Twisting in the Wind

31 July 2012

Earlier this year I did some illustrations for The Violence, a music album from Darren Hayman featuring songs about the English Civil War and the Essex Witch Trials.
Being given a completely free hand (usually a prelude to creative paralysis), I drew the doodles below with an HB pencil and a Sharpie fine point pen on an A4 sheet of Hewlett Packard Home and Office paper (sadly now discontinued).

I liked this first idea so I scanned it into Photoshop, knocked out this quick rough for the twelve inch sleeve, and mailed it to Darren for approval. He say yes.

I did some work on cleaning up the image, and never being one to leave well alone, I decided that a single victim might be more effective. Along with a rather tasteless quote from Stalin to justify same, I sent it off. Again Darren say yes but that he did still quite like the first version.

Darren was right, of course, three victims is a much better representation of the ghastly events that inspired the album. But I still thought it needed something else, so I added some water and reflections. Bingo!

And a version for the CD case.

My original plan was to take the rough into Manga Studio, ink it, and take it back into Photoshop for colouring. I did start the inking but I quickly realised that this approach would lose the anonymity that the victims had in the rough, they would have too much detail even if they were silhouettes.

So I dropped that idea and decided to tweak the rough instead. I started by scaling up the rough into a 600dpi grayscale file in Photoshop.

The figures would have to be drawn again somehow or other, but for the moment I concentrated on tidying up the gibbet and sorting out the water.

Then I hit on the idea of drawing the figures quite small with the Sharpie pen, cleaning them up a bit, and then enlarging them. Here’s the original drawing with the new figure work…

…and how it looked in Photoshop after I’d created the three new victims (at bottom left).

But when I added the figures to the file I still wasn’t happy. I knew that the method for creating them was working, it was just that these particular figures still weren’t right. They still had too much personality plus they just didn’t look like they’d been hanged.

Back to the original sheet of drawings, only this time I decided to draw them much smaller to make it more difficult to show anything other than a general impression. Here they are on the lower right…

…and how they looked after taking them into Photoshop. I’d also drawn a rather nice crow while I was at it.

I was more than happy with it now.

I added the reflection and some mist…

…and finally a bit of Photoshop hue and saturation jiggery-pokery.

Below are two more images for the album. Same method as the above.

14 Responses to “Twisting in the Wind”


  1. Great to see the work that arrives at something so deceptively simple. Powerful like a shadow play.


  2. These are just great Mick.

    Wish I had something clever to say but I don’t


  3. Excellent ….and thanks for sharing the process too

  4. nulsh Says:

    Excellent post Mick! Great to go through the process. I really liked the red background roughs at the start.
    Finished image is pretty freakin’ great all the same.
    The crow/ raven is a great touch.


  5. The illustration of the soldiers with pikes is complete class!

    Ade


  6. Fantastic, enlightening stuff!


  7. That’s fantastic, Mick! All of it!
    And if I may ask, what was the quote from Stalin?

  8. Russ Says:

    Loved the power of the initial sillouette sketch, but the final design with the mist and the reflections just lifts it to a new level. Thanks for sharing the process, Mick !


  9. Warm hearted, that Stalin fella.

  10. laura Says:

    this is beautiful. i love seeing process pictures. and the stories behind them. i am thinking about shadow puppet theater lately for camp or another gathering we do and this helped a lot in some ways.

  11. Dan W Says:

    beautiful beautiful work!


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