Saturday 26 September 2009

Mark Harrison's Formula for an Amazing Cover!

Above is Mark Harrison's absolutely beautiful cover for Prog 1655.

Mark burst into 2000AD back in 1994 when he produced scorching visuals for the Judge Dredd tale "Conspiracy of Silence," a prelude to the Wilderland's Epic. He went on to provide the operatic artwork for the reboot of Durham Red which was painted both traditionally and digitally - without a doubt making him one of the pioneers of digital artwork in the rich history of 2000AD. His other projects include the terrifying Glimmer Rats story, the Pulp Sci-Fi one offs (of which he wrote two episodes) and The Ten Seconders.

So, for all you aspiring cover artists out there, it is my pleasure to reveal 'Harrison's First Law of Amazing Covers' which should help you all produce similarly spectacular results. Ready? Here we go (click the image to make it bigger):
Simple eh? Professor Harrison will expertly demonstrate his complicated formula below, pay attention at the back!

He explains "Originally I was handed the brief of the Succubus and Uriel and I imagined using the image of an old Macbeth poster I did way back. (It felt very Macbeth, the whole Necrophim story, which is my favourite in 2000 AD at the moment.)" Below we can see his original poster and the concept sketch for the prog cover...

He continues "I use a quick photo montage method that is digitally painted over. This can be images off the internet or if you're lucky, someone posing for you (like my brother in these shots). I asked my long suffering brother to give me a series of brooding, dismissive, confrontational, pissed off poses; more than usual! (Note the cereal bowls doubling for skulls that were going to be in the original image.)

I supplemented that with photos of an action figure gave me some basic clothing reference. I've used action figures as a source of reference for years as they afford you that freedom of pose and perspective a photo can't give you (Well that's my excuse for my "reference collection"! ;))

Tharg wanted the female draped over the man so I used a flop of a thumbnail image of a Vanity Fair image as reference."
We can see all of those elements in the image below, perhaps his brother whould have looked slightly less brooding if Mark had sorted out a beautiful girl to drape herself over him!
Next, Mark handily goes on to justify the existence of this very blog - "The background was the architecture of Hell, namely internet images distorted; ruined churches, abbeys, statues , stone carvings and fields on fire (all lost on the final cover!)"

Finally he adds some Photoshop magic to really bring the cover alive! "To give a suitably hellish sheen to everyone I dropped a "sweat" image file (that I've had since Glimmer Rats days) over the bodies.

Finally I ran a couple of my own custom PhotoShop actions to add bloom and colour overlays (which as you can see in the attachments make a hell of a difference, making it punchier.)"

So there we have it, stunning stuff! Mark continues to work with Rebellion, producing absolutely beautiful covers for their Abaddon range of books. Please visit Mark's website and also take a peek at his hilarious Travellers strip. You can see more of Mark's covers uncovered on the great covers sketch page of Barney here!
HUGE thanks to Mark for being so generous with his time and for sending such amazing images!


  1. Thanks so much, To pete and all the fantastic artists who are contributing their behind the scenes! Its a great insight and a fantastic read. Keep up the good work. I hope neil roberts will do another post on his Strontium dog cover.

  2. Hey Mark,
    Thanx for adding your work process to the Blog,Its always intriging to see this sort of material and the work and thought process behind it.

    take care,