Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Should We Take a Look Inside? - process notes

My newest poster, "should we take a look inside?" is currently on sale here for 24 hours at Bottleneck gallery. After the sale ends on Wednesday, April 27th a t1 pm EST., the edition size will be based on how many sold and they will never be reprinted! While the sale is going on, I figure I'd share a peek into the process of how I made this poster.

As always, I started off with a series of small pencil sketches and chose the one I liked the most. I was really interested in featuring the derelict space ship, since most of the time that really awesome looking ship is far away in the background, rather than right up front.

After choosing the little pencil sketch, I drew it again to tighten up the composition. I like to start with a strong pencil sketch since I already spend so much time moving elements around while I work on the final.

Next up, I color the pencil sketch digitally. I try to make most of my final color decisions at this stage because the first question the printer will ask me when I go to book the time on press will be, "How many colors is it?" For this particular print, I was having a lot of trouble locking in my final color choices, so I posted this image on my facebook group and let them vote on it.

I also roughed in my idea for the glow in the dark image. I have to know what the glow in the dark will look like while I work on the piece because the ink will only glow if it's placed on top of the lightest areas of the image.

Depending on what I feel like drawing that day, I'll either start on the foreground and work my way back, or start on the background and work my way forward. I felt like drawing clouds, so I started on those first.

I got excited about the idea of the terraforming of the planet taking place in the atmosphere. The oxygen rising up from the terraformers in the ground, forming clouds and then bleak, airless space above the cloud layer.

I shifted focus to Hadley's Hope and one of the terraformers on the horizon. I also started to rough in some mountains.

Here's Hadley's Hope after finishing up the details and shading. You can also see here that I hid my kid's names on the buildings. I drew each mountain individually so I could shift them around if needed... which was a good choice as I wound up moving the mountains all around before I was finished.

Hadley's Hope after another details pass. Adding some lights here and there and one of my Facebook group members insisted I include the iconic "BAR" neon sign.

Newt's family and cool truck. Getting the silhouettes just right is real important as these figures will be extremely tiny. I spent a lot of time trying to get the family looking excited about finding this alien vessel and getting rich off their discovery, contrasting Newt's wariness... all communicated without any facial expressions, just body language.

At this point I decided it was time to get serious about drawing the derelict. I wanted to get the feeling of looking up at a huge monument or a natural wonder. Drawing a curved, horseshoe shaped object from this perspective was not the easiest, but I was happy enough with the drawing to scan it in and apply some lighting to it. I also drew all the little tubes and details on a separate layer, so that if I accidentally painted over any of those little pieces, I could easily bring them back.

Now that I had all the major elements roughed in, I quickly did a pass on the foreground rocks so I could get an idea of how it was all coming together. I was fairly excited about how it was looking, but I had some major issues that needed to be worked on...

First, the sky needed to be chucked out and started over from scratch. The clouds looked nice and all, but they just were not working for the piece overall and pulled the viewer's eye down towards the bottom of the print. The background mountain range was also having a lot of issues, the main one being the "wind" above Hadley's Hope just forcing your eyes right off the edge of the poster. I moved the largest mountain in front of that wind shape to block that from happening and bring attention back down to the colony. I also moved the ringed planet and the moons over to the right side of the image to frame the derelict.

This is my progress on the derelict detail. I'd basically just start with rough lighting, then fill that in with my purple color and pick out the little highlight details with blue. While working on this, I decided to sit and watch Aliens again to see if I missed anything... and good thing I did as I realized I missed something HUGE. Between Alien and Aliens, the derelict had cracked and half collapsed. Newt's mother and father even enter through the cracked open hole in the ship! Luckily, it was a fairly simple fix, cut the piece of the ship off, rotate it so it's resting on the ground and draw a gaping hole where the ship cracked open.

After the derelict was completed, I sat down for an afternoon and drew out all the rocks in the foreground, added some more rocks behind the derelict, a bunch of fog and voila!

The major elements are all in place for the glow in the dark layer already... all I had to do was sit for a couple hours, put on some Iron Maiden and draw fire, smoke and lightning. I figure the Queen must have grabbed onto the ship as it was leaving and pulled herself in before the colony exploded.

Game over, man! GAME OVER!


  1. Amazing! Thanks for sharing the process! Just found your work and i'm already a fan!
    Are you working directly with the brush on "dissolve mode" or you apply it latter? My main concern when working directly with dissolve is that I can't resize anything or it will lose the crispy/hard edges effect

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