Monday, 24 March 2014

King of the Wolves!

This cover is for a second edition printing of Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash, published by Ravenstone. The first edition hardback had a cover by Douglas Smith (which was lovely - I did the design work for it, and was really proud of how it turned out). When we came to do a paperback reprint for the UK I got the chance to do something myself. The US paperback got a new cover too - by Edouard Groult one of Rebellion's concept artists - but both that and Douglas's original were quite similar in tone if not style, so I went in as different a direction as I could think of.

I did the main illustration quite quickly, all freehand in photoshop, but using the lasso tool to both add and remove texture from the wolfs fur. It worked quite well so I'm hoping to use he technique again in the future. The cover text was slightly more problematic. Because the picture was high contrast and in simple colours, it was very difficult to make the text stand out in any colour other than white, which annoyed me slightly as I'd tried very hard to not use white anywhere in the image - and its doesn't appear anywhere else on the front or back cover design. This is something that's likely to bother me more than anyone else though, so after several hours of mucking around I left it as it is above.
Below are the roughs I came up with to start with (I knew early on I wanted to do something almost designey - using silhouettes, just had to decide what, and how), and the full cover layout.

Putting the flying quail in the spine logo was one of the last things I did - and possibly my favourite thing on the cover now, if I'd have thought of it earlier, it could have gone in a totally different direction.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Car Paintings

Ford GT40
20x30" Oil on canvas board.

Awesome looking Ford GT40 I saw race in the 50th anniversary cup at Goodwood Revival last year. Got my mate Kev to take some photos of the final painting this week cos it's off to a gallery soon and maybe I'll never see it again.
A few work in progress pictures below. I did this in 4 sessions of about 2 hours each. Was quite tempted to stop working on it at every stage after the 2nd. Had a nice solidity to it throughout and I was scared to lose the energy by tightening it up too much.

This painting is for sale - get in touch if you're interested!

1935 Lagonda Rapier Special 
32x24" Oil on canvas board

Another car I saw racing, this time at Shelsley Walsh a few years ago. Looked awesome so I went and took some pictures of it in the pits. I finished this directly before the GT40 above. Bit of a breakthrough for me cos it's got a lot more movement than my previous paintings, which is something I;d like to carry on.
There's a few in-progress photos below. Not so many this time - I think I fell out with this picture for a while in the middle section so didn't document what I was doing! I read something once that said (to badly paraphrase) every painting has to go through a stage where it looks vile, somewhere between the promise of the rough sketch and the final art where its neither one thing or another. Certainly seems true in my experience.

This painting is also for sale. Again, let me know if you're interested.

To see some of my older paintings check out Kev's flickr set here

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


Mike Molcher (2000 AD PR robot) asked me to do him a droid picture ages ago, a decision I guess he now regrets...

Friday, 24 January 2014

Dead Stop

First cover of the year finished. Hopefully the first of many!

The logo part was done in Illustrator, i then skewed it and faked the 3d effect, then dropped it onto the background in photoshop and added some lighting and stuff. This is available as an ebook from Abaddon Books.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Hell Awaits

Probably the worst pun I've ever written. Worse than 'Tubular Caine'. Is there something shameful about repurposing artwork with santa hats and snow to use as christmas promotional material? I don't know, but if there is I'm going to same circle of Hell as advertising Executives and PR Officers, as I'm quite happy to bastardise my own art and smile whilst doing it... This post was gonna be about the Mongrol pic above, which started life as a random sketch I did after work, before being nicked for the 2000 AD christmas card and Web Forum Calendar - then I realised it's the second time I've done it this month - the previous time being my Deadlock cover (used as a banner on the 2000 AD Christmas Webshop sale). Frankly I should be ashamed. Anyway here's the art, and at the bottom the original way I wanted to finish the Mongrol picture (which I didnt get to do til after RoboSanta). Oh yeah - and for added juvenility I made my signature out of yellow snow.

I should have just finished the sketch when I started it and none of this would have happened...

Friday, 15 November 2013

ABC Warriors: The Solo Missions

I pretty much begged for the chance to do this cover. Well, I didn't, but I would have. I fucking love the ABC Warriors. When I was about 12 and it appeared in 2000 AD, Khronicles of Khaos was pretty much the most brain meltingly amazing thing I'd ever read - It was funny, weird, really violent and looked amazing. Plus it was crammed full of bad-ass robots and strange aliens, and the only humans in it were these vile grotesques. Amazing stuff, and quite formative for me really, both as an artist and in terms of things I like to read.
Anyway, above is the full, finished artwork for The Solo Missions, a collection of ABC Warriors one-off stories from annuals/specials etc, plus the Deadlock solo story from 2000 AD a few years ago.
The processes I used to do it were, as usual for me, far too complicated and laborious but I thoroughly enjoy making things hard for myself and its all worth it when it turns out well - like this one did, hopefully.

After drawing some bloody awful group shots in photoshop - trying to somehow get the 'Solo Missions' theme across but showing all 7 characters at once -  I came up with the layout above, which is kinda cool, and also shamelessly plays to my strengths (vehicles/techy stuff/big skies/space). I did it quite straight on the page to start with but realised pretty quickly it would look more dynamic at an angle, and I could make the bike bigger in the frame without losing any of the dead space for text.

Next I jumped into Adobe Illustrator for the background. I could have done this in photohop, but I like the sharpness and endless editability you can get with the vector shapes, and I've really enjoyed making big layered landscapes in this way recently on some other covers like Different Kingdom. I also made myself a perspective grid and some basic forms for the bike, which I printed out onto some drawing paper to use as a guide when doing the pencils for the foreground.

I scanned the pencils back in and inked them in photoshop, then slowly built up the colour and  background objects I'd made in illustrator together into one massive file. For reasons best known to myself I did it at actual size, but 600dpi, which meant the file at the end (which had a LOT of layers) was almost a Gb in size. This got a bit risky towards the end as my mac was really starting to grind... I had a few moments where I thought it had just given up.
Finally I flattened the art, imported it into Indesign and added the cover text. Here's the final cover as it'll appear on the shelves:

Abc Warriors: The Solo Missions is on sale in February from 2000 AD.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Way To Babylon

This is the second cover I've done for the Different Kingdoms series by Paul Kearney, kind of time/space slip novels about people swapping between real and fantasy worlds. The layout is identical to the first book, which made it far easier to get on with as all the design work and style is set in stone, and I can just start making the art. However, I'm also still very pleased with how the cover for book one turned out, so it was slightly intimidating knowing I had to match the quality of that, which is a bit of a high point for me I think. Overall I reckon I did a good job - i don't think the main image is quite as atmospheric as before, but the colours and texturing are much better, and the two books sit together pretty well.

As before I started the cover in Indesign, laying out the text on a file that i'll eventually use to make the pdf files for print, so I can work around the words when I draw image in the centre and nothing overlaps awkwardly. I then copy/paste these basic shapes in Illustrator to draw the pictures, building up layers of increasingly dark detail to give it depth. This time round there's a strange symmetry between the 2 sides, which wasn't initially intentional - things like the wall in the foreground on both halves, and the broken cart vs the old wheelchair. Plus the general contrasting style of the 2 large buildings. I might carry this on to book 3 if possible, to add another level of detail into the art.

Next I paste these black and white vectors into photoshop and go to town with the textures to add some colour and life, also using the same indesign shapes from earlier as layer masks to show the edges of the circles and the split between the worlds, which gets lost a bit when doing the illustrator work. I also add in some leaves and rougher detail which is much easier in photoshop than illustrator. Next up: book 3!

The Different Kingdom books will be released sometime next year by Solaris. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

New print for sale!

Here's another bit of art from the half-formed untitled comic I've been fiddling with for ages. I'm pretty pleased with this so I've added it as a print for sale on my Etsy store. If you'd like to buy one, or to check out some other stuff I've done, please go and check it out!

Pye's Print Shop

Zombies and Ned Kelly

Couple more covers I did last month.
I normally hate the results of photo manipulation (when I do it anyway), but this is pretty cool I think. Zombies are always fun to do too anyway and you don't have to stick too closely to the original images, so it feels like actual drawing is going on. For this cover Mike Molcher from 2000 AD took some photos of himself and some mates, as he's a history freak and re-enactor with a wardrobe of period clothes and weapons at home (he really has) and the book is an omnibus of zombie fiction set at various points in history. Below are the photos I started with, chosen from about 200 options, and the full spread of the cover design. I based this loosely on the style/layout set by Luke, the artist/designer for the previous two Tomes of the Dead omnibi, although I wasn't as meticulous about this as I would be normally, as the stories have very little to do with each other beyond sharing a publisher (and the undead).

This next one is for an ebook, out soon from Abaddon, set in their 'Afterblight Chronicles' series. This pic is based entirely on a sentence David (the editor) used to explain the plot to me, which sounds awesome and was something like 'This ex-con steals Ned Kelly's armour from a museum and wears it to protect a town from maniacal bandits', which is the just the best elevator pitch ever. Home-made armour? Modern guns? Nutters? YES! Sounds like an 80s arnie movie.

There's a couple of versions here, one of which features a speech bubble that I would like to, but wont be, included on the final version, and the other is the cover as it'll appear. This is the first digital painting I've done in ages as I'd fallen out of love with them a bit, and there's lots of artists who can do them a lot better than me. While its not the coolest, cleverest image in the world, I hope it's kinda fun, cos I had a good time doing it (I had explosions and ricochet noises in my head the whole time)...

Monday, 2 September 2013

Golf logo (yes really)

Logo I did for a mate for a charity golf competition. Had a lot of fun with this... First time I've inked something digitally that I'm happy with too.