtle 'blocking' for the fight scene. Watch the taxi driver beat up the Nazi paratrooper and you can hopefully guess which part I played. Wiek certainly didn't hold back with the punches or the kick to the stomach! All in a day's work for a freelancer! ;)

The six week turnaround flew by (my own part being the first week) and Axis showed me the finished job a couple of months later. The end result was stunning. Almost filmic. It is astounding for me to see my very quick short sketches turned into a full motion CGI mini-movie but with such talented animators and director and the award wining studio behind the project it couldn't fail. Always felt very welcome at the studio and look forward to working on new projects with them soon. See more of their work including the stunning Killzone trailers here.

You can see the HD version here (after a very short 10 second advert) Play it loud!

Dan Dare - Opening sequence.

Occasionally I use photo reference for my work (mostly for tricky fight choreograghy or character designs) and it proved especially helpful for Dan Dare. Garth Ennis had written a very subtle opening sequence and since this was the first look at Dan Dare for near fifteen years or so there was a certain worry about getting it right for the fans (old and new)

My partner Mhairi took the photos of me in similar poses to my initial sketches. It's always important to sketch the layouts first but sometimes you surprise yourself with a different angle and better storytelling. Best to go with it if that happens. Various pieces of reference (dogs, small village and cricket match) were found on the internet (a valuable and quick resource for any artist and script!) A few changes were made to the sequence in the final edit and inks but the end result is one I am very pleased with.

Here's the process for Dare... After the photo reference pictures are comped together I can start the pencilling process. This is generally done with pen as it gives me a first draft at the inks and I can sort out any problems there and then.

Once I am finished with the pencils then onto inks. Lots more detail and texture is added to the final picture. You will notice the birds in the background (a late addition to the script)

Once the inks are done then the final image is sent off to the colourist and returned as shown below. Absolutely gorgeous painted work by Parasuraman.

For Dare, the photo reference was also an essential part of the process to kick start me back into drawing for the already forward schedule. I was brought into the project later in the day and had to make up the time for an already agreed publishing date with Virgin. Hadn't drawn my own artwork for a couple of years so was a tad rusty and concerned that I had to catch up again on such an important book and character (the Dare Legacy carries a lot of weight) Impressing Garth Ennis was also not an easy task and we worked hard on this book.

I eventually got into my stride and the later issues were all drawn by hand (although there were still a couple of small sequences that required photo referencing) Very pleased with the end result and the Dynamite collection has more sketches and designs if you're interested in seeing another small part of the whole process of creating comics.

Demonic Angel.

Something from the vaults this week.

Here is a sketch I did way back in '95 or '96 at Gencon in Loughborough, England. I was invited down that year because of my work on Star Wars and Terminator which appealed to the sci-fi part of the convention. Unlike Jon Hogdson, I had little or no experience of fantasy work (or vampires) and most of the audience that week were looking for dragons or nymphs or Lestat. Boy, was I out my depth. No X-Wing requests or a metal-faced Arnie? What's a second rate Marvel artist to do?

Thankfully the crowd were very friendly (especially the toothy vampire set) and they helped me with some of the sketches. This photocopy is all that remains of one of my favourite sketches from the event. Can't remember exactly what kind of creature she was meant to be (definitely not a Harpie) but she did start out as the very different Star Wars related character Oola (coincidentally, the actress Femi Taylor was also attending the convention alongside the usual fan favourites)

Gencon was a tremendously enjoyable experience and I would look forward to attending more of these fantasy based events in the future. The crowd were incredibly enthusiastic and friendly.


Not really. But I couldn't resist adding this obligatory cheesecake image for my post. Still colouring here and there whenever the opportunity arises and decided to go for a simple girly pose.

Fairly simple process of drawing the lineart and scanning in to Photoshop. The line art is then saved as a floating layer and the colour is applied underneath. Very similar process to the old school approach of using an acetate sheet with the painted artwork below. I still use a mouse to colour (not easy) although I am considering learning to use the pen and digital pad that has been lying around new for the last couple of months in the studio. Yes, it has been a very busy month. Worked up some Grrrl textures for the top and gave her a blue tinged skin for effect.

Very pleased with the end result as this sort of pin-up style is not the sort of thing I get much of a chance to do.


Always loved the original HR Giger design and was fortunate enough to see the Giger film exhibition in Frankfurt earlier this year. Some absolutely gorgeous designs on display, original art which was breathtaking and video features and sketchbooks from the man himself. A truly frighteningly creative man (and a bit scary too) They even had the actual Alien costume (possibly the stunt version?) suspended behind glass. The suit was a little worse for wear with some minor tears here and there but in not too bad condition considering it's age. Even behind glass it was an incredibly potent and startling design and the tail is a lot longer than you think it is. Mhairi certainly couldn't look at it long enough before moving on and that was in a stark white-walled gallery as opposed to a dark strobing corridor with sirens blaring! A missed opportunity for the gallery owners there?

This is my first (and at present, only) illustration of the Giger Alien. As much as I like the rest of the movies (yes, even the third and fourth for different reasons) the purity of the original design is something to behold (and draw) Especially the sleek long head that seemed to disappear to a more skeletal design in later incarnations. The Dog Alien in Fincher's part of the quadrilogy however was particularly interesting. Maybe a colour piece to follow?

This image is mostly drawing. Some quick Photoshop for background sky and form but no digital pad. Just pen and ink. Would love to do some more work on the character and property as it is a genre I am very much like and look forward to the Blu-Ray release of the Ridley Scott version later this year. A near perfect genre movie.

Samurai Jane preview.

In between the sixteen hour day shifts I get to work up some personal projects for my portflio. Usually high concept stuff. Tall girls with swords. And guns. And attitude.

Hardly anything new but the longer I take working up these ideas (in the background), the more similar ideas get out there before me. Regular Facebook Fan Page members will see a lot of my sketches online and I thought Thursday would be an opportunity to showcase this particular character.

Samurai Jane is a mixed media picture. My friend Claire modelled for me for a variety of poses and the final chosen photograph was comped together with a background image sourced from a book. Getting the right picture to work with and not against the main foreground character proved more difficult than expected and there was a lot of necessary processing and desaturating of the image before it was flattened. The layers were then filtered and digitally painted and decorative details were added to enhance the dress and sword. Really love putting all the elements together and hope to display the rest of the pictures from this set at a later date.

The character herself has a back story and there are tentative layouts for pace and story purposes. Finding the time to work on these personal projects is always frustrating as scheduled books have to take priority. Such is the freelancers life. I would hope to have Samurai Jane in a near completed form by the end of the year and wil no doubt feature more images in later posts.

Oh, and she kills zombies.

Earthfall 2009.

Earthfall was a series commisioned by Dark Horse Comics as part of their Zombieworld line back in 1998. Gordon Rennie and myself were lined up for this three part story and then the plug was pulled and the series was cancelled. Pity. It would have been really good. Great script from Gordon.

This is a new colour version of the proposed cover for the Dark Horse series. Who would have thought that in 1998 zombie comics would not sell? Resident Evil 2 was selling millions of copies on release but this comic series died. Permanently. It can be a very strange world sometimes. The writer Gordon Rennie went on to continue writing for comics and computer games. Still hopeful we can resurrect this project. The time is definitely right now.

The black and white lineart was done back in 98 and was the only work seen. I decided recently to colour up this image myself and rework some of the ideas slightly. The punctured suit and skewered arm still remain but the zombie face is replaced by a reflection on the helmet visor of the Las Vegas lights. The idea is to subvert the classic iconic Apollo and Neil Armstrong image, confusing the viewer with the neon sign reflection. Yes, this is on Earth!

I am still trying to find a balance between keeping the lineart clean and visible and having the overall feel and colour kept dark and ominous. Fairly pleased with the final result though.


After the positive response to the Dredd piece I thought that Batman would be an appropriate follow up. The caped crusader profile was done on the same day as the Dredd colour test and was a direct response to the convention sketch version I have been doing for the last few shows. Again, for speed and reference, a couple of photos were taken and used as the base colour layer for this image. I worked up the texture of the leather cowl (still not quite right) and chiselled the chin into a suitablely heroic profile. Digital painting finished the piece off and overall I am very happy with the final composition. Not bad for a three hour turnaround.

Would a background help? Almost certainly, but too many choices confuse me and I would eventually spend longer deciding on a background than on completing the actual painting. Sometimes the simplest choice is the best. Having said that, next Thursday's post may well feature the Batman with a cityscape behind (same with Dredd!) Stay tuned...

The Tempest.

The Tempest is released by Classical Comics and was written by William Shakespeare. This graphic novel was scripted by John McDonald and pencilled by my colleague and friend Jon Haward. I provided inks on this book and after the award-winning success of the Macbeth release we are hopeful for similar interest in this edition. Nigel Dobbyn is the colourist and does some sterling work on the story.

As before with the Classical Comics releases there are three editions (for each reading level) PDFs are available on the site and will explain the available formats much better than I can do here. More books are planned and the future brings other classic authors to the graphic novel treatment soon.

You can see more of Jon Haward's art on his site here and includes a lot of his Panini Marvel Comics work too.