Fantasy or science fiction illustration isn't really my kind of thing despite being a tremendous Star Wars (although Star Wars is in its own realm) So when the band A Boy Named Susan contacted me to do the album art for their single "Either Way You Are", I was unsure about tackling the concept they had imagined which was two kids in medieval armor facing a dragon (see sketch below)After thinking about the idea for a bit, I thought it would be a challenge and definitely something different in my portfolio. So I did 2 quick sketches since the idea was pretty concrete at that point, but heightened the cinematic and dramatic of the situation with an over the shoulder shot and scaled down the boys to really play up the difference in size.
When we agreed the first composition was better, I compiled a lot of reference images for the dragon, because I was really going to need it. One of the first things that popped into my head was the dinosaurs Bill Watterson drew in Calvin & Hobbes.
It goes without saying that Calvin & Hobbes is one of the greatest comic strips of all time and that Watterson is a wonderful artist. He always found innovative ways to change up the dull format of a strip and really went all-out on the Sunday strips with these elaborate drawings of alien worlds, spaceships, nature, and of course, dinosaurs.
I also looked at several Frank Frazetta paintings, the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, as well as skulls of Utahraptors and Velociraptors .
I took to Photobooth to figure out the poses for the boys. Obviously a ruler is a proper substitute for a broadsword.
When it came time to color, I wanted to try something different, as this was turning into one big experimental piece. So i whipped up a couple of quick color comps and tried to find something that would set the boys apart from their surroundings and imply just how out of place they are. I started coloring the piece with the first color scheme of purples and greens, but as I got further along, I just wasn't enjoying it nor did it seem to fit the image. I went back to the third color scheme of blues and reds, but tweaked it.
Here is the linework only with some colors adjusted and the red and blue highlights I added for some dramatic lighting and to make the dragon stand out from the background.
Here are the colors with the stone-like texture I placed over the image. I am especially happy with way colors sort of undulate through the smoke up to a neon green at the top of the image.
The very last thing I added was the tiny glare off of the sword in the middle of the composition, which I felt was necessary to brighten up that space and make the pose even more heroic. All in all, I'm tremendously happy with the way this turned out. I'm always glad when an illustration can have me engaged from the very beginning from gathering the reference to the mechanics of the drawing to the experimentation with colors.I will be posting a link to download the song very soon so please keep a look out for that. It's a great song from a ridiculously talented group. I can promise that it will be stuck in your head for days.