Monday, 24 December 2007

2000 years E.C

At Halloween I posted some work involving snow and polar bears and heavenly lights, so here on Chritmas Eve, is what I probably should have posted back then - just to play with your mind.

This work is quite old and a little crude but I've displayed it elsewhere with no explanation as to its origins so I thought it was time to explain its development. Back in 2004 a friend of a friend of someone I met briefly some time ago was setting up a new horror based mag and was looking for people to submit articles and illustrations. This was the year of Mel Gibson's blood spattered easter offering 'The Passion of the Christ' and I thought I'd try my hand at an article examining Mel's nods to the Horror genre (the film references everything from 'The Exorcist', to 'It's Alive' and Last house on the Left) and questioning whether this might be the start of a new cinematic sub-genre - Biblical Horror!

The article would offer (in a fairly flippant way to be honest) suggestions of stories from the Good Book that might make for great horror situations - King Solomon (In legend commanded demons to do his bidding with the aid of a magic ring), The raising of Lazarus (Jesus as Zombie-maker), The death of Jezebel (Thrown from a window, trampled under foot and torn apart by dogs), The Witch of Endor (Summoned the prophet Samuel from beyond the grave - but luckily was not infested by Ewoks), Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (World's first Werewolf - apparently) and James, brother of Jesus (fared no better than his more famous sibling, ended up thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple, survived only to be stoned and then beaten to death with a staff).

Moses - hero of the Old Testament seemed like a good egg when played by Chuck Heston, modern re-readings of the Old Testament however have cast him in a more merky light - A murderer on the run, he later comes to prominence as a kind of proto-terrorist - inflicting biological warfare on Egypt (the 10 plagues), rules his people with an iron fist and then takes part in acts of genocide to secure the promised land. Apart from this, the descriptions of his appearnace and trappings have something of the gothic about them. Armed with a staff that transformed into a serpent, his head sporting a set of horns according to some translations, an eerie glow according to others; his appearance so terrified his people that he spent the latter part of his life with his face veiled like so many super villains from The Phantom of the Opera, through Doctor Doom to Darth Vader. Every great masked madman needs his secret weapon, Blofeld's Diamond laser from Diamonds are forever, Vader's planet searing Death Star... Moses has his own Death Ray in the form of The Ark of the Covenant, the gilded box that zaps the unrighteous to smouldering piles of ash, dries up rivers and brings plague to his enemies.

Here I thought was the perfect representative of Biblical character as horror star. So with the writing of the article going nowhere fast I set about sketching the darkside version of the great lawgiver in suitably pulpy style, a hooded figure with his secret weapons in his moutaintop hideout.

There was no real plan for the ilustration at this time, but I just kept going with it, as it meant I didn't feel like I had to tackle the more problematic writing duty. I also strted sketching some concepts for the other potential Bible characters - Nebuchadnezzar, The Witch of Endor and Solomon.

By this point the pulp style and the horror subject had started me thinking of the EC horror comics of the 50s. They had the convention of showing a main cover image along with three smaller portraits of characters appearing within the comic. I thought this could allow me to illustrate a number of the characters I intended to mention in the text. Both the EC Horror comics and the Biblical epics such as Quo Vadis (1951) and The Ten Commandments (1956) were of the same era, it seemed fun and in some ways perversely appropriate to create a hybrid of the two. I had already established a painted pulp style look to the original Moses illustration so I continued this with the smaller character portraits rather than following slavishly the the flat colour and line style of the EC covers.

The fact that I had drawn the Moses composition before working out the EC cover concept sort of hobbled the whole main image really. It all seemed a little too unfocused and I had to end up covering my beloved background volcano with text. I was fairly confident that I could fix all this but felt I should actually get on and write the damn article.

Soon after this however it became clear that for one reason or another the magazine would not be going to press, not anytime soon at least, and so there was nothing compelling me to finish the article or go back and correct the problems with the illustration. Below however through the miracles of modern computing is what the article might have looked like if I'd bothered to finish it and had the magazine actually made it to production. As far as I know the Magazine is still eaiting to rise from it's creative grave.

Something else that never came to pass was the arrival of the Biblical-Horror genre. All we got as a follow up to Mel's blood soaked Easter parade was Catherine Hardwicke's bland The Nativity Story (we can only guess at what Mel would have made of the Massacre of the innocents!), though there did seem to be a slew of Passion inspired torture horror - Hostel, Saw, Wolf Creek,and Gibson's own Apocalypto, along with remakes of the very horror films which seemed to have informed The Passion - The Omen, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - I'm sure Mr Gibson must be very proud.

So on that rambling note have a very Merry Christmas, and don't have nightmares.

Monday, 12 November 2007

God in the McDetail

Here's something that's taken me quite a while to complete. In the December 2000 issue of Interzone magazine there was a short story called "Rude Elves and Dread Norse Reindeer" by Dominic Green. The story told of the adventures of a group of figments of the collective unconscious (including Santa, a Man in Black, Odin, Uncle Sam, and God) who are joined by a typical all American hick.

Shortly after reading this I started work on a painting based on part of the story. One incident has Santa (who's sleigh has recently been shot down by an F-15) strolling into a McDonalds with his new friend Norman only to find themselves being served by... God! I did an initial sketch and started working on it in Acrylics. At some point I got dissatisfied with the results and shelved it until I could work out what was going wrong. Almost seven years later I finally went back and finished it digitally. I'm not sure if it was worth the wait but here are the two versions anyway.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Strange Behaviour

Just a link (Click on 'Strange Behaviour' above) to the recent Challenge I've entered at CG Society. The deadline for the competition has been extended to 12th Nov - so any suggestions anyone has for improvements I could make before then would be welcome. Thanks.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Army of Bears

As a follow up to yesterday's post here are some of the sketches I did for my initial Armoured Bear illustration a couple of years ago. These were done very quickly as I remember, I was just trying to work out how the whole armoured plating thing would work on a polar bear. I was looking at a lot of books on armour worn by horses in battle, but looking at it now it seems more influenced by the gear worn by the Uruk-Hai and Attack Trolls from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

I've just realised its Halloween and I should probably have posted something with more of an appropriate theme. Well there's always next year, and anyway an armoured bear would scare the hell out of me if it came trick-or-treating. I'll post something scarey soon. Probably on Christmas Eve.

Happy Halloween

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Armoured Bear

This is a recent reworking of an illustration I did a couple of years ago. The first attempt can still be seen on my website. Its based on characters from Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights novel (The Golden Compass - US). I was reminded of it recently with the current hype surrounding the forthcoming film version. I saw the film poster in our local cinema featuring Lyra and Iorek Byrnison the armoured bear. I have to say I still sort of prefer my design for the armour (even if you might mistake my bear for a large angry badger) but I suppose we'll have to wait for the film's release in December to judge what it looks like in action.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Space Mural

Some photos here of the mural we finished off last week in our local hospital's Accident and Emergency wing. There was a very small window of opportunity for us to get in there and do the work as its an area of the hospital that is in high demand and there was already refurbishment work being caried out.
The 3m x 3m ceiling area to be painted was specifically designated as a child's treatment cubicle and staff wanted something bright on the ceiling to help distract 5 to 10 year olds from whatever unpleasantness they may be undergoing. With this in mind I looked at a lot of the design techniques used by animators and cartoonists in the 50s - people like Mary Blair, Tom Oreb and even Saul Bass. A great Source of inspiration was Amid Amidi's book 'Cartoon Modern : Style and Design in Fifties Animation'. I thought the strong graphic style and bright colours of the period would lend themselves to quick application with stencils. It worked too, though It would have been impossible without the help of designer extraordinaire Carrie Edwards, sharing the work at the top of that scaffholding.
So despite working in a completely alien style and having to deal with real paint and all its associated messiness, I was fairly pleased with the end result. I only hope the poor kids who have to sit underneath it don't feel like its adding to their woes. I also have to thank Steve and Cat Tait for bringing the project to my attention in the first place - Cheers.

Friday, 21 September 2007

J. Jonah Vulture

A couple of recent digital doodles, well just one actually, the second is the same sketch with a colour layer. Weirdly they both reminded me of different Spiderman characters, the original - J. Jonah Jameson (albeit after losing his crew cut), the colour version - The Vulture. Amazing that it only takes some irresponsible use of RGB to turn you from an office bully to full blown costume wearing villain.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Freeing the Beard

I'm going to be posting mainly digital sketches and paintings that I've been working on. Hopefully most of the work will be quite recent and will prompt me to keep churning stuff out on a regular basis but there's also quite a bit of older sketchy stuff which has never quite made it to my website. Today for example I thought I should introduce you to 'the beard'. He's a little doodle I did with a ballpoint pen few years ago. I couldn't bring myself to throw him away so I scanned him into my Mac and ever since hes been helping me out with my digital work. I test out untried brushes from Photoshop and Painter on him rather than ruining whatever I'm working on. He's been through a lot - I think he deserves his 15 minutes.