Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Irons: Hybrids. Cover process.

Layout sketches. This first stage is the most important part of the process. All the ideas are put down quickly and instinctively and a composition is decided upon. Three versions generally provide choice for the client/editor to work with and Liam Sharp decided that having Leto front and centre worked best. We then moved on with background characters designs.

A more finished sketch this time to capture the vibe of the environment. Some more playful ideas were added in the background but they felt out of synch with the overall tone intended for the cover.

Another pass refines the background character details.

Leto and two or three additional principal characters are next. Layout sketches are always done in biro. Trying to keep an energy and spontaneity in the figures by keeping the size to A4.

Pencils. Still working in ink with a brushpen at A4 for keeping the proportions and composition right. An alien krishna and Bono help fill the background. A lot of extra details are added to the figures and background at this stage and to be honest it serves well enough.

Colour work follows by Yel Zamor. These characters are for the background only and Yel cleverly coloured them with minimum shading to allow them to remain in the background and not pop or distract from foreground characters. Since they will also be reduced in size, any over-rendered textures would be lost anyways.

An alternate version below where I played with colour coded regionalised lighting on the background crowds. The seperate layers in the Madefire tools enhance the effect by providing a parallax effect.

Madefire. Hybrids: The Irons by Haden Blackman.

Madefire released their app yesterday and I am delighted to be a part of the project. Dave Gibbons, Bill Seinkiewicz, Dougie Braithwaite, Liam Sharp, Robbie Morrison, Mike Carey and many more creators are involved and I am proud to be working with Haden Blackman (Batwoman) on our collaboration, Hybrids: The Irons. Here is a teaser of what to expect with our new world environment.

The Irons teaser formatted as a page. Viewing experience will be 1.85 landscape panels with 3:4 IMAX inspired fullscreen. The Madefire tools allow for parallax views (up to seven layers for city vistas) and pans/zooms/depth of field effects. The technical approach to starting a page is very different too. It's a new language of story-telling.

Colour as always by the talented Yel Zamor.

Life Drawing. Offshore Coffee Gallery. Sandra.

DAve McAleavy invited me along to Thursday's two hour class at the Offshore Coffee Gallery in Gibson Street, Glasgow. Our model Sandra was a delight and we talked briefly about Dali and Figueres during her break. My first life drawing class was a modest success, although I need to be less harsh with the line next time.

Initial five minute poses by Sandra. Finding the line here was the trickiest part. Biro. A4 xerox paper.

Some really intersting poses from Sandra and Dave and I lucked out with our seating position (to the right) and lighting. Another 30 minute sketch. Wasn't pleased with the face and redrew it. Still not got the likeness right. Her expression was rather interesting and I loved working the face and eyes especially. Quite an intimate sitting, only feet from her. Tired several times to get her eyes just right.
Last sketch of the day. About 30 minutes or so. Over-worked it and with too many lines around the face. Sandra deserved a cleaner approach. She was much prettier than my harsh line shows.

Batman. Sketch. Bristol. May 2012.

One of my favourite sketches from Bristol Comic expo last month was this Batman. I normally sketch a profile of the Caped Crusader but was asked for a full figure instead and really concentrated on the cape this time. Worked up the texture hoping for a leather effect and fairly pleased with the end result. Added a quick background for some depth to the piece. Another satisfied fan.

Judge Death!

Judge Death. Kapow! 2012.

First sketch of the day and a wonderful colouring job by Jean-Paul Bove (who worked at his table) This photo of the print he delivered to the fan does not do the colour job justice but very peased with his work.

Judge Fire to Follow next week plus JP's colour print!

Roller Grrrls. Teal Leone. Character sketch.

Here is another Roller Grrrls character sketch. I have included the pencils (drawn in biro) and the finished  inks. No layouts for this episode as the idea was very clear in my head and I could see instantly how the end result would look. There was a subtle change to Teal's right arm in the first panel but very little else is different. So very pleased with this small vignette.

Roller Grrrls birthday image for LRG!

LRG Birthday Card. Gray version.

Wishing the London Roller Girls a very happy sixth birthday! Derby Love to everyone on the team, NSOs and fans from Roller Grrrls. 


 Colour version.

Hybrids. Layouts for a chase sequence.

 Hybrids. Written by Haden Blackman for the Madefire digital comic.

These layouts for our portal chase sequence are the first run through of the script and generally problem solve the pacing and composition before pencils. 90% of what you see here makes the final cut. Primarily working on individual panels to a 1.85 or 16:9 ratio for widescreen viewing on the iPad and similar media. Panels or frames 'taller' than the preferred ratio are to allow for pans or zooms. They are grouped together as pages for clarity and script checking. Choices also have to be made regarding creating seperate layers within the panels and indicating motion (not shown here) to provide parallax for the motion comic element.

This digital technique proves to be a very challenging experience and rewards you with new creatives options for telling a story. More reviews next week.


Roller Grrrls. Promotional trailer. Evolution.

The Roller Grrrls promotion trailers went live on Tuesday and feature vignettes of our characters leading up to the leads Mouse, Snow and Anna. The second teaser features Bridget, our comprehensive teacher.The following images show the four stages of how each of these episodes are created. It is also the same process I use for most artwork.

Layout. Biro. The most important part of the whole creative process. It defines the composition. Everything that follows is polishing that original idea.

Next step is pencils. I use a brushpen on 90gm tracing paper and treat this a first draft ink pass. It takes a lot of confidence but after twenty plus years it works for me (mostly) Some minor additions (her waiscoat) are made and corrections too.

Inks next. The waistcoat didn't work so I dropped it. The pencils are flipped and I ink in reverse as it allows me to correct a skew (eyelines and perspectives especially) Details are tightened up too. The reference below is shown correctly for the purpose of continuity. The third panel was drawn earlier.

This is a raw scan only and still requires processing in Photoshop. Contrast and levels passes make for a sharper and blacker line. Some additional corrections and cropping are made and the image is finally flipped one last time back to it's correct orientation. Lettering and logo are added and then the post is uploaded. Repeat this every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday! ;)

For more Roller Grrrls images and further trailers you can visit our hub at

Hybrids. Haden Blackman. City scene. Evolution of a panel.

Hybrids. Haden Blackman. City scene. Evolution of a panel.

Here are the basic four steps necessary for creating a complex scene. The layout (although rough) is the single most important stage of this process as it defines the composition. Everything that follows is refining that original idea. Details are added where appropriate and some minor changes are made but essentially it remains close to the layout. The next major creative leap comes with the colouring stage. Yel Zamor's colour adds a further more important level of depth to the final image as it creates mood and atmosphere which is not easily seen in the lineart.

Layout sketch.


Colour by Yel Zamor.

Band. Sketch. Work in progress.

Band. Sketch. Work in progress. Biro on 90gm xerox paper.

Roller Grrrls. Inside Line magazine.

Jessica Ali from Inside Line magazine asked Roller Grrrls to contribute a couple of illustrations for an article regarding roller derby injuries to be included in their third edition. This is our second illustration for the magazine. Yel Zamor did the colour and Anna Malady worked on the lineart. We are very pleased with the end result and this is an alternate version to the one printed (red background instead of the original blue/gray)

For more information and ordering the magazine (with stickers) you can contact Inside Line magazine direct by email at or visit their site here. They also have a Facebook site here. Go buy a copy now! ;)

For more Roller Grrrls action please visit our hub at

Roller Grrrls. Process.

Rather than showing a sketch for this post, I considered instead to put up some of the early process work I do towards creating a page or cover. This is the most fun part for me as there are many ideas that come out of this stage of the process and you are free to experiment with more radical views or perspectives. For this cover, I wanted a Jammer's (player's) POV of the pack crossing over her (after her fall). Roller derby is a full-contact sport and that immediacy and chaos needed to be at the fore-front of the image.

I worked out a simple pack formation and tried some tumbles to best provide the Jammer's POV (looking back) of the mayhem! Skewed perspective, close-cropping of figures and a sense of tightness to the pack helped convey the 'carnage'. This kinda thing is difficult with a static image so every trick in the book is employed where necessary! Still lots to work out with this cover but the initial sketches from this week look promising. I will check over again at the weekend with a fresh eye after day job commitments and hopefully spark some more elements to add or tweak?

While trying to nail the perfect composition for the client or project, there will be many initially discarded layouts (for a variety of reasons) but these will eventually be recycled back into other books or projects. Nothing is ever wasted (not even your time!) Roller Grrrls for example, was originally born out of an idea for an all-female Serenity spin-off called Helles Belles that went as far as layouts, but the cold hard realisation of doing a lot of concept design and character developement really put that project on hold (an overly complex idea for a personal project ) and sadly meant it was shelved for a couple of years until Mhairi and I realised that major elements of the concept could be fashioned into Roller Grrrls. A lot of the characters and personal relationships and social dynamics stayed. The girls camaradre too. All good! The laser guns and hyperspace ideas were grudgingly jettisoned! ;)

Helles Belles will still be something to look over again at some stage but right now the contemporary setting of Roller Grrrls is proving 'easier' to work with and more immediately enjoyable. It also proves instantly loved by fans who 'get' the concept quickly. No genre to confuse or distract. Just roller derby action and real lives. Eastenders on skates? Or Love and Rockets on flat track! You decide!

You can see more roller derby work by visiting our hub at


Catwoman continues to be a popular sketch. This one is from Leeds Thought Bubble last year.

Terminator. Sketch. 2009.

Terminator. From the archives.

Concept design. Hybrids.

Some lineart and concept work for Hybrids. This environment needed to evoke a certain dark and frightening atmosphere. Context is everything and the choices made on the decor, details on the walls and general mess of stacked magazines and canvases will explain itself when all is revealed.

Colour by Yel Zamor.