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Bēhance

New Scientist Christmas Cover 2011

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  • New Scientist Christmas/New Year Cover 2011
    Illustration of tortoise seated in Victorian chair
  • Over the past few months I have been slowly adding work to my Society6 art collection. At one point, after a discussion with a fellow designer, I made a decision to create a recognisable style. This was in order to promote myself better as a quality illustrator. Luckily for me the decision was easy, as I had a great love for pencils, and pencil artwork. I decided to combine this with my love for animals, and create a series of weird but wonderful images based on abstract compositions involving animals. You can see these at my society6 account.
    By chance I was then emailed with the proposal to design the 2011 Christmas cover for New Scientist. Craig Mackie the art director saw my work at Society6, and specifically the Toad illustration and asked if I could re-render the artwork with a tortoise and a Christmas theme.
    This project description is a record of a little bit of the process and some stages of the final rendering.

    The work was initially done in pencil, on A3 layout paper and then, after scanning, was painted in Photoshop on about 60+ layers.
  • This was the first attempt at a design for the head. It was fortunate that most of the design could be replicated from the original toad drawing. At this point, even though I thought the head was tortoise like, it seemed a little too lifeless and without character for the magnitude of a full cover piece.
  • This was the initial head design concept. Sketched using reference from the internet.
  • After some research into various types of tortoise I focused on the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. Some sketches were made to get the head that could also be slightly human and retain the tortoise look. Instead of the original cigar (which appears in the toad's hand) it was decided to have a party blower.
  • After some feedback about posture, it was decided to include a Rubik's Cube, (as one of the articles was about this) so the blower was lost and replaced with a cube. After some time looking at the previous head i felt there was too things wrong with it. a) It was not engaging the audience and b) it was not that friendly.
    So, with some further tests and designing I came up with this variation, and sketched it in.
  • The design proceeded with slight changes. This was a version sent to show another aspect that was requested. To have an iPad included. I placed it originally on the chair back, but because of placement it was decided that the iPad could get lost on the edge. As can be seen as the initial layout rough was sent through from the New Scientist.
  • It was also discussed with the editor and art director that another element of the edition should be brought into the design. The themes were 'relaxing after Christmas' and one article was about the Apple iPad. So they requested that the iPad was included to the drawing. this was then sketched in over the previous rough and then a final rough was created for approval.
    This also features the new head.
  • From the final layout drawing the rendered pencil drawing was made. This involved adding the details and shading to the outline drawing. Generally this work takes around 1-2 days. The media used is a 3B Faber-Castell pencil. All edge work is done using a HB self-propelling pencil that always maintains a sharp point.
    This artwork is then scanned into the computer using Photoshop and an Epson scanner and joined inside Photoshop, taking particular care to the joint line. Making sure that the distortions that occur are dealt with using the correction tools. If the scan turns out too light it is adjusted in the "Levels" option inside Photoshop.
  • The scanned artwork is then added to the artwork area. In this case it is a textured paper backdrop with a folded effect in the middle. This was to just enhance the idea the artwork is on paper. As the method of finalising was through painting the colours in Photoshop, then the pencil layer was placed at the top of the stack and had the layer mode changed to "Multiply". this allows the white to become transparent and allow for painting underneath.
  • The following images show the painting process from start to finish.
    The process of painting took a whole 18 hours in total.
  • The first process in the development of the illustration was to block in all the main colours.
    This was achieved on different layers.
  • One thing I try to do is to work on the eys and the face first.
    The eyes help bring character to the image and draws personality to the main figure. If this doesn't work well, then the rest of the image will also look weak.
    To begin with I greyed in the tortoise.
  • The next two stages involved adding the necessary highlights and shadows to the face and hands.
    These were achieved on separate layers, just in case there were problems with any of the processes.
  • It was felt that the character was not strong enough in colour when the greying was complete. So, instead of trying to recolour the entire face and hand sections from beginning, I decided to use an adjustment layer on the selected skin layers.
  • Once the work on the face was complete, the objects and clothes could be tackled.
    I tend to work from top down on an image and so the next thing on the list was the Rubik's cube.
  • Then the shading and highlights on the chair cloth.
  • To complete the chair the wood work was worked upon in order to make the gentle shine appear on it's surface.
  • With the depth in this area complete, the next stage was to tackle the shell and the inner areas of the shell.
    It was noted by the art director that this was an important element to stop the tortoise from looking too much like a dinosaur.
  • Then came the trousers.
  • The shirt and tie.
  • As the progress was going well, and there was a need to have a Christmas jumper pattern on the tortoise, some thought was put into this.
    I decided to retain the whiteness of the jumper and add a pattern built from red and blue. This was the signify the Britishness of the character and content.
    The red strip was tackled first to get a central position. Using the marquee tool, I tried to follow the presumed contours of the jumper in order to get a natural look.
  • Once the red was complete, the two blue stripes were added above and below. And the additional trim was filled in too.
  • After these colours were added, and I looked at the image again, the pattern still didn't seem that Christmasy. So, with some quick thinking I thought to add some shapes of Christmas on the blue bars. To make life easy, I chose the classic minimal tree shape. This was added to a new layer, just in case of errors. And then painted white.
  • Now, when dealing with shading on areas that involve multiple colours, the only real method to achieve a good shade is to add a neutral grey over the top on a separate layer, and then change the layer mode to 'multiply'. This darkens the grey, but also makes the shading universal.
  • When I got to this stage I then realised I still had the iPad interface to do. I started this on Sunday morning. First I created the shading on the bag. Which also had to include the colouring of the glow from the screen.
    This was done a few times to get the correct shadow value.
  • My first thought was to find a iPad interface image and then simply add it to the painting. However, first I like to believe that I create all the image, and second the image I did find that I tested, looked too sharp.
    So, I went through the process of replicating the interface that i had found in precise detail (as can be seen in the detail). This was complicated further by the fact that the highest zoom was still creating a 1 pixel brush that was bigger than some of the details in the icons.
    However the result looks quite good.
  • At this point, must of the work had been achieved and it was all down hill from here. The whiskey was added to the glass.
  • The ball-ball was completed.
  • The socks and slippers were completed.
  • And the last element to be painted was the streamer and the tortoises feet.
  • Once all that was achieved the only real final thing to do was to add depth to the shadows.
    This was done in several stages to give depth to the double shadow areas.
  • The image was sent in for comments.
    The only real one that came back was that the skin could use some dimension, like the Toad. With a little mottle work on it.
    This was achieve so.
    Once that was done, the image was complete.
  • This is the final test layout before going to print.
    There was a little alteration with the ball-ball position and the colour of the tortoise, but apart from that, the image is complete and ready for print.