Friday, December 29, 2006


This image is the result of an idea I'd been fiddling with for some time. The concept was borne when I realized that one of my favorite bands from the 90's THE TOADIES had actually released a second album several years ago that I knew nothing about. I immediately begin my search for the album to purchase it and the title of said album turned out to be... you guessed it: HELL BELOW, STARS ABOVE. Before I even got a hold of the album (purchased off ebay), I fell in love with that amazing title. Having not heard the actual song on the album of the same name, my head started conjuring up noble and pulpy images of a heroic astronaut/ space explorer stranded on an hostile alien world, on his last legs and overrun by swarming alien hordes crawling up from the depths of the rocky planet as he makes his last desperate stand on a rocky peak, laser guns blazing, suit in tatters, determined to take as many of the monsters down with him as he can. Wow. I immediately set to laying out an illustration based on these drawings. The result was compositionally nice, but poorly rendered. Something just wasn't being ignited in me that would enable me to really give it the juice. The song itself, once I heard it, has nothing to do with brave astronauts or teeming alien hordes, but is rather about the victim of a failed relationship confronting his ex with her "other man". It's a brilliant and moving sonic gem, and has become one of my favorite songs of all time, but it nothing to do with this image it has indirectly inspired.

Over the past year, I have reworked and redrawn this image several times. The astronaut's suit started out as very simple, but I've added a bit more detail with each run I've taken at it. I've also intensified the facial expression a bit more and just generally beefed up the linework and detail. I had originally drawn a piece that had very little lighting and shadown cues in the inking, thinking I'd handle that in the coloring stage, but I decided to go with a more E.C. Comics pulp vibe and really capture the lighting scheme with some more intense inking, allowing it to stand alone as a black and white piece.

During the course of the school year, one of our Advanced Illustration projects called for us to do an advertisement poster for a charity. Having fallen a bit behind in that class, I decided to truncate the conceptualization stage and use this image to represent the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund charity. It seemed to fit, thematically, with the underdog fighting tooth and nail against those that seek to "opress" him, so I decided to use it. So, I set about completely starting over with the image and redrawing it from the ground up. In the past, I'd just set the image on my light box and go over it with more detail and whatnot, but this time I decided to start completely over from a new rough layout, not only so I couldn't be accused of using an old, already finished piece for my project, but because I really wanted to knock this one out of the park, and this was a great excuse to start over.

I finished the clean-up pencils and began inking, but about halfway through my teacher mentioned I should submit this to the annual SPECTRUM competition when I was done. This sort of spooked me, I guess, and I realized that, while the pencils I had done were pretty solid and satisfying, the inking was not my best work. And so, I started over, yet again, having to re-pencil the entire thing. This time, I allowed the pencils to remain a little bit more loose than they were before, allowing me to be a bit more spontaneous and expressive with the inks. I'm quite pleased with the results. I had started coloring the piece to turn in (late), but having spent so much time on the piece already, the coloring job turned out to be rushed and lackluster. So, I'm starting over with the coloring stage. I may stay fairly monochromatic with it, but I'm not quite sure yet. Final color post will follow, as soon as it's done.

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