You'd think I'd be illustrating Super Metroid or Castlevania IV or something, but I'm a "Link to the Past" man through and through. Inspiration is everywhere, kids!
So, I got a steady day job. It's a 9-5 office gig, and it's about as far removed from art and illustration as I can imagine, but I need steady work and they treat me well. There's been a lot of training, licensing and getting up to speed that's been eating away my evenings, but I'm in a spot now where I can actually reclaim my off-time for my passion again. I am excited to strike a balance with my freelance career and the daily grind, so I will probably be back to my pre-graduation levels of little sleep and high production soon. In the meantime, here's a monster. Also, Holger Czukay died yesterday. I am sad.
Last May, I began my first post grad personal illustration project, illustrating the fiction of horror author HP Lovecraft, one story at a time. It started strong out of the gate, allowed me to devour many stories which were new to me, and eventually I hit upon a respectable pace and output. As of today, I have completed something close to 25 (of a total of 68) illustrations. True, I have not shared every single one. Some are better than others, though all of them have been important learning experiences.
With an eye on the one year anniversary of the project, I have decided to revisit and re-do some of the earlier pieces. This is a handy way to compare my growth in the last year.
The first story (and the first piece I created for the project) is "The Beast in the Cave", my completed original below...
...and the finished inks for the upcoming revision.
Here is the completed piece for third story "The Tomb", from May 2016...
...and the first pencil sketch for what will become the revised version.
As always, feel free to contact me and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading! -JF
In trying to complete one presentable ink drawing per day, I have come up with several and now feel obliged to create a new section of my portfolio to show them. They are all in approx. 5x5 circles and feature such adolescent male fantasies as space aliens and monsters. As I continue, the subject matter will likely expand, but the format will remain. Let me know what you think!
For as long as I've been working in Photoshop, I have used scanned ink drawings as a foundation to build on. It's kind of my thing. Even as I've grown creatively and have honed my skills with modern drawing tablets and digital brushes/pens (shoutout to Kyle T Webster), I still tend to rely on my analogue pen and ink and sometimes (as is the case here) a layer or two of watercolor textures.
This illustration is an act of transition, it would seem. It is split in two (though hopefully not in a obvious or jarring fashion) with the bottom half representing my usual method of working both digital and traditional mediums and the top half being a completely digital creation.
My friend and mentor Chris Koehler, a self confessed brush and ink addict has recently made the jump to working strictly digital for some of his ongoing projects. His style and voice are intact in this transition, and his success has inspired me to expand my digital work to replace some of the analogue methods. I do not plan to abandon ink drawings altogether, I don't think I ever could. But there is something calling to me from the upper half of this illustration, saying "You can do more than you're allowing yourself to. Go further..."
I am wise (and sleep deprived) enough to listen to my illustrations when they speak to me, so as the Lovecraft Project moves forward to Phase III, you can expect to see some all digital work in the future. Go forward with me.
For myself and a lot of my colleagues, 2016 has been a bit of a mixed bag. The year has taken an ominous tone for the deaths of so many beloved entertainers alone, that by the tail end of the year there was a grim "who's next?" mentality.
Additionally, the geopolitical events of 2016 will have future historians scratching their heads in wonder. The peak of the civil war in Syria and the ensuing refugee crisis, the "Brexit" of Great Britain from the EU, and the victory of Donald Trump to become the next president of the (increasingly less) United States are just a few among the many baffling, unexpected and dangerous turns the world has taken within the year.
These events are not contained within a designated 365 day cycle. Celebrities we love will continue to die, wars will rage on, and the wounds and divisions in western superpowers will continue to fester. More problems will arise and more dangers will threaten us.
However, when great adversities appear, we also see the rise of righteous and brave individuals (and groups) who oppose and engage them. The world that has seemingly gone insane will be evaluated, studied and hopefully we can begin to make some sense out of everything going on around us.
Communication is essential to knowledge and understanding, and while I am in no way putting myself and my fellow artists in the same category as the truly brave social justice warriors (the real ones), I do feel that artists will have ample opportunity (and even a grave responsibility) to help speak truth to power, expose injustice, and most importantly to communicate ideas in an attempt to understand, heal and enlighten.
Hopefully we can entertain a little bit, too... Happy New Year, everybody. Let's get to work.
Sometimes, my illustrations for the Lovecraft Project strike very similar tones in composition and concept. This would be cause for worry if it weren't for my belief that it has more to do with Mr. Lovecraft's particular narrative devices than any lack of creativity on my part.
That being said, I am trying to stay conscious of these compositions so as to not return to that particular well too often, and I will likely group them together as a set of sibling pieces when the project is finished...
I am attempting to create an alphabet poster featuring the giants of jazz. Here's a work in progress of one of the greatest of all time, John Coltrane. I am struggling to come up with some names for the letters Q and Z. I may need to use jazz terms or genres (zydeco, for example) as well as people to make this work...
Another simple silhouette piece. There are a few Lovecraft stories in my series that I've skipped so far. I'm going back to them now so I can keep the chronology as straight as possible. This one begins as a classic home invasion scenario and takes a sinister Lovecraft turn. I feel this image, if tweaked, could serve for a film like "Don't Breathe" or "You're Next".
More glow from the temple, more underwater distortion. Is it finished?
work in progress...
I am late to the game, I know, but I can't say enough about the Kyle T Webster digital brushes! The standard Photoshop brushes are like student grade art supplies; fine for starting out and learning, but you wouldn't want to use them in any professional sense. I am already moving beyond my thesis work, which was probably the best work of my time at school, and likely to be my worst work as a professional illustrator. Ch-ch-ch-changes!!
Two new pieces for the Lovecraft Project Phase 2.
For the story "Old Bugs", written at the onset of prohibition, and set in a future where prohibition is still the law. An old drunk in a speakeasy/drug den occasionally has flashes of clarity about his former life. These moments increase as a young student finds his way to the establishment and attempts to have his first drink.
"The White Ship" is an allegory about a man who discovers new, magic lands on a white ship, culminating in a mystical island existing outside of time with no suffering or death. Not satisfied, he ventures further and falls over a waterfall. Instead of dying, he wakes up back where he started, and never sees the magic white ship again.
Here's a little something that's not from the HP Lovecraft series, though it could fit in there somewhere, as both he and I have a fondness for creepy underwater tentacled things. I am continuing to experiment with blocky shapes and flat application of color, and I find that adding rendered work and textures can really compliment them.
This is inspired by a piece I did years ago of an octopus monster with a transparent head and a human brain. Just a simple Sharpie drawing, but I taped off bits with a soft, removable tape and spray painted the surface with a blue sparkle paint. It's still in our bathroom and it's awesome. This is more or less a digital equivalent of that, but with a realistic octopus.
I will probably start drawing more real sea creatures in the coming weeks, refining the accuracy of the actual animals and applying it to the Lovecraft project as it enters the "old gods/monster" era. Look forward to the new sub-series, blocky graphics, flat colors and all.
Here's the original drawing, just for fun. No one is reading this.
So, I've decided that the Fillustration Lovecraft Project will be broken into groups of five, to make it easier to digest for both myself and my audience. Having recently completed the first set, I wanted a change of style to kick off phase 2.
Q: When you get the urge to illustrate and design in a cheap, 70s graphic style, what do you do?
A: You indulge, follow that hound all the way and see where you go. In this instance, I think I did alright, considering it's a deliberate appropriation of a bygone style.
I had a different set of ideas and sketches for this one, but I kept telling myself to "reduce and simplify, reduce and simplify..." and eventually told myself to make it look like an old horror paperback cover from the 70s, something you'd come across in a Goodwill for a dollar, with yellow pages and a musty smell. The desire was so strong, I knew I had to exorcise it so it wouldn't pop up unintentionally in a future piece.
So, as some of you know, I am a recent graduate of California College of the Arts, receiving my BFA in Illustration. After living with my senior thesis project "Heroes": Children's Book Biographies of 20th Century Musicians for several months, I have decided that my first post-thesis project will be single illustrations for each of HP Lovecraft's works of short fiction.
I am a fan of Lovecraft's work, but I have not come close to reading all of his stories. I recently bought a complete collection which I believe is presented in chronological order. So, upon reading and re-reading the entire works, story by story, I will be creating an illustration for each story as quickly as possible. Even with a quick pace, this project will span nearly 70 pieces, so I plan to create other series of personal work between the Lovecraft series. I will post collections on the main page soon. Stay tuned for creepy things from the beyond...
The Bowie children's book spread. Before my thesis semester even began, I had a clear idea of what I was going to do. At least I thought I did. At first, the plan was to create 10 portraits of significant musical icons from the 20th century, rendered for children's book biographies. The idea being that the portraits would be cover proposals for each artist's respective bio. I added the criteria that the artist had to be dead, and had to have a somewhat subversive, troubled, or interesting life story. My long-list included some obvious (Robert Johnson, Billie Holiday), some slightly obscure (Harry Nilsson, Klaus Dinger) and some personal (Lou Reed, Joe Strummer).
The idea to cut the list to ten was difficult. I wanted to include a broad range of diversity (not only racial, gender and geographical, but diversity in terms of genre, as well) but also curate a list of artists near and dear to my heart. Not long after I narrowed my list to ten, I began to worry about how to express elements of their mythologies into their portraits without being gimmicky. The notion that these were proposals for children's books led to the idea to cut the list in half, and include with each portrait a two page spread from within each book, which would flesh out a bit of the artists' stories.
So, the list became Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, Edith Piaf, Nina Simone and Lou Reed. I knew their stories well enough, but began to research them all over again. I listened to hours of their music, which was no chore at all, and bean sketching their likenesses, figuring out what features defined them and how to consolidate them into a cohesive, kid friendly style for this project.
Then David Bowie died.
Bowie looms so largely over so much of my musical taste, and taste in general. He is connected directly to both Iggy Pop and Brian Eno (let that sink in) and indirectly to krautrock and The Velvet Underground. He was a bridge from the Beatles/Stones era (having recorded with both John Lennon and Mick Jagger) to a future that is still being defined. While punk was ripping up the rulebook and burning effigies of their elders, Bowie was the cool uncle who escaped their scorn. And as post-punk emerged, Bowie was still the template for a weird new generation. My first "real" girlfriend stole a copy of "Heroes" for me on CD, but before that I had bought "Diamond Dogs" and "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" on cassette (the Ryko editions, with bonus tracks) on a class field trip to Ashland, Oregon. I saw David Bowie in concert on my 18th birthday.
So, obviously Bowie jumped to the top of the list. I made a promise to Lou Reed that I would devote some post-thesis attention to him. In sketching all of my characters, I needed to find the one defining feature to make the likenesses work. For David, it was the mouth. Of course the unique eyes matter, but the recognizability is in those thin lips and British teeth. Now the only issue was to decide on "which" Bowie to draw.
I prefer the psychosis of the "Thin White Duke" and "Berlin Trilogy" eras of Bowie's career, as well as the long haired androgyny and occult-tinged folk rock of the "Man Who Sold the World" and "Hunky Dory" era Bowie. I was very conscious of the "Ziggy" angle, but I was hesitant to go that route, since it is the most popular version and I wanted to express him differently. Plus, Bowie himself was always perplexed at the enduring popularity of that single character (but probably not really). I did try, however...
Finding it hard to choose one, I played with the idea of multiple Bowies. I had the idea to have him as one version, pulling a kind of cocoon material and emerging from it as another version. It wasn't working out.
Finally I came to the realization that an older, distinguished Bowie would, by his very nature, encompass all of the previous versions.
To be continued...