Every Christmas, my wife and I meet up with a group of friends, have a big board games night in and exchange gifts! A lovely festive event that, if I am honest, I find quite stressful. The reason being that, frankly, I am pretty bad at picking gifts for people, and their gifts always seem quite thoughtful.
I have tried to mix things up in the past (to varying degrees of success – mostly of the ‘fail’ category), but this year I tried something out, and I am very proud with the results!
First thing that you need to know is that I am pretty sure these guys would all describe them selves as being fairly geeky! Comics, cartoons, boardgames and DnD are pretty standard passtimes, and so I thought I would present each of them with a personalised, hand-drawn (well, Cintiq on Photoshop) illustration of themselves in a style fitting them!
As all things good in life, these ideas started out as simple sketches, then exploded from there!
One great thing about Alex and Lorna’s place is that they have an entire room decorated with early Jack Kirby-esque illustrations of Marvel characters. I have no idea why, but I knew I had to draw him in this style, and it had to be as a Galactus style figure – I think he has a t-shirt with Galactus Breakfast Cereal, or something.
Either way, I knew this would be a challenge, as Kirby’s style is something I had never tried before, and felt very alien to my own style! Reference was key, especially for the line work! There are so many interesting things going on with the inking that I have never really understood, so I just… well… copied! the colours on the other hand were so simple! Block colours! Thank you!
As Alex is quite a handy chap, always happy to help with any DIY issue we might have, the thought of him being the “Fixer of Worlds” and his weapon being a roll of duct tape amused me! To add to the feel of a comic cover, I recreated the box in the top left corner with illustrations of the five of us I did for my wedding.
And then we have the background. The famous Kirby Crackle. If this is my first time replicating his inking style, it is for sure my first (and possibly only) venture into a wold of abstract dots. The less time spent dwelling on that the better, but I should point out that the final version is the best of many terrible attempts!
Finally, I added a Multiply and Screen paper texture to give it that early print feel and a little “FROWNED UPON BY THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY” gag!
The first thing to note about Lorna is her love for her dogs, Yoshi and Zelda. When I first started this, I wanted to keep a marvel/DC theme for each illustration, my mind drawing to the likes of Squirrel Girl for this one, but it never sat well. Then I decided to go full Pokemon and it all fell into place! Plus, I spent most of my early teens practicing a manga style.
Still, reference was key. What did a Pokemon comic cover look like? I dunno. Turns out it has more of an illustrative colouring style than the block colour I was hoping for! But a key element was the composition and laying out of the characters, which changed time and time again through the process.
The lines for this piece were fun, and I have regained a love for the standard Photoshop brush! I also found a great Pokemon style font that, with a bit of adjusting, gave me the title I wanted.
I messed around with the 3D settings (which as a 3D animator I found remarkably frustrating) to get the final title and started blocking in flat colours, and from there, another layer to add shade and highlights. As you can see, sometime I forgot to use the new layer, and just went on painting! Yey for a destructive workflow!
So initially Yoshi was going to be a more suave and calculated character, whereas Zelda was more ‘leaping-into-battle’, which I think suits their personalities well, but Yoshi just ended up looking a bit annoyed. So that had to change!
And finally a colourful, magic background and a couple of additional comic inspired overlays!
And finally it was Andy’s turn! I was really looking forward to this one, as it is very rare that I get the opportunity to just paint!
Andy is a big DnD fan, so I figured his illustration had to be of him in a DM’s role, in an art style similar to the DnD books. As I didn’t have all the time in the world, nor the crazy skills those artists have, I knew it wouldn’t quite hit the mark, but I am very proud with what I created nevertheless!
Where to start? Maybe references. Andy used to wear a big fedora and pirate-esque coat. It was a cool look, and the classic look when I think of him. He also likes ravens, so I knew I wanted one on his shoulder.
Once I hand the sketch down, I started messily locking out shapes using one of KNKL’s brushes (Chalk – it’s amazing for this sort of stuff!). Then it was a simple case of building up the layers. Adding more detail here, duplicating the later and adding more detail there.
I spent far too long trying to get his face to look right. I was painting and repainting, liquifying and nudging, using all the tools I knew to shape his head and get it as close to him as possible. I might do a gif of all of the layers of different Andy heads I have!
Finally I found myself in a position where I was happy with the foreground, but the background was lacking. So I looked at a couple of the DnD books and found that the Dungeon Masters Guide had this great magical misty fog which brough a bit of light and a splash of a different colour into the piece, so I spent a while painting something similar into my scene.
When I had the three up to a point where I was happy to call them finished (and had run out of time), I had them printed at a local specialist and my wife and I framed them up.
The whole project probably took me three or four weeks of evenings and weekends, interspersed with other Christmas projects I had on. I have to say, I am really proud of the way these have turned out, so I got a little print for myself!
We passed the wrapped frames to the guys and opened them up over zoom, then proceeded to have a nice festive evening of online board games!
I hope you all had a great Christmas, making the most of what we can this year! It has been a difficult year, no doubt, but I hope you have been able to keep well and safe.
Thanks for reading! God bless!