Here is a quick step-by-step on a typical job for me, from thumbs to finish:
The first thing I do is thumbnail. Depending on the assignment this can be anywhere from two to 12 pages like these above. I’m in a loose frame of mind thinking entirely about shape and message. This particular cover was to be the first in a series and the publisher (Dark Horse Comics) wanted to have a pulpy sort of vibe. In the story, our hero is a hard boiled detective type who faces off against a big green skinned monster in a version of Earth where mid-20th century Manhattan is half underwater. I keyed in mostly on the sinking city and the detective being stalked by the monster.
These three sketches were done 4×6 inches each in oil, choosing what I felt were the most promising roughs and developing them. These were all aided by some form of photo referencing. I sent this batch in and received notes to push the pulp further, as well as stick a snub nose in Joe’s hand and a fedora on his head…
The editor liked this one and gave me the green light to move to finish.
My reference had already been shot during the sketch process, so I was able to dive straight into painting. I printed up my ref and my sketch at the size I would be working to help keep the arrangement accurate as I redrew it onto the full sized panel. I believe that I projected this as well when scaling up, though I may have just hand measured and eyeballed. I tend to switch that up depending how I’m feeling.
With the underpainting dry, I washed in some thin colors and set straight into defining the focal areas
I’m bouncing back and forth a bit between figure and background, letting one inform where the other needs to go
With the piece finished, I did a bit of cleanup and color correcting in Lightroom and Photoshop and sent it in. My editor asked if we could kick the saturation up a bit further so I did some more color tweaking, pumped up the green on the hands, and increased the lantern glow.
And here is the finished piece!