Recently, I got an email from the Comic Artist's Guild asking if I'd like to contribute to the upcoming anthology Iconic 3. (The answer being, yes of course I would.) And that reminded me of something incredibly important that happened during my busy autumn that I can't believe I forgot to write about: I've been published again!
I have an illustration tucked in among the back pages of Iconic 2. As far as I know, the book will be available at both Boston Comicon and New York Comicon this year. (Currently, the book is unavailable online but I will certainly let you know if this changes. And if you're wondering, my art is also... somewhere... in the One Million Giraffes book.)
Now I could just show you the page with my illustration on it, but where's the fun in that? Instead, for those of you who have or wish to score a copy, I'll walk you through the process of making the drawing.
In early 2010, I was asked if I wanted to do a "Pin-Up" illustration of Grendel for the Iconic 2 anthology. The discussion was pretty lively and by the end of it, I'd whipped up the MSPaint thing you see above. (I don't remember what the unicorn was about either.)
Now here's the thing about drawing Grendel, something that's plagued both professionals and silly little amateurs like me: In the whole of the epic poem, there isn't a decent description of what the heck Grendel actually looks like. About the only things we all have to go on are:
1) He's a big monster.
2) Who eats people.
3) And lives in a cave.
4) And is vaguely humanoid. Maybe.
People have illustrated the brute as everything from a troll to a dragon to a mutant Crispin Glover. Let's not even get into the many bizarre takes on his mom. Anyway, I went for Troll-Grendel for no more significant reason than the fact that Trolls are fun to draw.
These early sketches were just me working out the initial character designs. It's a little hard when you know exactly what you want to show the character doing, but haven't yet got a hold on what he should look like. As you can see, one idea is more monsterish and the other is more humanlike. Now if I had to do this over again, I think I'd push the humanlike version further, since looking at it again, holy crap that's terrifying! In the end, though, I went for more of a compromise between the two ideas.
It required a bit of research though. So here are some sketches of baboon jaws which became the very very initial sketch of Grendel's handsome face.
Now around this point, I remembered that my portfolio is a little heavy on... pretty things. And cute things. And so I did my best to do my own tribute to the illustrations of Stephen Gammell. And if you don't remember who he is, here's a reminder.
Yes, he's the person who somehow had the ability to draw things right out of the demented, vaguely remembered visuals of a nightmare. His illustrations for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series ruined many a childhood, and it's honestly kind of surprising that they got published at all seeing as they look less like literal interpretations of the stories and more like the stains and smears and scribbles of a madman. (It's honestly not very surprising that new editions of the books have new and much less interesting illustrations by Brett Helquist whom I can't help but feel bad for given the nostalgia for the old artwork.)
With all that said, I... will be the first to say I don't know if I succeeded there. But here's the final drawing, as-scanned, before I did the final cropping in Photoshop. Yeah, I don't think those little plants were a good idea either, looking at them again. Neither was sticking my signature on that bone toothpick.
And finally, here's the version I sent off to the publisher. Hopefully I am totally wrong and that eye will be appearing in the nightmares of children everywhere.