Monday, November 21, 2016

Ventriloquism Promo Art II


Another early cover design for Jon Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism, chalk on black paper.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ventriloquism Promo art 1

When designing a scratchboard illustration, I'll try ideas in chalk on black paper first to see how the contrast will work, and these concept drawings, even when unused, can become stand-alone workable images. For a striking cover to Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism, I wondered about Death as the ultimate Ventriloquist- would the dummy be Death's mouthpiece? Or maybe every living human body is but a dummy, which is close to the book's theme, so in this chalk drawing the doll became more human, childlike and afraid.

When another design was chosen by the author for the cover, this image served as promo art to be shared on social media.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Anatomy of a Cover: The Secret of Ventriloquism

For the cover image of The Secret of Ventriloquism, I began with designs that featured a ventriloquist's dummy, and played with expressions of fear and hate- should the dummy be a witness or a construct of evil?














Author Jon Padgett, a ventriloquist himself, worked closely with me on the cover and shared images of his own vent doll, Reggie, though he steered me away from Reggie's likeness, suggesting the following excerpt from his story "The Infusorium" as inspiration:

"The remains of the thing’s yellowed, shriveled skin cracked across its face like desiccated sand. Its mouth hung open to reveal a single line of small, dark teeth. The hair was black and slick, almost as if painted high on its head, giving the illusion of premature balding. Below the neck the child-thing seemed more insect than human. Too many arms, or were they legs? Whatever the case, they were far too long and jointed. Anyway, I had no idea how Guidry could bring himself to touch the thing, let alone cuddle up to it. But worst of all, the thing’s eyes—its great, round googly eyes. I’ve never seen eyes like that on a human being. The eyes of a doll, of a shark—still intact in its head."





The dummy's countenance went through an eerie transformation that hints at the unsettling stories in Padgett's first collection.

Once the image was etched to scratchboard and scanned, graphic designer Anna Trueman added the title banner to the front cover and spine, making it the classiest-looking thing I've worked on to date. The final product, as seen in Padgett's hand below, was a collaborative effort between Jon, Anna, and myself, one I feel privileged to have been party. 


 
The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook from Dunhams Manor Press and can be ordered online here.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Design Sketches for the Next Dunhams Manor Press Hardcover

Working on new images for the next Dunhams Manor hardcover, a collection by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy. This sketchbook page from the design process is one of the original art pieces to be included with a random subscription.
Ink, chalk, and ballpoint pen on 5.5 in. x 8.8 in. toned paper


Sunday, November 13, 2016

"The Secret of Ventriloquism" Illuminated Manuscript pages



Some of the art on the manuscript pages.



To help Dunhams Manor Press with their line of limited hardcover books, at the beginning of the year I offered to donate a piece of original art with each subscription. Designing the scratchboards for the covers and interior illustration generates stacks of sketches that sit in sketchbooks or are simply discarded in the recyclable bin, and if they got into the hands of readers, publisher Jordan Krall and I thought they'd make for a unique collectible. With the release of Jon Padgett's The Secret of Ventriloquism imminent, I spent the Veteran's Day weekend drawing and painting illustrations on pages of the manuscript sent to me by the author, thinking I'd only do a few... and I became so engrossed in Padgett's stories once more, I went on to create a series of new works that would've easily fit in the book. Each Dunhams Manor subscriber will receive an original "illuminated manuscript" page from Jon's collection.


Watercolored manuscript pages of Jon Padgett's "The Secret of Ventriloquism"

Doing the pages in quick succession, these images explore the themes and mood of Padgett's collection, and this project gave me the chance to revisit some of the imagery, like the blackened screaming skeletons of "The Infusorium." Seen as a set here, the evolution of design can be traced from drawing to drawing, honing the bizarre anatomy with each attempt.

I'm positive readers of weird fiction will enjoy Jon's first collection, The Secret of Ventriloquism, which is available in paperback, eBook, and limited edition hardcover from Dunhams Manor, and I look forward to working on upcoming titles by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, Matthew M. Bartlett, and Jordan Krall himself. While I doubt I'll have the time to do another series of "illuminated manuscript" pages like these, subscribers can look forward to receiving more unpublished art from other books in the near future.



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nightgaunt and Chrystel Duchamp's "The Impostor"

One of the most rewarding things about putting out a fanzine is coming into contact with other like-minded folk trying to do the same thing. After I published and distributed Cthulhu Commune at NecronomiCon-Providence 2013, I received an email from a collector of Lovecraftian fanzines in France. Adam Joffrain is an author and translator, and earlier this year, he became the publisher of Nightgaunt, which to my knowledge, is the first bilingual Lovecraftian zine. In his first two issues he has published a new Wilum Pugmire story, begun the task of translating Pugmire's sonnet sequence Some Unknown Gulf of Night into French, and introduced authors Chrystel Duchamp and Ran Cartwright to new audiences. It's one of the more exciting endevours of the year and I'm proud to have been asked to contribute, since the other artists featured are fan favorites: Allen Kozsowski, Kim Holm, and Nick Gucker. That's some pretty good company to keep. 


 
For Duchamp's short story "The Impostor" in issue #2, I made a 5"x7" sketch, the same dimensions of the scratchboard I'd work on. I modeled the Lovecraft statue on the bust created by Bryan Moore, and since I don't own a replica, I drew a likeness from photos I took during the 2013 unveiling and installation at the Athenaeum Library in Providence. Because of the transformation in the story, I didn't want to show the protagonist... at one point, I thought to have a mirror on the wall, but it was too tempting to show the face. The only recognizable face would be Lovecraft, the statue on the writing desk. The author held a fountain pen, the kind I am fond of sketching with outdoors. The books should be French editions, I thought, so I Googled French titles in print and available on Amazon, and added the text to the finished scratchboard in Photoshop.


 To show the physical transformation that occurs in Duchamp's story, the protagonist's arms would be bare, revealing twisting muscles under the skin, as if snakes were coiling within. It didn't feel like an effective illustration to me, not as a stand-alone image, but with the story, it captured the act of deformation, and the French "imposteur!" pointed towards the title of the story and an accusation, written either by a stranger... or possibly by the author himself. I placed a framed painting in the background of the author's study, which isn't in Duchamp's story and is only meaningful to myself- Magritte's "The Lovers," which I saw during a Magritte Retrospective in Chicago in 1993. The heads of a man and woman are wrapped in cloth, giving them a strange deformity and anonymity, skewing identity... which were themes in Duchamp's "The Impostor," too.

Photo of scratchboard
Final illustration












Joffrain has sent me ten copies of each issue of Nightgaunt to bring with me to this year's NecronomiCon-Providence, and I expect the covers to capture some attention, but it will be the stories within that will endure. Look for more information on Nightgaunt at its Facebook page or its storefront for ordering instructions. I've also interviewed Joffrain in the second issue of my Cthulhu Commune zine, which will be made available after the convention.

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Rowan" by K.G. Orphanides

My latest assignment for The Lovecraft eZine was K.G. Orphanides' "Rowan," set in an old mining town in South Wales where an old evil still lingers. The narrator follows a friend named Rowan to the abandoned mines in an almost mythical, archetypal descent into the underworld... and I'll stop there. Because you should read the story for yourself- and it can be read for free online- and also because that was the point in the story that fixated me upon the characters and where they were going.

I read this story a week after Christopher Lee's death, and I had just watched The Wicker Man DVD again, and I thought there might be a link between Rowan Morrison in the film and Orphanides' "Rowan." While researching rowan trees for an authentic look, I discovered the tree held a place in Norse and Celtic mythology and was sometimes referred to as a portal or threshold tree. It seemed appropriate to place a silhouetted rowan tree at the place where the girl stood, on the brink of the unknown.

Sketchbook page. Rowan designs on the right included rowan trees and a second figure in the foreground.

In my first few sketches, I had the narrator in the picture, attempting to keep up with the girl in the distance, the old mining equipment emerging from the fog behind them, the fog on the ground somewhat luminescent around the heaps of slag. By the time I began etching the scratchboard, I'd discarded the second figure to focus on the girl beckoning to the viewer from the ridge just before she disappears from sight. The skulls in the roots and the sneering faces in the mist were design elements that weren't in the story, but made for an enticing illustration.

"Rowan," 5"x 7" scratchboard

"Rowan" by K.G. Orphanides appeared in issue 35- the Summer 2015 edition- of The Lovecraft eZine and can be read online for free here.