Two Weeks With Octobriana

I recently spent two weeks with Octobriana, most of that time was spent creating the cover for the awesome new book by John A. Short and published by Kult Creations called, Octobriana: The Underground History. What I thought would be cool fun would be to put a post together showing the stages of how the cover came to life. Just to state up front, this is not by any stretch of the imagination a tutorial on how to design or create the artwork, more of an insight to the process of generating several ideas for a cover and turning them into the final illustration.
The first step is to come up with some ideas, this won't be the first time I state this, John was brilliant with his feedback and ideas, and the freedom he gave me in creating this cover. I've worked for many people in the past, and believe me, this is a rare opportunity to work like this. You can get a real lack of direction and support on some projects, which can be both a blessing and a curse! John however, was brilliant. He started by firing me some ideas, thoughts and reference images, as well as some background on Octobriana. Then it was down to me to come up with a couple of designs from all of the information.
At this stage I generally bash out three to four images that are more than a bit sketchy. These are just to give the publisher the idea of where you want to take the work, and also maybe give them some thought on where they would like you to go with the look as well. For the Octobriana cover I came up with six designs in total:
From these starter ideas, John gave me some feedback on what he liked, and more importantly, he used his experience in comic publishing to give my art some direction as well. One example of this is the second design, Octobriana shooting a gun out of the page, John suggested flipping the pose. So, the gun pointed to the right of the view not the left. This would give the reader's eyes a line to follow to turn the page. Feedback like this is fantastic, and really helps the artist (me in this case) grow and develop, and also deliver a better illustration for the project as well.
 The next step was to decide which cover idea, both John and I loved the idea of Octobriana fighting the Chinese with a Yeti army - bonkers, I know, that's why I loved it.
To help me get a better idea of how this cover would work, John went to Photoshop and did a little cut-and-paste to better explain some simple changes to improve the layout. In addition to this he also pointed out a few areas that needed a tweak, for example the soldiers uniforms looked to westernised, a yeti in the background 'manhandling' a Chinese soldier would look good.
So the next stage was to take this idea.....
Combine the feedback.....
And sketch out the updated idea....
Once John and I were happy with this, see, I told you John's feedback and support was ace, it was time to get to work on the main illustration. I work pretty old school when it comes to my art, I'm still using Photoshop CS3! Not only that, I like to start with a 'pencil' drawing then over paint it. The pencil drawing is all done digitally, but I still think of it as a black and white pencil drawing, and here it is:
I must admit, I love working in black and white. It's my favourite way to illustrate. This drawing then went to John to make sure he was happy with the look, which he was. Next was the colouring. Colouring art digitally is much the same as in the real world, and that is how I tend to colour as well. First off I start with a colour 'wash' that floods the whole image with colour:
The next few steps are to then take individual areas and bring them to full colour whilst blending the image to maintain the colour balance:
Once I'm at this stage I then apply some Photoshop jiggery-pokery to fine tune the colour balance and 'depth':
This illustration then whizzed it's way through the magic of the internet to John, who then added the final touches to make it the cover it is today. Here it is in all of its awesome glory:
So, okay, all of those sketches. What happened to them? Well, most of them got ditched, that's what happens. However, one of them became the back cover for the comic and an art print!
The in-between bit that took the image from final sketch to black and white was to take one of the sketches and turn it into a painting. Now, I stress that I did this off my own back to make sure that John was going to be happy with the style in which I intended to use for the cover. The one I went with was the sketch called, 'Face Shot' and is the illustration of Octobriana pointing the gun out of the page:
I really liked this idea and wanted to take it further, and this was the perfect excuse. Applying John's feedback to the image I rendered the following pencil drawing:
I then took this image through the same colouring process as above, creating the final coloured illustration:
When John saw this image he liked it so much that he found a use for it as the back cover for the book and, along with the cover, an art print.
Time for a plug, both of these illustrations along with two by artist Gabrielle Noble (who also illustrates the Kult Creations Octobriana book) can be picked up at the Kult Creations site HERE.
So, comic art, who'd thought it was such hard work ;0)
Artwork ©Simon Breeze 2015


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