Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yours Truly Johnny Dollar

The first in a series of cover illustrations for Radio Archives is the classic detective, Johnny Dollar. The old time radio program, "Yours Truly Johnny Dollar" was no mystery to me! I've been a fan of the series for a number of years and it's one of my favorites. Along with music, I listen to a lot of OTR in my studio while working. So, it's very exciting for me to be involved with creating artwork for the Radio Archives collections. I really needed this cover to appeal to die hard fans of the show as well as for a possible new audience. After selecting a thumbnail concept, I developed a tight sketch for approval and then painted the finished art.

The collection is available in stores or directly from the Radio Archives website:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Star Struck: Process

For my painting STAR STRUCK, I grabbed a rough thumbnail that was sitting in my sketchbook and quickly developed a concept and design influenced by the black and white illustrations from artist Virgil Finlay. I admire Finlay’s imagination, design and craftsmanship, especially with the female form.

My space heroine is so awe struck (or star struck) by the alien world around her that she has innocently fallen into danger - and without a ray gun at her side! While working on the composition and my drawing, I started to think about dramatic and effective color. That’s when a palette reminiscent of pulp covers by Hubert Rogers seemed like a good choice to me. Rogers has a wonderful sensibility of his subject matter with an attachment to art deco. My color choice made the image more romantic and dream like, which set a nice mood against the ensuing danger. Pulp covers are full of excitement with dramatic colors, pretty dames, cool costumes and ugly monsters. My alien world draws our victim close enough to be dragged into an unknown world or… to her doom.

SKETCH: After roughing out a design and composition on paper based on my thumbnail, I gathered my photo references and spent time focusing on my star struck girl, designing her art deco space suit and dramatic lighting from the stars that surround her. I then transfer the drawing and develop a tighter drawing directly on the illustration board.

In the past, I enjoyed the process of working out very finished pencil drawings where I was solving all obstacles, putting all my thoughts down on paper and spending an average of 3 -5 hours working on studies before even thinking about painting. Recently, I have decided to spend more time working and drawing directly on the board. I gain more time against a deadline and enjoying the immediacy of painting.

ON THE BOARD: Working on a gessoed illustration board, I developed a detailed drawing using color pencils; light umber, terra cotta, indigo blue and light violet. I start painting with Liquitex acrylics by blocking in darks (Payne’s Grey) with flat brushes and introduce some more color (Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna). Once I start usinig a #4 round for details I know I’m about to broadly apply glazes with the Iwata HP-C air brush. I quickly cut some acetate masks with an x-acto blade around the figure, the alien, the red planet above, and the planet below.

COLOR: I lay masks over the figure, the alien at her legs, the planet above and the planet below and paint the background of stars and outer space, which allows me to establish the overall darks and lights. I then move onto the alien world and tentacles. While applying the acrylics with the airbrush I play with watercolor texture effects using rags and sponges.

FINISH: Once I add the strong yellow dramatic light on the figure and paint her space suit with Payne’s Grey and Brilliant Purple, I set the mood for a warm red planet at the top by applying Indo Orange Red and then Naphthol Red Light with the air brush. I wrap everything up by painting her flesh tone on her face and tying details together with a little more color pencil work and opaque paint and brushes. I spent approximately three 10 hour days on this project. Another day and a half pulling the article together and selecting photos.

Cover art and color inspiration by Hubert Rogers

(The original concise article was featured in the January 2011 issue of ImagineFX magazine. This post adds more insight and more photos into the step-by-step process.)