Friday, 18 December 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I'm about to drop off the radar for a few weeks to enjoy Christmas with my family and friends.

So I'd just like to wish everyone who passes this way a Happy Holiday and a prosperous New Year:

Best wishes and see you all in 2010,


(P.S. It's snowing a blizzard here at the minute, lovely!)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

3D World Article: Colonial Marine

In the latest issue of 3D World, themed around thew release of James Cameron's Avatar, I have an article about producing digital maquettes for production use, here's the official blurb:

"In issue 125: We go behind the scenes at Weta Digital for a closer look at the much talked about Avatar, before sitting down with the 3D World advisory board for our 2010 industry predictions. Plus software and resources worth $293 on the CD"

My article (above) runs to about 10 pages chock full with information on how I approach CG art, using 3DSMax, Zbrush and Photoshop - now, that's got to be well worth a purchase!

As a taster - here's the final image from the piece, an Off-World Colonial Marine:

Job done!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Bananaman Returns!

This is a piece I did for fun quite a while ago now - my favourite superhero, Bananaman à la The Dark Knight:

I used to love getting Nutty comic every week - I used to copy out all my favourite characters on to sheets of A4 paper.

Nutty, Eagle and the annual Oor Wullie and The Broons collections were my reads of choice - I got into 2000AD and American comics much, much later.

Anyways, I wonder if Chris Nolan will pick up on this - could be a winner!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Poster Boy (Megazine 292)

Just a quickie to say that in this months Judge Dredd Megazine (#292), I'm one side of a thrill-packed poster - one side is yours truly, the other is a right corker from Greg Staples.

Megazine #292.
Cover by John Higgins

So - let's get this straight: cover by John Higgins, a poster by Me and Greg Staples and the collected Rogue Trooper by Dave Gibbons and Will Simpson - plus all the other great stuff in there. Go out and buy one, now!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Cyclops... AMOK!

Here's a personal piece I recently finished for my portfolio, "Cyclops... AMOK!":

Cyclops in a blinding rage.
Is that an X-Team symbol
I see being blown apart?

I wanted to have Cyclops in his classic Giant Size #1/ Second Genesis outfit - although the yellow gloves look a bit like marigold kitchen gloves. The thumbnail was pretty much how the final piece turned out, as I had such a specific idea as to the composition of the piece:

The composition was an X shape.
From the rays of his beam at the top
into his visor

and back out into his stance at the bottom

I've got a real soft spot for Cyclops/ Scott Summers - I feel he always gets the 'bad end of the stick' when it comes to being a decent superhero and X-Mens field leader.

I've always preferred him to Wolverine and I think his visor is one of the coolest looking pieces of tech I'd want to see in the real world.

Pushing the expression as far as I felt comfortable.
Take that, Wolverine!

I'm getting off topic, but it sits up their with Robocop, Boba Fett's Helmet and the old-skool Cylons. (Geordi LaForge's headgear is pretty groovy- but it always looked like a hairband had fallen over his eyes)

Cool visors/ Helmets.
Also an excuse to Google these images

That's all for now. I need to get on with a new 2000AD cover - see you soon!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

In the news...


Just a quick post as I try to turn the internet back on itself. I've made it onto the superb FPI blog, which has a nice little post about my recent 2000AD work:

The FPI Blog.

Go check the blog out if you haven't already - it's a great place for the latest SF/ Fantasy/ Comics/ Toys/ Everything/ Anything news.

...and be sure to tell 'em SkinnyElbows sent you!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cover: 2000AD Prog 1665

Tharg is being very good to me at the minute - he's given me plenty of lovely covers to do and here's the latest cover for Prog 1665: (Sinister Dexter) "The Deadliest Duo":

It was great fun working on this one as it's a step away from the explosions and gritted teeth that usually appear in my work. Also, I love the way there are no header/ footer bars on this, the image just bleeds off the page - luvverly bit of design, Tharg!

As always it starts with a sketch:

Then my wife took a few reference photos with me 'in costume' holding various plastic toy gun props - hey, no sniggering at the back!:

Then I painted up the final version, paying close attention to their expressions, I wanted them to look like they'd just stepped out of a futuristic/ cop/ buddy/ hitmen film ( a sort of Beverly Hills Cop meets Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer):

Here's a little fact, fact fans... Dan Abnett, the writer of Sinister Dexter, is also one of the fantastic writers for the Horus Heresy series, of which I do the covers - Oh, and did I mention that Dan is an AWESOME chap!

The great thing about 2000AD covers is the quick turnaround - you do the illustration, next few weeks it's in the shops - sorted!

Monday, 30 November 2009


Like many red-blooded males, I've always had a soft spot for Supergirl - mainly due to the 1984 Helen Slater film, which I always thought was great fun.

Here's a personal piece I created this weekend, over a couple of hours. Supergirl on patrol over a Kandor/ Chicago/ Seattle type city.

Supergirl, keeping an eye out for trouble.
Don't peek up that skirt.

"Sexy but strong" is how I always envisaged Supergirl - I like the idea that any superheroine other than Wonder Woman can be powerful (and not just great big boobs in a super-suit, Power Girl!)

In other news - I'm about to start work on a new cover for the Galaxy's Greatest Comic, 2000AD - which sounds like it should be a fun piece - I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Murky Depths #10

A quick plug for the excellent Murky Depths magazine - of which I appear not once, but twice!

One is an illustration for Mike Carey's prose piece 'Now! and Then!'. Also, here's a sneak peak from the strip 'Finger', a Victorian-childrens-horror-nursery-rhyme, by Lavie Tidhar:

What's going on, what does it all mean?
You'll have to buy a copy to find out.
Make sure to tell Terry I sent you.

That's all for now, see you soon.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Judge Dredd 1988

Here's a piece from my archive (AKA my parents loft), a drawing of Judge Dredd by me from waaaaay back in 1988. I was a mere 13 years old. I've put it side by side with one of my recent covers to show just how far I've come in terms of art style:

Dredd on his Lawmaster.
What a difference 21 years makes...!
I love drawing this guy -
never gets boring.

1988 - the year of Bros, Rick Astley, Dungeon Master on the Amiga and Laser Squad on the ZX Spectrum. Great days!

As two great philosophers once said though "The best place to be, is here. The best time to be, is now" - which is a fancy way for me to say that I'm on Twitter - yep, I've made the leap! follow me here:


Also in the news - Thoughtbubble was great! A really well run show with a broad spectrum of people - both visitors and guests. I'll post up a quick review of my day there soon.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Thoughtbubble 2009

Just a quick one to say I'll be attending this years Thoughtbubble, part of the Leeds Comic Convention. The roster of artists and writers looks amazing (not withstanding yours truly) for a con just in its second year and I'm really excited to see what it has to offer:

If you're going, keep an eye out for a tired, but still handsome, artist wandering around - that'll probably be me - make sure to say hello!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Skinny is GO!

Oh, before I forget, my shiny new website has gone live, so go here:

I'll keep the site regularly updated as artwork is published. Also, it has some artwork I haven't put up here yet, so feel free to browse and have a good look around.

Big thanks to Russ for making it all happen.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Battletech: A Time of War

So, as promised, here's the cover for RPG rulebook 'Battletech: A Time of War':

The blurb for the book describe it as...

"It is the 31st century. Mankind has spread to the stars and spawned titanic stellar empires, each controlling hundreds of worlds across a thousand light years and beyond. Yet the sins of man have followed him from the cradle of humanity.

Political machinations of feudal lords plunge whole sectors into war; unscrupulous merchant starship captains smuggle weapons to their own faction’s enemies; greedy military commanders demand tribute from worlds they’re protecting; animalistic pirate kings harvest high technologies and human slaves in lightning raids; betrayals from oath-bound allies leave honorable soldiers growing cold on forgotten worlds; death at the tip of knife from a concubine turned assassin to avenge a world and love lost: it is a time of war.

What empire will you swear allegiance to: a warrior merchant of House Steiner; the honorbound samurai of House Kurita; the vat-bred warriors of the Clans; a mercenary that fights only for the highest bidder?

Choose your life in the universe: a MechWarrior piloting the thirty-foot-tall BattleMechs that turn the tide of any battle; a spy deep behind enemy lines discovering critical secrets; a merchant carrying critical supplies; a scientist unleashing the latest cutting edge technologies?

How will you become a legend?"

Sounds exciting, huh!

So, as always it always starts with a thumbnail.

As this was for an RPG rulebook, there was a lot of ground to cover as it had to have all the major houses visible and they all had to be doing something specific to their clan. So getting all the elements in shot and working together was the first hurdle.

The first sketch was deemed too 'head on' and lacked any drama so it was quickly revised to a worm's eye view for more 'oomph' - I also tilted the main characters head to the side as if she were in mid-chat with the pilot behind her - it gave the scene a more natural rhythm.

The initial thumbnail

Worm's eye view - although, technically, I don't think worms have eyes?
The star placement was changed so it was more astronomically correct.
This stuff doesn't happen by accident!

The first stage was the block in. I posed up my generic characters and got the layout as per the sketch. The Mech and distant shuttlecraft were also placed to give it all context.

Using simple blocks of geometry that will get ZBrushed at a later stage.

I modelled the mech, background and shuttlecraft. The main characters were refined and sculpted and lit accordingly. I went for a strong key light to simulate the harsh light of a distant sun. The rim lights I'd paint in later.

Everything in place, I'll model the BG elements next.

The background elements were modelled and everything was textured using rudimentary textures and UV maps. The alternative materials and shadows were rendered and it was all taken into Photoshop for the final composite and paintover.

Final image.
The BG elements were great fun to work on - each section had it's own story.

The final image looks pretty good, It's always a pleasure working on illustrations with women in it - it makes a nice change from the usual. Also, I'm trying to be bolder with my colour choices, whilst still keeping a good sense of layout. You might have seen it in my 2000AD covers recently.

The downloadable BETA for the rulebook is available for purchase here.

Monday, 16 November 2009

How it's made - 2000AD prog 1659

So, just a quick post today, 'cos I often get emails about how I set about creating cover art. I'll concentrate on my recent Dredd cover for 2000AD, from a few weeks ago:

Prog 1659 in all its Technicolour glory!

It always starts with a sketch, in this case I did 3 quick B&W thumbnails for Tharg, of which he preferred thumbnail #1:

Thumbnail_001 - the chosen one!

Thumbnail_002 - classic Bolland angle

Thumbnail_003 - off roading it!

From here, I quickly mock up and render a version of the cover using various items of stock imagery and models from my now extensive library of 'bits'. It's amazing how quickly you can build up a good resource for use in any illustration.

Initial render and Photoshop composite

Then on to the fun part - the final paintover, painting in detail and effects, adding in elements that would probably take days to set up and render (yes, particle effects, I'm talking to you!).

This is where I tie all the pieces together, getting character into the expression, adding in film grain and some EFX to give the image some 'pop'!

Final image with all the bells and whistles.
I received a lot of great feedback at BICS for this one.

In a nutshell, that's how it's made. I use the computer merely as a tool, the same way other artists use watercolour, airbrush or oils.

As usual - if anyone wants to drop me a mail about this or any other piece, commissions or any potential work- feel free to contact me at the email up there on the right. Alternatively, if you'd like leave a comment don't be afraid to do so.

Next up - Battletech.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Sculpey Head

Here are some pics of the Super Sculpey head I mentioned I was going to make a few weeks back:

I modelled it using a wire coat-hanger bent into shape then I blocked the head shape out with tin foil and thin wire to give the Sculpey something to 'grip' on to. I then modelled the head over a few hours whilst I watched Generation Kill on my PVR - great times!

I din't take any WIP photos as I didn't know if it would turn out okay - next time I'll document any such adventure - I'm sure someone will find it interesting!

I based my sculpture on Loomis and Bridgmans planes of the head sketches - I didn't want to base it on the Asaro head model as I wanted something more bespoke and suited to my needs.

Once modelled (using basic 'student' modelling tools) I baked the head for about 20 mins in a medium oven. I might have overcooked a few areas, but I wasn't worried as I was going to spray it a neutral 128 grey acrylic that I purchased from my local Boyes store. I didn't want a white base because it tends to 'bleach out' when photographed.

So far I've been using it for sketching and thumbnails for future covers. So it's already proving its worth.

If anyone is considering doing something similar - I say, do it! Sculpey is a great material and sculpting is a real extension of your art skills.

Reference pose for an upcoming illustration.
Looking mean with a green plastic toy rifle,
surrounded by toy garages - wearing my Crocs.
Freelance a-go-go!

Oh, in other news, my PC is back to it's old ways of crashing at random moments - they're so random they're becoming almost regular. I'll have to get it sorted with minimum impact on those ever present deadlines! Such are the highs and lows of the freelance lifestyle!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Cover: 2000AD Prog 1659

WOOHOO! I've only gone and done it, I've bagged myself A 2000AD Dredd cover!

Dredd on his Lawmaster in the Cursed Earth.
Image courtesy 2000AD Online

I'll do a 'How it's made' in the near future - I'll bask in the saccharine, self-satisfied and extremely pleasant glow of a dream coming true for a while.

I think this calls for an even stiffer drink.

Edit: I've even made onto the superb Forbidden Planet Blog!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Gamesfest 4

Just a quick update of recent events, this weekend I attended Gamesfest 4 which is a relatively new and small but fun games convention in Watford.

Watford Colosseum - not a Gladiator in sight.
Although there was a Samurai at the back.

After a slight miscalculation in travel times (thanks Sat-Nav!) and a couple of closures on the A1 south-bound (thanks Highways Agency!) I finally arrived and set up shop at the Artists & Authors table, where I spent the whole day drawing Space Marines, Eldar and loads of Sisters of Battle for the very patient men, women, boys and girls that gathered at the table.

The drawing machine at work!

Geek Alert: I even managed to get my precious copy of Fighting Fantasy: Starship Traveller signed by Steve Jackson himself, wikkidz!

My precioussss..

It was a great day, my fantastic sister, Dawn - who printed up the large posters - kept me company all day. I was looked after by the organisers very well; being watered, fed and kept amused by being sat RIGHT NEXT TO THE SPEAKER SYSTEM!

Joking aside, I look forward to seeing what those good people at Gamesfest have in store next year.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Super Sculpey!

Ooh, look what turned up in the post the other day!

Ooh! Polymer Clay!

Who'd have thought some polymer clay and modelling tools would get me so excited. Having read loads about sculpting (thankyou Smellybug and Bruno Lucchesi). I've decided to jump right in and get cracking with some small maquette tests - generic heads, planes of the face, that sort of thing - basically a lot of stuff James Gurney talks about in his book, Imaginative Realism - which I raved about in my previous post.

In other news, my PC nearly had a fatal wobbly on me, luckily it turned out to be a dodgy old graphics card:

Rust in Peace, dear friend.

Lecturing is going well at the University of Lincoln, there's more comics covers, magazine articles and book covers on the horizon. And finally, I'll be appearing at Gamesfest at the Watford Colosseum (sounds a bit gladiatorial) this Saturday - so if anyone wants a book signing or a sketch - come along and say hello.

Right, a modelling armature - I need to find some wire coathangers...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Imaginative Realism by James Gurney

Last week I ordered the book 'Imaginative Realism' by James Gurney from Amazon and it turned up in the post a few days later - good work, Amazon!

So, to sum up my review, this.. book.

For a professional like me in the field of Sci-Fi and Fantastic art this book is everything I want to read about, from the initial thought process to thumbnails, composition, laying out and the painting of fantastic imagery with every point he makes lavishly illustrated.

Image courtesy James Gurneys' Blog

James Gurney (his blog is here) is the creator of the Dinotopia series as well as being a consummate artist (such an understatement). His sense of realism whilst portraying the fantastic is sublime and his technique - chiefly using oil paints - has a direct link to the great Leyendecker, Rockwell and Pyle, all of which gives his work a timeless and classic quality.

Image courtesy James Gurneys' Blog

Here's the book blurb from his blog (now there's a mouthful):

"Most art instruction books show you how to draw or paint something you can see: a still life, a landscape, or a portrait. But what if you want to make a realistic picture of something that you can only imagine? This book shows the advanced or intermediate artist the time-tested methods used by artists since the Renaissance to bring your dreams into reality.

Chapters include: tradition, studio setup, preliminary sketches, history & archaeology, people, dinosaurs, creatures, aliens, architecture, vehicles, plein air studies, composition, and careers. 400 illustrations in full color.

Image courtesy James Gurneys' Blog

I can't recommend this book enough to anyone who is interested in imaginative art or in seeing a great illustrators working methods.

The great thing I've always loved about being an artist is that I feel there is always something to be learned, there's always something to be tried out - I'm already thinking of incorporating some of his techniques in my future works, so I'll keep you updated as to the results.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Sneak Peek: Warhammer Ancient Battles

I'm now fully immersed in an exciting historical project for Games Workshop, I've been aching to do historical illustration for a long time and now the chance has come up, I'm trying to produce something with a narrative, historically accurate and dynamic. A nod of the hat to the unequalled Angus McBride. Here's a sneaky peek:

"Uh-oh, this doesn't look good"

With these pieces I'm getting back to basics, these are straight (almost oil 'effect') paintings done in Photoshop, no fancy lens flares or overlay effects - just good, old fashioned drawing, tones, values and edges. I'm really enjoying it, I want to do more!

I'll keep you posted when they're published and I'll put up all the pieces for your pleasure.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Cover: 2000AD Prog 1656

Excuse me for getting excited, but I've just done something I've always wanted to do!

The Galaxies Greatest Comic, 2000AD has just published my first cover - Prog 1656, "Morked for Death":

Johnny astride his Mork
Image Courtesy 2000AD Online

I think I'll let this post sit here for a bit, whilst I take in the sheer joy of achieving a LIFELONG ambition...!

Time for a stiff drink.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Aftermath: Games Day 2009

Just a quickie to say thanks to everyone (including my old chum, Hans - hope you won that Golden Demon!) who took the time to come and say hello, get their books/ t-shirts signed and have a chat about my work - it's always great to meet both the familiar and new faces who appreciate the time and effort that goes into each piece.

In the Main Hall - wave after wave, the people kept on coming.

Pic courtesy Black Library Facebook page

Darius Hinks and I get technical in discussing the finer points of layout and composition.

Pic courtesy Black Library Facebook page

The ever-delightful Xhalax and I deep in conversation.
Pic courtesy Black Library Facebook page

Not forgetting a big THANKYOU to the BL staff who looked after me in the Hotel and made me feel very welcome at the show.

In similar news, I'll be attending the British International Comic Show next weekend (October 3rd-4th) so if anyone is going that way, make sure to say hello!