Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Fish-Headed boy on display

More fish-headed boy sketches (see below for the rest). Here the little fella finds himself back on display in his sideshow tank. He's trying to rise above it though, keeping his head in his school books and ignoring the gawping crowds.

One thing he can't ignore though are the tendencies of his own fishy side. Uninterested in the bookishness of his other self, the fish head is happier chasing guppies around the tank - which doesn't help with homework.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Fish-Headed boy about town

More work on the Fish-Headed boy. This time he's out of his tank and on his way to school. The geeky school boy side of him is loving the chance to meet other kids and learn about life outside of the carny. The fish side of his personality isn't so happy, he's going to have to be stuck inside that bowl/helmet all day... unless he can hatch a plan to escape to open water.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Return of the Fish-Headed Boy

Sometime last year I did something I think most people would advise against, I revisited old work. Above are the results of my digital rejigging, below are the original 10 year old seeds of the idea (I mean they were done ten years ago -not when I was ten, though it might look that way).

The original fish headed boy was an idea I came up with in my final year of Uni. It was a segment of a short animated film based in a travelling freakshow.

Each sequence or act was introduced by a carnival style poster -

The film was all done in ye olde worlde style with rostrum cameras, pencils, paint and about a million trees worth of paper. Here's just one of the gazillion frames I forced my friends to help colour. It shows poor little Orco the Fish-headed boy sitting in his tank all alone save for some fishy friends.

The film was all about visual trickery. I was taking the kind of thing seen in 17th century 'upside down face' illustrations (see horse face below) and applying it to the medium of animation where you not only the option of viewing things either 'up' or 'down' but could also rotate an object and view it from a multitude of angles to create different illusions.

What I wanted to do with the fish headed boy then was create a character who was an animated illusion - so from certain angles he would look like a boy (well a cartoon boy at least) and from other angles he would look like a fish (ok, a cartoony looking fat shark!). I can never explain this concept very well so I'll just let my original story boards do the talking (click for close-ups)...

Got it? Good. So hopefully you can tell that I also wanted the duality of the design to have some bearing on the personality of the character. He's a dual personality in many ways, an aquatic Jekyll and Hyde. While his boy self wants to go play with other kids, or sit in his tank and do his homework, his fish side wants to break free and swim around eating other fish.

The real point here is that the original execution of the idea was pretty bad but I still think the idea itself was interesting and worth going back to. So here endeth the apologia, I'll be posting some more recent visual explorations of the wet little freak soon.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Airman - Fan Art

Yet another bit of young-fiction fan art framed as a cover redesign. This time its Eoin Colfer's brilliant historical yarn of an airborne Monte Cristo - Airman.

I first came across the novel in hardback in 2008 when it had a pretty dark and intriguing looking cover by Steve Stone. I thought it was an adult steampunk novel so austere was the design. It certainly grabbed my attention enough to get me reading the story. The cover also reflects a lot of darkness that's actually found within the book's pages, the young protagonist being wrongly imprisoned in a subterranean dungeon only to later wreak vengeance by night as a masked black clad figure.

Its by no means all stygian grimness however. The story is also more than a bit of an old-fashioned ripping yarn. It recalls the swashbuckling romance of Count of Monte Cristo, Prisoner of Zenda, and The Man in the Iron Mask only to meld them with the scientific speculation of Jules Verne and the sense of dramatic presentation latched onto by early costumed heroes from Zorro to Batman. I wanted to come up with a cover that reflected some of these influences. I wanted to approach it the way that illustrators of adventure stories of the past might have, artist such as N.C Wyeth or Frank Schoonover.

I started out by working on the look of the character, based on Colfer's descriptions,

then set about trying to put the character in a pose that would make the most of his costume, mode of transport and capture something of the more positive spirit of adventure in the book.

Once I'd sketched out a basic concept digitally I started a more detailed pencil drawing.

I then scanned the pencil drawing and started adding colour in Photoshop and Painter.

The problem I soon ran into was that temptation by the dark side again. In the book Airman's costume is black, and he usually only flies at night - so I was going to have to work hard to inject some colour into this. I decided to use a bit of artistic license and allow him a daytime flight. I also hit on the idea of having him bursting out of an ornamental 19th century book cover. Not only did this allow us to introduce some vivid hues (red and gold were the colours of the Saltee flag - the story's location) it also alluded to the book's Victorian setting and it's major theme of escape.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Mortal Engines - a tribute

I recently finished reading 'A Darkling Plain', the final book in Philip Reeve's 'Mortal Engines' quartet. So I thought it was about time I posted my homage to the original book here. Its a brilliant series of stories set in a post apocalyptic future where the major cities of the world are now mobile. Word is that Peter Jackson is currently looking at the possibility of filming this, which could be amazing.

I haven't got a lot of illustration of technology out there so I thought this would be a great subject to practice on, with a shot of the traction city of London dominating the story's protagonists.

I wanted to capture something of the feel of the wonder of technology that graced the covers of magazines like Popular Science, Modern Mechanix, and even science fiction like Amazing Stories.

My first shot at it was going well I thought but when I stood back from it I felt I'd gotten too involved in details and hadn't managed to capture the scale of the city.

For the second stab at it I tried a different approach, just starting off with a very rough sketch and going on to suggest detail with application of and colour and tone. I think it veers away from the vintage look but it felt a bit more dynamic. I tried to reintroduce some of the retro feel with the use of vintage looking typography, but somehow I sort of prefer the bright skied final image below.

One final thing to note. When I originally bought these books they had beautifully inked illustrations by David Frankland, which also lent them a nostalgic feel. I thought my more fully rendered style would make an interesting different take on the subject. No sooner had I finished my version however than the books were republished with new covers illustrated digitally by the fabulous David Wyatt.

Not only was the technique the same but even the composition of a couple of the books were very similar with low angle shots of the traction cities looming above the viewer. All I can say is that I was completely unaware that the new covers were on their way and any resemblance is purely coincidental (well apart from the fact I've always wanted to be able to paint like David Wyatt). You can view and download the Wyatt covers here. David's results were also vastly superior to mine as it happens so probably no more fully rendered Mortal Engines mock ups from me.

It's still an immensely visual series of books however so don't be surprised if you find a few sketches of vehicles and characters here in the future which are inspired by the novels.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Skulduggery Pleasant - The Singeing Deadtective

My take on the first of Derek Landy's horror, comedy, mystery children's books. Those uninitiated in the world of the titular undead wizard detective should take a look at the series' site. Here you can find out about the characters, read extracts, listen to a Q&A with the authour and also get a look at the original cool cover art by Tom Percival.

Below is my original Photoshop illustration (sans 'retro' fonts, creases and greases) and below that the original Casablanca poster I stole the whole layout off. Whats good for George Clooney is good for me .

Thanks to Carrie for her help with the retro type!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Dark Knight Revealed

Commissioner Gordon's Office, Night. Batman appears out of the shadows

The vigilante and the Police hatch a plan to tackle the threat of the Joker.

Gordon looks up. Batman has vanished.

There's a clumsy bang from underneath the table.

GORDON: What are you... what are you doing under the table?

BATMAN: (embarrassed) I umm . . I was going to wait for you to leave first, and then I was going to leave.

Gordon and the Police Officer look on as ...

The Dark Knight awkwardly fumbles around...

bumping his head several times and clattering into chairs as he crawls out from under the table.

He reaches the door and fumbles with the door knob.
GORDON: You have to turn the lock-

Batman opens the door and makes a clumsy exit, catching his cape in the door the first time.
GORDON: Let's just recruit more policemen.

No, not storyboards for the much anticipated sequel to The Dark Knight but some key frames accompanying a recent pitch to Funny or Die UK. I'd like to take credit for the idea but I just worked the pencil. The people who should take the credit for a great Dark Knight parody are those young writer/actor/comedy types Chris Hayward and Nat Saunders. Unfortunately they weren't able to take the credit either as FOD passed on this particular script having found something similar had just beaten them to it on this bit of the interweb. I'm sure you'll agree that Chris would have looked much better in that cowl (his rubber fetish being the only reason he came up with the sketch really!)

You can view some of Chris and Nat's sketches that did make it to FOD here. Also watch out for their epic FOD exclusive The Photocopier.