Tuesday 27 September 2011

Paul Marshall - Definitely Maybe! EDITED!

At last! A cover from one of 2000AD's truly unsung heroes, Paul Marshall. This terrifying cover features a genuinely scary image of Dredd's murderous nemesis PJ Maybe, as he grins maniacally at the reader. Paul, who's first work for the galaxy's greatest was over twenty three years ago, has drawn a variety of strips for 2000AD and the Megazine, with highlights including Dredd, the legendary Firekind, Leatherjack, Nikolai Dante, Samizdat Dquad and Sinister Dexter.

Over to Paul, who tells us "This cover had a very straightforward idea/concept behind it. Matt Smith had a clear vision for what he wanted this cover to look like. The idea being a traditional style 'Wanted' poster seen from the viewer's eye-level with PJ looking out at the reader with a chilling/evil style grin..."

Below we see Paul's brilliant first pencils, with PJ certainly looking every inch the psychopath!

Paul continues, "Initially PJ was meant to have the straight-to-camera mugshot pose but we changed this to a slightly more angled view. This added a little more visual interest to what could have been a somewhat static image..."
Interestingly, Paul's initial colour choices didn't match muted, more sepia tones of the finished version. He says "Then it was off to Abigail for the colour... I didn't go with this version... wasn't sure if it worked. Too clean, too colourful? As it turned out, Abigail Ryder (colourist on Kingdom) did a fantastic job, so I was right afterall!"

Very modest comments there from Mr Marshall! Below we can see Abigail's excellent colours and how she interpreted the brief. Maaaan, that really is an unnerving image of PJ!

Finally, the image as printed...

Thanks a million to Paul for getting in touch and allowing us to see the stages involved in creating such a cool cover. I've been trying to get this illusive droid for a loooong time so it's brilliant to finally be able to publish the work in progress sketches and learn a little about the design ethic of such a long serving, esteemed artist. Thanks again Paul!

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Hokusai Pocusai - More D'Israeli Magic!

And the genius that is D'Israeli hits us with yet another potential cover of the year starring the wonderful Dirty Frank. Regular readers will know that the amazing artist won the erm... prestigious 2000AD Message Board Cover of the Year Award in 2009 with his stunning 'Stained Glass Frank' cover of prog 1631. The cover was also, quite rightly, entered for an Eagle Award.

For the cover of Prog 1752, D'Israeli has channelled the spirit of Eighteenth Century Japanese artist and print maker Hokusai to produce this absolutely stunning cover! He has an excellent article on it's production on his blog which you'll find here, however he also held back images and a special step by step for this very blog, saying "On my blog I've talked about process, but I thought a full step-by-step would go better on yours, which is the proper place for such things!" Wahoooooo, I'm geeking out!!!

So, without further ado, let's get going. Matt tells us "The figure comes from the print 'Musahshi Goro Sadayo Dies in Battle at the Age of Fifteen’ from the Illustrated Book of Heroes of China and Japan in the Style of Katsushika." You can see the tragic figure below...

He continues "The background landscape on the left comes from ‘Aoigaoka Waterfall at Edo’ from A Tour of Japanese Waterfalls..." Note the colours here, they're important late on!

Next we have some absolutely beautiful ideas which weren't used "Below are Unused Cover 1 & Unused Cover 2 - These are designs I produced but never submitted to Matt Smith. They are initial roughs, drawing and inking done in Manga Studio EX 4..." Breathtaking!
"Next we see the reference image placed in a Manga Studio EX 4 file along with a 2000AD cover template."
Matt continues "Rough pencils on a new layer above the reference image. I’m tracing key details like the face and pose and changing other aspects such as the clothing." This image features the d├ębut of the brilliant Tesqueaux bag!
With the roughs done, it's time to check in with Tharg... "This is what was sent to Matt Smith for approval..."
With the okay from Matt S, Matt B gets on with some refinements on the image "Unusually, I didn’t do “proper” pencils on this one - All the really important detail like the face and hands was in the reference image. I just tidied up the background buildings a bit and added some patterns to Frank’s clothing. Difficult drawing buildings in “non-perspective!
With the refinements about done, D'Israeli begins to ink the image. "Inking on a new layer. I mostly used Manga Studio’s pen tool, with heavier brush tool lines on the folds of Frank’s clothing, in imitation of Hokusai’s technique."
The next image features ' Just the inks'. In his notes D'Israeli suggests "Pete - this, or the previous image may be redundant" which is proof that the artist is indeed insane, both images simply have to be seen!!!

Next Matt adds the flat colour "Manga Studio’s Paint Bucket tool can ignore small gaps in lines, so it’s MUCH faster to drop in areas of flat colour using that than Photoshop. I’m using chunks of bright, well-differentiated colour that I can grab and fill with the actual colours in Photoshop (which is much better at mixing colours). After this stage, I export the file in .psd format with layers intact and start work in Photoshop CS 4."
D'Israeli adds some authentic colour in Photoshop. He says "Adding the true colours in Photoshop, many of them sampled from scans of Hokusai prints to get the right feel. Gradations added on the ground, sky and Frank’s coat. (just noticed, I hadn’t finished colouring Frank’s shoes in this one!)" Looking at the image below and the Aoigaoka Waterfall image at the top of the page you can begin to see some of the colours...
Finally, D'Israeli tinkers with the colours and adds some of his mind boggling, trademark textures. He says "Added: Grot to Frank’s flesh using a Photoshop texture brush. Overall subtle texture added to imply paper texture. Image opened in Corel Painter and Simple Water blender brush used to “muss up” over perfect gradations in background.

Return to Photoshop, export as flat CMYK TIFF and upload to 2000AD FTP server. Done!"

And there we have it, a genuinely beautiful cover by an artist at the absolute top of his game. Thank you so, so much to Matt for sending the files and taking the time to write the frankly brilliant commentary (no pun intended.) It's truly an event every time D'Israeli does a cover, how on earth is he going to top this one?

Please, if you only visit one blog this year, visit Matt's, it's absolutely brilliant.

Monday 12 September 2011

Prog 1751 - Problems with an Angel's Lumpy Bits!

Apologies for tainting what is an absolutely beautiful cover for Prog 1751 by the monstrously talented Simon Davis with such a childish headline. However, all will be revealed by top design droid, Pye Parr, who explains "A bit of trivia on this cover – I had a last minute panic with it, as I noticed the scanner was picking up the texture of the canvas far too much (if you check out the scan that went into the Megazine this month, it’s different from the one on the prog.)"

The Meg Version of the cover

Simon continues, "While I wanted to retain the texture, all the lumps where coming out almost completely white and made the image as a whole look far too speckly!"

Those offensive lumps!

However, Simon had a brainwave. He says "Unfortunately I only thought about this on Wednesday afternoon right before the issue went to press so we delayed the print until the next morning and I gave the painting to a guy in the office, Kevin Bezant, who has a good set-up at home for taking really detailed photographs. He took some pictures that night and I sorted it out the next day. Looks much better for it I think, without all the white bits of reflected light the colours look much richer."

So hats off to Kevin Bezant who has helped the two Simons deliver one of the most elegant 2000AD covers ever. It really is an astonishing piece.

The image is for new strip Angel Zero which follows the story of the mysterious Maggie Roth, inhabitant of the carbon-negative town of McLuhan on a distant backwater planet. Maggie suffers from terrible nightmares and it would appear her horrors will soon become reality... The strip by Kek-W and the brilliant John Burns begins in this weeks' prog.

Thanks to Pye for taking the time to sort the cover out for me, please visit his excellent blog here, his latest work is stunning!

Saturday 3 September 2011

Prog 1750 Bonus - Boy, do I feel lucky?

Wahoooo! I've been dying to write this for ages! Above is the excellent, excellent Star Scan from Prog 1750 by Rebellion's head concept artist, Mark Harrison. A star scan that was instigated by ME!

Let me take you back 48 progs to Prog 1702, Mark's 'Knock Knock cover below:

You can read about it's creation here (please do, Mark always gives great commentary on his work.) During the inception that cover, Mark submitted a riff on a kooky old Magnum Force film poster, which Tharg rejected:

I loved the idea and couldn't shake the image from my mind, eventually I wrote to Mark, asking if he'd consider doing the image as a private commission. Unfortunately, Mark only works digitally these days and doubted that he even had the paints or equipment to do it! However, he was kind enough to ask me to send my sketch book and he'd have no problem doing a sketch.

After a couple of weeks, my beloved sketchbook was returned with this brilliant watercolour below. It's beautiful!

However, there was more. Mark enjoyed creating the image so much he did a cover-quality digital painting of it and re-submitted it to Tharg who promised to print it as a Star Scan! So, in the end, I got my wish! It may not have been a cover but I have a beautiful print on my desk at home and now a permanent record of it in the prog!

Thanks to Mark Harrison for being amazing! Check out his site here.

Friday 2 September 2011

Greg Staples - Un-American Graffiti!

So hows that for an amazing cover? Greg Staples, the coolest of cover artists, pays homage to Banksy, the coolest street artists, in his first wraparound 2000AD cover.

Greg says "I said it would be nice to do a wraparound cover as I haven't done one for 2000ad before and I think the rough idea came from seeing a Banksey illustration. I just thought if anyone should catch Banksey at it then its Dredd." Hmmmm, I wonder if Marlon Shakespeare is a descendant of the mysterious artist.

The cover also features a shady Thrill merchant, peddling the galaxy's greatest comic! Greg continues "I also like the idea of 2000ad being banned and there's a back alley you could find a dealer!"

Reaction to the cover since its' release on Bleeding Cool has been overwhelmingly positive though it has spawned one or two questions. Firstly, with regards to production, "It's not digital as a few people have asked but a rather large original painting which I handed over to the Nerve Centre. I felt an original painting was well over due as everything is digital right now."

The second question was whether or not Greg had cast himself as Judge Dredd, seeing as he plays the lawman in the forthcoming Judge Minty movie. Greg laughs this off "For the record the Dredd isn't really me in the Minty costume but I guess I'm so used to seeing those images and myself in the mirror that it comes out when I do Dredd. I did take some photos at the last session specifically for cover ideas so I'm sure a little further down the line that may be the case!"

Below is Greg's initial sketch for the cover, even that is incredible...
Followed by this stunning underpainting...

And the absolutely beautiful finished image...

Remember, the cover is for Prog 1750, a 'Jumping On' Prog featuring an all new lineup of thrills and superstar talent. Henry Flint joins John Wagner as Judge Dredd's Day of Chaos continues, D'Israeli and Rob Williams start a new adventure for Dirty Frank as he goes in search of fellow Wally Squad Judge Aimee Nixon in Low Life. After an absence of over twenty years (do you feel old Earthlet?), Indigo Prime returns to the prog courtesy of Cradlegrave duo John Smith and Edmund Bagwell and finally Ian Edginton and Simon Davis continue the supernatural adventures of paranormal investigator Ampney Crucis! Exciting times ahead!

Thanks, as ever to Greg Staples who has one again been very generous with his time. Check out some of the beautiful artwork on his website here and his blog here.