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Design and finalisation of the Christmas/New Year New Scientist Magazine cover, for 2012. The brief was to set a hedgehog in front of a miniature… Read More
Design and finalisation of the Christmas/New Year New Scientist Magazine cover, for 2012. The brief was to set a hedgehog in front of a miniature circus tent. This would represent the flea circus, needed to show fleas as the main subject of the article. Read Less
Published:
New Scientist Christmas/New Year Cover 2012
Illustration of hedgehog outside a flea circus

After the success of the last New Scientist commission, a whole year had passed until I received the call to do the Hive Brain illustration spread. I was equally surprised when less than a month later I received another call to repeat my work for the cover of the Christmas/New Year edition.
Craig Mackie,  art director at New Scientist, set a brief that was basically to give humour to the article about fleas used in medical research. To avoid having a flea on the cover, it was proposed that a hedgehog would stand there, as these creatures are used to harvest them. To make it a little lighter and more entertaining, the concept was to make the hedgehog a ring master for the circus and to have a small tent in place for the fleas.
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 initial sketch done on receiving the commission, that was a brief exploration into the design of the character. To help some, I used several images of hedgehogs found on Google. The one that seemed to work best was the young hedgehog. Mainly as the features had more of a cute and appealing look to them.
I wasn't happy on this design. The reasons were I felt the nose was too long, and the second that the direction of the face should be more toward the observers view point. So a second sketch was started.
After some playing on paper, this was the resulting image. It was made out of three sketches, as the development of both of the hands took some extra work. It was all combined together in Photoshop. As you can see, even though I tried to be anatomically correct with the hedgehog scaling, I did make the legs a little longer and humanised both the arms and legs to enable it to stand.
After this initial sketch was sent off to New Scientist, the comments for alterations came back. Basically the need to to make spines a little longer, so it looked more like a hedgehog.
This is the additional sketch I did to perfect the ands of the hedgehog. They were combined in Photohop with the original sketch and printed to use as a trace.
This is the received layout with comments drawn on my original. The design of the big top was taken from a image match done in SketchUp, with a found model of a big top tent. The basic comment was that the hair spines needed to be bigger.
After receiving the feedback from 'New Scientist' I re-rendered the drawing out in rough for the final OK. This was given and the next stage of development was to take place. The pencil render.
So a couple of days later and a 3B pencil, the final pencil render was complete.
This is the most nerve racking part of the process, as it is hard to correct errors. Especially a long way down the line. So you have to be really careful in the rendering of shade.
Once this was completed it was added into photoshop, via VueScan.
After the project was brought into Photoshop, the vintage paper background was added. Then the process of creating a masked version of the artwork took place. This was done by making a white copy of the artwork area using the marquee tool. This would be then used later to make quick marquee selections of specific areas, and also to make a reverse mask to clean the areas around the image.
On review Craig Mackie and the editor at New Scientist, made some change suggestions. They wanted to see more of the hedgehog's white in his eye. This would help make the character more friendly. And also, as the article was about flea farming, the editor wanted to see the fleas in detail.
This is the suggested change as far as the fleas were concerned, as sent by Craig Mackie.
After some redesign and changes and rendering out, these are the fleas that were included in the final image, at the base of the page.
This is the completed illustration as sent to New Scientist.
To help understand the process a little better, below is an animated gif. This shows the full process of the stages taken to get the final outcome.
The process shows, 1) The initial layout from New Scinetist, 2) The rough version sent by myself 3) The corrections made by New Scientist 4) The corrected rough by myself 5) The rendered pencil drawing, 6) The photohop composition, and 7) The final artwork.
The final cover image!