For the last 6 month or so what little time I’ve had between my day job, my family and designing t-shirts to make a little extra cash, I have been practicing my black & white skills by drawing Lovecraftian horrors. I had about 8 or 10 done when I started thinking about how much I would have loved to have them as coloring pages as a kid.
So even though coloring books are too trendy and I will be late (as usual) to that particular show, even though there is already plenty of Cthulhu on every horizon, even though there are already good Lovecraft Monster coloring books out there, I will be moving forward with these illustrations as a coloring book.
I just made a pretty good case for why I shouldn’t do so. Let me say then why I think I should:
a) Coloring is a great way to spend time. While it may be trending right now, I don’t think it deserves to die a natural death like most trends do. I know first hand how relaxing it can be to spend an hour or two at the end of the day getting lost in being creative and it shouldn’t be just for us fancy pants art types. Anyone can and should benefit from that and coloring, your own art or that of someone else, is as good a way to unwind as any. Way better, safer and cheaper than drugs. Again, first hand experience speaking.
b) Lovecraft and Cthulhu may be wildly popular, in part due to public domain issues, but let me speak to my HPL street-cred. I have been reading his works since I was 9 and even knew what batrachian meant by the age of 11. That means about 37 years of reading (with dictionary at hand), visualizing, and drawing these beasties. Long before they were popular. Long before the vast majority of even the geek conglomerate were down with HPL. So I am an OG HPL, if I may be so bold. I am no expert but I am a long time dabbler.
c) I love to see other artists interpretations of the various creatures. Lovecraft was so frequently vague in his descriptions that we have a lot of breathing room for our imagination. But my own style and interpretations are just as viable and I seem to get a very enthusiastic response from fans at conventions to my versions. In particular, I shared a dozen or so of these illustrations recently and had great response to the idea of them being presented in coloring book form.
So now I am about 18 or 19 images in and committed to getting a quality coloring book out into a sea of others, probably to watch it swiftly disappear with a sense of mild satisfaction.
For now here are a few more images from the project.
It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that I don’t update much. I draw and paint almost every day but taking the time to get it up on this site never sounds like my idea of how to spend my spare time. But I just spent a weekend with some great folks at Lilac City Comic Con and I’ve decided that I owe it to a couple of dozen of them to maintain this thing by throwing a few of the pieces i have completed up here every week or two. Maybe making it a habit will lead to it feeling less onerous. And I truly love those of you who do choose to spend a minute of your free interweb time looking at my doodles.
In addition, since I am currently working up some black & white stuff with the intention of putting together a coloring book, I plan on creating a new page on here to showcase the amazing color work that some of you might do on those illustrations. Soon it could be your site in a way as well.
So here are a few of those pieces to get us started. Some are re-works and some are brand new. For my next post I’ll explain a bit more about the coloring book (or should that be colouring book?). Have a great week.
He is Hastur and he is unspeakable. So how, you may ask, did I find out about him. The answer, children, is by reading. (dramatic pause to allow revelation to sink in) He first appeared in Robert W. Chambers ‘the King in Yellow’ and later got several mentions by some guy named H.P. Lovecraft. Anyway, I wanted to draw some eyes and mouths and tentacles and such. I call this desire ‘Tuesday’ but it can happen any day of the week. So I did a sketch and then I blew it up and then I added more eyes and mouths and tentacles, because evolution. And then, while watching True Detective, I added the background so he would emerge from Carcosa with the black stars lighting the way for his triumphal entry past the bricks of our reality and into your home. Your welcome!
Above you will see a piece I did a couple of months ago on toned paper because I liked my initial sketch. I usually scribble around a bit before launching into a work in progress, just to limber up. These sketches usually involve bones and organic junk and other healthy outlets for a growing imagination. Most of them end up becoming part of a massive fire hazard I am building in my studio. (This is a joke and if you are an insurance adjuster I will repeat – a joke!)
If I find something exceptionally appealing about a sketches bony protuberances I will commit them to a cleaner going over. And if I really like them, and I need something real quick to fill up my display at a con, I will paint them. Someone bought the sketch at said con so I can’t show the complete progression, but lets just say it was even better than what you see here.
Anyway, this is a Wendigo, an ancient spirit of winter (frostburned fingertips), hunger and cannibalism (empty stomach and inward facing rib/teeth) and the wild (horns and animal skulls and all the other junk I wanted to draw anyway). He took just a few days work to go from the toned paper to color and if he is really well-behaved and time permits, he might get a digital cleanup. Or not. Sometimes I like my ancient spirits messy.
I first tried reading Lovecraft when I was ten. It didn’t really hit with my forth grade brain but luckily for me I tried again a couple of years later. After being drawn in by his shorter stuff (most notably ‘Pickman’s Model’) I fell in love with his squirmy tentacled horrors from outside space and time. This is the big guy himself just awaking from eons of deathlike slumber. You can tell because of the eye boogers. You would think he would freshen up a bit before consuming the souls of all humanity. He wouldn’t. He is therefore all the more horrifying. Enjoy.
This year’s Christmas art feature’s the lyrics of a Me Without You song called “A stick, a carrot & a string”. I like it a great deal (otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen it for my holiday post) although I had never heard their version of it until recently. I first heard it from the Dustin Kensrue cover and since that is still my preferred rendition here is a link to his: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-MIcKWowS4
A couple of years ago I agreed to do a number of black and white interior illustrations for a book for young readers. It was the story of two brothers from a faery village who are forced to undertake an adventure to save their people. Along the way they make several allies as well as enemies and, as such stories usually go, they learn a great deal about themselves and the world around them.
During the six months or so of character development and finished illustrations I learned a great deal as well. I learned that I could reign in my ADD tendencies and remain focussed on one story and repeating characters long enough to complete a book’s worth of art. I learned that my first ideas were not always the best ones and that the layout for the words and images was as important to communicating story as any other aspect of the book.
Most important of all, I learned that I could fall in love with simple pencil illustrations again, and even though most of the traditional art world undervalues the common pencil, that doesn’t mean that I have to. Sure, after completing so much B&W I was going crazy to do some color work and I basically took most of the last year and a half off to work almost exclusively in color on personal art, but because of the book project (as well as a some conversations at Pac Con) I have gone back to the simple pencil recently and I am really enjoying it. I’ll post more soon on this and where it is leading me. For now I’ll leave you with the drawings in this post, which are some of my personal favorites from the Faeries book.
A couple of weeks ago at Pac Con I was asked to speak on a panel about designing and illustrating monsters. It turned out to be a panel of one without a moderator. I don’t know how that happened but I jumped on the opportunity to assume total power over a group of diverse individuals. After all, these people had come to this panel to hear my words, to absorb my wisdom, to catch a spark of light from the vast inferno that is my encyclopedic knowledge of all things monstrous! I think some of them also had tired legs from walking around all day and just wanted to sit down. I would have to strike a fine balance to maintain my hold on them.
Back in high school I was given the chance to travel to some of the local elementary schools and teach some drawing to the kids. It got me out of school early and helped the district save some money from their dwindling art budget. I loved teaching the kids and this experience at the convention reminded me how much I enjoy encouraging others to explore their interests.
When I found out that I would be doing the panel I decided to sketch something up to illustrate some of my points, and I naturally delved into some Lovecraftian inspiration for a play off of the deep ones. I took the sketch along to the panel to show how messy and all over the place these sorts of things can be and I transferred most of what I liked about the sketch to a finished drawing so that I could demonstrate how to clean things up and arrive at something more polished. I had originally planned on painting him up with some background elements but I found I have too many more important things to work on right now so I ended up just scanning it in to Photoshop and dropping some texture over it with a little tonal work.
I had a great time on the panels and in particular the monster one. It scratched that teaching itch that has been nagging at me for a bit. I’ll have to see if there are other ways to get involved with class room settings. If nothing else the sense of power was very gratifying. As Jack Handy once said “I think in a past life I was a king because I like people to do what I say.”
This is the final version of this painting. After taking a break from it for a couple of days and working on other stuff I came back to it with a fresh perspective and decided to experiment a bit. Photoshop is a great medium for this as there is always Ctrl-z if things go off the rails.
I ended up editing the original pencil underpainting over the rest of the flattened image. The effect was similar to the quality of an inked comic image. It added a nice level of contrast and helped sharpen and define the details. After spending a couple of hours tinkering I felt like I had what I was looking for.
In the end the painting worked pretty well blown up 3’x4′ for a banner at the booth and the 11″x16″ was the best-selling of my prints at the con.
This concludes this series of process posts. We will now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcasts.