Did this article for Comic Vine on how I made the cover for THE GOD MACHINE Graphic Novel!
Well hello Comic-Viners!
Wait, you probably don’t call yourself that do you?
At any rate, hello everybody!
For those of you who do not know me, I’m Chandra Free, creator of the upcoming Archaia title, “THE GOD MACHINE.” [The 1st issue is coming out this Oct. 28th]
Ms. Sara ‘Babs’ Lima asked me if I’d come and share with you guys my process & art work, and I was more than happy to accept! So expect more from me in the future!
But enough with the introductions – shall we get into the art?
For my first entry, I’m sharing with all of you THE GOD MACHINE’s first graphic novel cover. [Graphic novel to come out the first quarter of 2010.]
For this particular cover I wanted to convey the feeling of the first 5 chapters of THE GOD MACHINE effectively. I took different and weird approaches to figuring out what would be best suited to do this. Like a fool, I tried “method arting” [think “Method acting” only with art.] I attempted to put myself in the mindset of my lead character, Guy Salvatore, who is a depressed 17-year old. I pulled out my old, crappy alternative CD’s from my late teen years, put them on, and then tried to set “the mood” that would trigger inspiration! I failed miserably! [Like super fail!] I was in a rather good mood at the time, and there was no changing that, or “inspiring” me. With a surprise 4-day deadline approaching, I knew I had to figure out something for this cover that showed something about THE GOD MACHINE in the right light and in a hurry! So I went ahead and did what I do best – sit down, and draw extemporaneously!
I started with a Photoshop sketch.
I wasn’t totally digging it, but it was a good start, and it had motion. I didn’t think it was anything special, but I went with it anyway. Now, the unfortunate thing is [or fortunate in this case] was that I didn’t save my last bit of work on the sketch, and lost all that work. This frustrated me. The image wasn’t jiving, and work had been wasted. So I decided to scrap this image, and try a more traditional approach. Another day wasted.
The next day I got out some Blue Line comic book paper, and took the same approach. Strange that this worked. Typically, when using comic paper, I have a thumbnail of what I want to put down on the paper. Though I had done an odd sketch that you can barely make out in my sketch book that barely resembles what I ended up doing. This was a rather strange piece for me. But, I go with what works!
After an hour or so, I finally had my pencils. Well it might have been longer, time seems to fly when I draw, and I tend to never pay attention to how long. Who knows, it could have been 3 hours?
I originally drew this with the intention of having Guy at the bottom of the image, and Good God [the female obviously] at the top. I wanted to put the logo at the bottom to try something different. But, it didn’t work as well as I thought it would, so I flipped the image. That worked out much better!
[It bares mentioning that I wanted an image that had a similar theme to what I had done for the cover of the first issue of THE GOD MACHINE.]
This is in keeping with that same idea of Guy Salvatore and Good God with a yin and yang kind of theme.
I took my pencils directly into Photoshop, and cleaned up and adjusted the levels to make them pop, and give them that “inked look.” [I don’t do inking, it drives me nuts!] I also use a Photoshop action my husband made for me that separates the lines from the digital canvas. It’s easier to work with your line art with transparenies and solid lines. [You can also change the color of the line art this way too through layer options!]
Now I place down some basic colors.
Notice how I’m building up colors on top of my canvas’ main color. I want some of the canvas color to come through parts of my image so we have the same general feel throughout. Though I’m a sucker for letting Good God’s hair be untouched by any other colors, which will prove to be a challenge through this piece to make that work with our color scheme.
Next I put in a texture behind our characters and start fleshing out some more details.
Notice I start thinking of light sources, and taming the ugly base colors on that moon. [That moon was driving me crazy!]
Now I start really getting into the details, and adding what has been dubbed my “trademark” abstract elements. [Or so people tell me!]
I’ve added more shading here and there to our characters. Now there’s also a splash of faint opaque red outside of Good God’s hair. This helps integrate the reds in her hair to other parts of the image, helping it fit in with the rest of the color scheme. This also adds some more visual interest as well.
Following this, I take my first stab at finishing the image.
After more details have been placed, I lay down THE GOD MACHINE logo, and add the appropriate glows and shadows so it stands out. But there’s something not quite right about this image. It looks done, and I’m ahead of of my deadline, so what could be wrong? It only took me a day to construct it, so maybe I’m rushing things. Sure I’m excited it’s close, but that moon seems way too overpowering and dragging our eye out towards the left. [A big no-no!] Also the colors don’t seem like they vary enough.
The solution: come in with some faint opaque greens, place it on the moon to tone it down, and put the green on our characters and other spots.
This gives it a little more balance, another level of shading, and just a better feeling overall!
Now this is the version I turned in to Archaia a few days ahead. I’m content enough with it, but I know I could do better.
Now the deadline wasn’t the official deadline for the graphic novel material. It was actually so the graphic novel’s cover could be featured in THE GOD MACHINE special.
So now I’ve had time to think on what bothers me about this image, and I’ve gone back and gave it exactly what it needed! [Trust me, I didn’t pull a “Lucas.” ;)]
First thing- that bloody moon! It’s never behaved right for me.
I take out that nasty yellow, and replace with a bright shiny white! This proves more illuminating and adds an energy into the image, making our characters pop more.
I also go back to the line art layer and change its color from a black to a more dark red-brownish color, giving the lines a softer and more natural feel. I also add more little abstractions, and voilà! Finished!
The piece now has a more vibrant energy and pizazz! [Least I think so.]
So if you guys happen to pick up THE GOD MACHINE special preview book, you’ll be getting the alternate version of this cover inside, along with bio pages, and the first full chapter of THE GOD MACHINE!
Well, I hope you guys enjoyed that!
See you again with more art!
[The God Machine Special is coming out this Oct. 28th- Ask your local comic shop to order it for you! You can pre-order til the 31st of this month. Ask your local comic shop to order it or pick it up over at DCBS]