The Column Out of Space Pt. I – by featured artist, Michael Bukowski
Michael Bukowski is a Philadelphia artist that has been creating art for and among the DIY community for over a decade, having worked with bands, artists, and animal conservation groups alike. His signature works are hard to mistake and currently circulate the globe. For the full story of Michael Bukowski, be sure to scope The Column Out of Space launch and in-depth interview with this talented and intriguing artist. Today, Bukowski gives Blow The Scene readers around the world an inside look into the processes behind a fantastic work of art he created for an H.P. Lovecraft themed art show in 2011, complete with the horror movie listings that fueled this epic work. We know you are here for the stellar art, so without further ado.. Let’s hear from Michael Bukowski and kick off The Column Out of Space pt I.
Last year, Sam Heimer asked me if I would participate in his H.P. Lovecraft themed show Dead and Dreaming. Now, if you know anything about me or my work, you can probably already figure out I was pumped. Super pumped even. You may even wanna add a “duper” in there if you’re so inclined.
So for my first post I thought I’d give you a huge step by step of the piece I did for that show. I’m going to be walking you through my process starting wayyyyyy back in the inception phase all the way forward to the final tweeks of adjustment layers. Maybe it’ll give you a better idea of what goes into my work.
Now, I know it seems obvious but step one is to get a goddamn idea. In this particular instance inspiration was not a problem, as I’ve been mining H.P.L.‘s work for years. For those of you who don’t know, I’m working on a project (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com) where I’m drawing all of the creatures/gods Lovecraft ever wrote about. I was well versed in the subject matter and know most of the stories inside and out. Also since my blog is presented as a bestiary, I don’t get to put narrative elements into the illustrations and this was an opportunity for me to do that.
However, if you don’t have any source of inspiration, my first and foremost suggestion would be to read. Read a lot. And take notes while you do it. Look at the description Lovecraft gives of Wilbur Whateley:
“He was, however, exceedingly ugly despite his appearance of brilliancy; there being something almost goatish or animalistic about his thick lips, large-pored, yellowish skin, coarse crinkly hair, and oddly elongated ears.”
“Above the waist it was semi-anthropomorphic; though its chest, where the dog’s rending paws still rested watchfully, had the leathery, reticulated hide of a crocodile or alligator. The back was piebald with yellow and black, and dimly suggested the squamous covering of certain snakes. Below the waist, though, it was the worst; for here all human resemblance left off and sheer phantasy began. The skin was thickly covered with coarse black fur, and from the abdomen a score of long greenish-grey tentacles with red sucking mouths protruded limply. Their arrangement was odd, and seemed to follow the symmetries of some cosmic geometry unknown to earth or the solar system. On each of the hips, deep set in a kind of pinkish, ciliated orbit, was what seemed to be a rudimentary eye; whilst in lieu of a tail there depended a kind of trunk or feeler with purple annular markings, and with many evidences of being an undeveloped mouth or throat. The limbs, save for their black fur, roughly resembled the hind legs of prehistoric earth’s giant saurians; and terminated in ridgy-veined pads that were neither hooves nor claws.”
That’s so cool! C’MON! I know you wanna draw that now! If you’re still stumped look at what other people have done based on your subject (broad or narrow). The pics below are all amazing but I wanted to show Wilbur as a child, being presented by his creep “father/wizard”. So, I used those images to help get a starting point.
Other people’s take on Wilbur 1) From an old paperback edition of The Dunwich Horror. 2) Santiago Caruso’s amazing depiction. 3) Rowena Morrill’s version from the ’70s.
Long story short, I chose to make a kind of overall summary piece for The Dunwich Horror. Since the story deals with a bunch of “old world” magic and references Salem witches, I thought my format would be almost like a demon signature. Lot’s of shapes, lines and symmetry.
The things I love in that story are the hideous description of Wilbur Whately, the insinuation of the cult that prepared him, the Necronomicon and hints of horrifying elder magic and the whipoorwills as psychopomps. Most of this drawing won’t be legible to anyone but myself in the thumbnail, but the purpose is just to get the idea and layout down.
My piece didn’t actually change much from sketches to final but that’s mostly because I was working for myself. Usually, you’ll have input from band members or other invested parties and you’ll have to adjust things or alter the design.
Once I got the general idea down, I did a more refined sketch and then started the drawing. Since I wanted the piece to stay symmetrical, I sketched the whole piece out and then only drew one half of it. This way I could ink one side, flip it, and ink the other side so it would be slightly different but not skewed in any way.
Which brings us to the inking part. I don’t think I have any pics of it but what I’ve been doing recently is drawing on one piece of paper, then using a light box to ink on a new piece of paper. This way I don’t have to erase the pencil which inevitably pulls up a lot of ink. Then you’d have to either re-ink it or spend a HUGE amount of time in Photoshop touching it up. You’ll have to do some touching up regardless, but this process really cuts down how messy the lines get. After, I scanned, tiled (that’s an annoying complicated process that we’ll get into at a different post) and cleaned up the drawing it looked like this:
Next up is a really annoying part that’s really time consuming called masking. Actually, I’m assuming it’s called that, but whatever. This allows me to add tints, lighten or darken entire areas and push things back in space.
After that, I add flat color to each part. This part is important because you have to choose which colors go with what and make sure they go with each other. Then, I start rendering away…This usually takes forever because I like to put a million noodly bits in everyone’s clothes. Not to mention fur and scales take a lifetime each and this piece has a double dose. Once that’s all rendered, I hand drew some tree silhouettes and layered them on the background. Here’s what it looked like completely rendered but not 100% done yet.
Lastly, using that masking technique I added layers at varying opacities to make things appear to go back in space and to add tints to make certain colors pop against others. This is the final final version.
I suppose I should also mention all the cool stuff that got me through this piece. I logged close to 40 hours on this thing all told and all those movies you see in that top picture got watched along with commentaries, making ofs and other special features. That may not seem to important but it does prevent you from going insane when you’re looking at a computers screen for hours upon hours. Audio books and podcasts are great too but I didn’t actually listen to any on this piece. Here’s a list of the movies that helped me finish this fucker…
Marble Hornets, Nightmares In Red White and Blue, Nightmares In a Damaged Brain, Video Nasties, Invasion Of the Body Snatchers, Happy Birthday To Me, Zombie Holocaust, Prowler, Not Quite Hollywood and Spine Tingler
….I seriously watched ALL of these.
Column and art by Michael Bukowski.
You can find out more about Michael Bukowski at his Last Chance Illustration Website.