PEEKING BEHIND THE COVER OF FAMOUS MONSTERS #252

(above) The assignment was simple. Michael Heisler, FM's editor-in-chief, wanted a cover to reflect an article they were running about Hammer Horror Films. The cover concept popped into my head right away: a digital painting incorporating all my fave Hammer monsters – a collage instead of the traditional FM cover which usually featured a portrait of just one monster. Jessie Lilley, FM's editor, mentioned that when she thought of Hammer monsters, her mind's eye saw them in Techicolor images. Voila! I'd be doing a Technicolor collage!

I put analog brushes away twenty years ago, and have been using Photoshop ever since. My style was always photo-realistic anyway, so Photoshop was a time-saving no-brainer (here's an example of the type of work I do these days).

So, for the FM cover I began Googling high-rez monster photo reference. Finding the photo of Christopher Lee from Curse of Frankenstein was the key to the design; as soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to have his body contain monster characters. For me, concept and composition has always been where most of the creative fun takes place.

Then, working in Photoshop CS3, the first thing I did was isolate characters from the backgrounds of the photos grabbed from the web. I spent a couple of days resizing and moving them around to arrive at the image above. To keep things from looking too chaotic, I converted the background monsters to red tones, and the foreground monsters to pale blue-gray.

 

(above) From the very beginning I placed the FM logo on a layer, which helped in figuring out the placement of the moon, bats, Chris Lee's hand reaching out in front of the "M" in Monsters, etc. I added a transparent yellow layer over the red background characters, and changed the tone of Chris Lee's Frankenstein monster to begin painting over it. Every character and design element (moon, blood spatters, bats) was on a single duplicate layer in Photoshop, so if I didn't like the way something was looking, I could trash it and start over fresh.

 

(above) I began colorizing and painting over the black and white photos. I didn't like the position of the Reptile, so I moved it between the Phantom of the Opera, and Frankenstein's monster from hell. The more time I spent looking at the composition, the more I realized that some of the figures, mainly the three at the bottom, were too large, puling focus away from Christopher Lee's Frankenstein monster.

 

(above) I decreased the size of most of the figures inside the coat, which looked much better, then finished colorizing/painting them. I added the blood spatters as a unifying element, and a slight yellow glow behind Chris Lee's head to draw focus to it. This was the finished painting.

 

(above) Original and colorized photo detail. Some people dismiss the use of photos, but I find it exciting to interpret and craft them; make them my own.

 

(above) Original black and white, and colorized photo detail (going for that Gogos effect).

 

 

(above) This was an alternate version of the cover, which we considered using (for about 5 minutes).

 

(above) The final cover put together by editor-in-chief Michael Heisler.
At the last moment I decided to use my
old signature from the eighties: "WSJ" for William Jonathan Selby .

 

 

 

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