Archive for the The Creepers Category

More Cover Work

Posted in The Creepers on October 29, 2014 by normandixon

Recently I was asked to be a beta reader for an indie author. There were promises of military sci-fi and I had visions of Halo dancing through my head and I was really craving something along those lines. What I got was something even better. Now when I hear indie author beta read, I cringe because I’ve been down this road before. Just because someone got the idea that they can publish at will they think that makes them a writer. I’ve had more than my fair share of terrible prose. This was not the case here. Scott Whitmore’s Green Zulu 51 and Other Stories from the Vyptellian War was a fantastic read. So much so that I offered to do the cover for him. This book deserves readers because it’s an examination of prolonged war from those involved on every level of it. It’s grade A military sci-fi written by someone who understands that world. As the son of a veteran scarred by war I found the book sobering and compelling.

This wasn’t going to be an ordinary cover. There were time constraints and reservations on Scott’s part. I mean, as I told him in him our correspondence, at the end of the day I’m just some dude on the internet offering to do a cover. I have some artwork up here and I’ve done covers, including my own, over the past few years but I don’t exactly have a long track record of works for people other than myself. So I understood those reservations and I wanted to reassure him that I would deliver on a cover for a story that I loved.

On a tight budget and time crunch Scott picked this stock photo and asked me to make it fit the work. Having read it that was easy, in my head at least.

shutterstock_126817232 (1)

Pretty good layout but too much lens flare, J.J would be proud, but for the sake of a good cover it needed to die a quick and rather painful death.

GZcover

Added the text and got that lens flare gone. I stared messing with ships. Alexnegrea put some awesome brushes up for free use on Deviant Art. Check out his page for some really cool art. I needed the brushes because of the time crunch I’m a cartoonist at heart not a tech designer. Given time I could’ve made some ships from scratch but that was a luxury we didn’t have. The brushes were great sillhouettes but the ships were flat so they needed depth.

GZcovermoreships

The ships in the foreground came out great and really fit with the drones in the story. I started messing with making the space station busy and gave Scott a few options as we bounced emails back and forth. After many tweaks, which thanks to Photoshop took very little time at all, we settled on the final cover.

GZbiggerships

It came out pretty awesome. Love the depth I was able to add to the original brushes. This cover making thing is starting to get fun. I’ve got a few lined up in the near future but would love to do more. So indie authors, publishers, I’m here to make that that happen. Contact me if you need cover work. Turnarounds on photo manipulations like Scott’s cover are fairly quick. Something like Amanda’s Grim Tidings cover would take more time as it was 100% drawn and painted from scratch and given that I have a day job took a few weeks.

Here is the link to pre-order the book which I highly recommend. Green Zulu 51 and Other Stories from the Vyptellian War

Norm

 

Advertisements

Give Away Time

Posted in The Creepers on October 23, 2014 by normandixon

So in an effort to relaunch the blog and get this damn book out there. We’re doing a little promo and The Creepers will be .99c for today and tomorrow. Grab a copy now! Leave a review, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook, or just make some random comment and you can have one of five sketched in books and some nifty swag to go with it. I’ve been digging through old sketch books for inspiration lately so who knows what will make it to the empty spaces in the book. I’ve been known to draw comics in the margins of books, murdering stick figure men and all sorts of unrestrained ideas. Sometimes it’s just shapes, doodles, occasionally dicks, but that’s the beauty of sketches. I’ll start posting pictures to this post as soon as I start dumping my brain out.

Even if you already have a copy leave a review, let me know about your favorite moment or character and a hard copy can be yours. Have a sketch request? Throw that in there to. Interpretations can be a beautiful thing.

Swag:

photo 3

And a taste of what might grace the pages of these wonderful print books:

photo 2 photo 1

Cover work

Posted in The Creepers on August 28, 2014 by normandixon

In a few hours my first children’s book should go live on Amazon. It was originally intended as a way to get me to learn Photoshop after fighting it for so long. I’ve spent almost my entire life working traditionally. Sure I dabbled in digital colors but I never painted or even really stayed long enough to truly learn how to color digitally. That all changed after working on my daughter’s book. Things that would have normally taken me so long to change, mistakes that needed correcting, all of that could now be done in a flash and my turnaround time is ridiculous. I know all of you seasoned Photoshop vets are like you’re an idiot for not getting on board sooner. Old habits die hard, but that’s not entirely true. I’m still working traditionally but now I have more of a hybrid approach to things. 

The main point of this blog is to talk about getting back on track and showing off some work. The Creepers is now finally out and I’ve finished and submitted books 2 and 3. So I needed a break from the dark and dismal. My wife suggested I do a book for our daughter and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do it so I just started working on it. As I worked on it I updated Facebook with my progress and was surprised by the responses I was getting. I’ve always been so overly critical of my work to a great fault. Even now I always see things that could be better. Anyhow before derailing this blog let me get to the point of it. Through these children’s book posts I opened up a new avenue of my creative business. 

Snarky mystery writer Amanda M. Lee was in the market for an artist to do the cover for her new series. Had I not been working on Olive’s Adventures I doubt I would have ever offered to do the cover. But something happened. Maybe it’s having kids now that has given me a different perspective, or finally, after so long, being validated by a publisher, maybe both. Those confidence boosters opened a door for me and I’m glad I walked through it. She doesn’t know this, but I credit Amanda with a lot of The Creepers success. She reviewed it early on for her blog The World According to Mandy and after that review the story started to spread. With that I felt like I really had to deliver on this cover. Not only did I have to deliver but I had to do this one all in Photoshop. No brushes, no inks, no pencils beyond a few thumbnails to get my self going. This was going to be all digital and it had to be something really special. 

Did I mention aside from coloring I had never attempted to work like this before? And here I was taking on a commission. So it started with some roughs. Same process as traditional only on the computer. I use an Intuos 4 medium tablet. So that means I’m drawing while not looking at my hand. Since I first picked up a crayon around 2 I’ve been drawing while looking at what my hand was doing. Fast Forward 33 years and now I’m drawing while looking at a screen and trying to finesse lines. I wanted to fucking dropkick my computer. The pressure to line ration wasn’t right. It didn’t feel right. I can’t do this. WTF was I thinking. All these things flashed through my head. A few deep breaths and muttered curses and I was back on track though. 

GrimTidings Cover

This is where I started. I did a simple layout and blue tone to roughed in an idea. Nothing different about the process except I wasn’t looking at my hand. And you know what? It didn’t look at all bad. I was starting to get somewhere. If I was going to paint this sucker it needed to be cleaner. I’m a classically trained cartoonist not a painter. So my foundation is in lines and using them to detect weights and shadow. It still had a long way to go at this point. Which leads me to this:

GrimTidings Coverlines

 

Cleaned up but still has minor issues but something I can work with. I got lazy and used a picture I took from a Savannah graveyard of a dead tree and dropped that in the background. Gotta stay true to those cartooning roots. I just selected the lights with the magic wand and filled them black and drag-dropped it in. This Photoshop thing was really starting to grow on me. The bench at this point is a place holder. It has no dimension really and the back is flat. Time to start painting and I had to start with the moon. I originally planned on this being a black/blue toned piece but after looking at moon reference I came across a really bad ass blood moon and that led me to this:

GrimTidings Covercolors

A lot of color layering but very few actual Photoshop layers at this point. I just used a mix of hi-res water color brushes, the blur tool and color theory. Now I was getting somewhere. I sent the image to Amanda and she loved it. Everyone else I showed it to loved it. Confidence is the key to everything. 

GrimTidings Covercolorssalvage

Now I started to add more atmosphere and bring the image together. The bench was still an issue but the image was starting to come together. A few days later and I had this:

GTFinal

A pretty fucking cool cover. I know you’re asking yourself how I got here. A lot of tinkering. Just download any youtube speed paint video and you’ll see. A lot of the in between stuff is quite boring. A good foundation is key. Once you have one down you can tweak and work color until you get what you want. I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver this one and I think I did. What say you tiny internet audience?

 

Back from the Dead

Posted in The Creepers on August 21, 2014 by normandixon

I’ve been away for a bit. I tried so hard not to be that guy that blogs occasionally and then forgets about it entirely. But life got in the way. Prior promises of blog commitments aside I will try to do better and stick to two a month. More if I can keep up. That being said I am proud to announce that The Creepers is now out via Permuted Press and can be purchased pretty much wherever books are sold. 

It’s here. It’s finally here.

The Creepers: Born in Winter

 

I spent a lot of time trying to get my work published. I always thought this moment would feel different, feel bigger somehow, but it doesn’t. Not even a little. I rarely allow myself the pleasure of victory. I constantly bog myself down with what comes next. Never satisfied, never finished. Not sure why this feeling of just another day surprises me so much. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I thought it would be this grandiose process, but it’s not even close. It’s really just the very foundation of a very long and drawn out process. Writing and life go hand in hand like that. And while the book was being released my creative brain decided to go and lay tons of material on me. I’ve been trying hard to keep up. On top of that I illustrated and wrote a children’s book for my daughter and got up the guts to put another series out to some beta readers. Things have been far from mundane even though they feel that way for me. 

It’s that pressing ahead, forging ahead that won’t let me see the glow until it’s tail lights in the distance. Creativity is such a dark and lonely highway at times. If I spoke about the thoughts as they drifted into being I would’ve been in the nut house long ago. The characters, their moments come and go and sometimes they compete like mad uncles fighting at the end of a family gathering. So much to do.

More coming very soon.

 

How I Work Part Two

Posted in The Creepers on July 12, 2013 by normandixon

Didn’t think this one would take almost a month but I’ve been caught up in so much these past few weeks I haven’t had time to blog, but I did find time to finish the cover and begin editing book 2. I won’t be able to reveal the whole cover yet. That I’ll have to save for later. Enough of that, on to the meat. My next step in the process is taking the sketch and refining it in pencil form on 11 x 17 comic board.

20130711-220414.jpg

Here you have the pencils. The x’s are for ink fills. If I was passing this off to an inker I probably would’ve filled the space with pencil but to save time I just marked them with x’s. I like the way it looks overall but I’m not feeling the zombies on the horizon line. They look off and need to go, so after erasing them I decide on this.

20130711-221129.jpg

Now I feel I’ve made for a much tighter composition. Like I said previously art is all about refining. I bust out my old Windsor Newton #0 and begin inking away, starting with the edges. For tighter areas and more mechanical spots I use a series of Rapidographs but at this point I’m thinking edges only. And I end up with something like this.

20130711-221907.jpg

Pretty cool. So far though I’m not sold on a few things and in the final you’ll see I changed quite a bit with Moya’s leg and my highlights. Anyhow, after the edges comes the fills which I use a rather worn #2 round for. Nothing fancy just something wide enough to hold a good bit of ink without being sloppy.

20130711-222402.jpg

And there it is in all it’s inked glory. Pretty empty but remember I plan on doing a lot digitally. Much more than I ever have on any piece before. It’ll be the first time I use the computer to develop more than just color. As much as I said I can’t, I kept at it, and the cover came out quite amazing. I can give you a sample.

20130711-222749.jpg

Much different. Since I can’t show that final product I will show you a series of stages on the first Creepers cover. You’ll see I worked the same way and that I made several revisions to things. Again it was done on 11×17 comic board with digital colors.

20130711-223026.jpg

20130711-223152.jpg

20130711-223317.jpg

20130711-223453.jpg

There you have it, a lot of layers like writing has stages. It’s a process and being mindful that you can always do better. That you can live with mistakes. That you can still make it work. It took me a long time work around mistakes and with them. Art and writing are mistakes. Once you get beyond the unattainable goal of perfection you can truly create.

Writers, keep writing. Creators, keep the dream alive.

Norm out.

How I Work Part One

Posted in The Creepers on June 16, 2013 by normandixon

As promised here is the first in this series. I’ll be giving you a glimpse into how I work. Which is pretty much like a traditional comic book artist. I know Photoshop and Manga Studio have made this type of work more streamlined but I only use Photoshop for coloring, though I have both programs, I work old school. No matter how hard I tried to be a convert, I just can’t make drawing on a digital tablet feel right to me. Even digital inking feels wrong. Maybe I’m too much of a dinosaur, but I love the feel of pen and brush in hand. I get a better sense of weight and depth and I work around mistakes instead of countless undo’s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on that method of art, it’s just not me.

So, now that the first draft of book 2 is behind me, I started to think about the cover for it. Would it be Bobby, or Howard? Both share the protagonist role this time round. I did several Howard thumbnails but trashed them. Then it dawned on me, why not Moya, or at least a hint of Moya. You’ll find out who she is soon enough but a chance to have her as a teaser I couldn’t pass up. So after spending days pulling reference photos I started to work out the idea. As I just mentioned above that step is the thumbnail process. Quick, very loose sketches where I’m just testing layouts and ideas and positions. Here’s an example:

20130615-205410.jpg

They look a lot like blobs but look closer you can see a horse with a woman on it in various poses and there’s even a ruined cityscape. After much mental debate I settle on one and do a slightly more defined version with notes. In this next step I use a sharpie to spot blacks and test lighting angles. Here is that step:

20130615-205649.jpg

Now I have a better idea of where this cover is going. At this point I’m not settled on the position of the horde but I’m getting there. Ignore my random doodles sometimes my mind and hand wander off. My next step is to move into a slightly larger space and add more definition. Again I’m still not settled on the position of the zombies but I am settled on Moya. Check it out:

20130615-210006.jpg

Now it’s starting to look like a solid foundation which is what these steps are meant to be. Hand drawn animation is also done this way as is most digital work, but you get the idea. Constant refining and tweaking. No piece comes out of the box finished and ready to go. That goes for books as well as drawings. My next step is to lay down final pencils and again I’ll be moving to a larger space which instead of 8×11 printer paper will be 11×17 comic art board. I prefer one with a smooth finish for slick brushwork when I ink, but that’s another blog and it will be coming soon.

Keep creating.

Norm

Hiatus

Posted in The Creepers on June 9, 2013 by normandixon

It has been almost two months since my last blog… Why does this feel like confession? Cue catholic school childhood memories. During that time I pretty much poured everything I had into book 2. I am very happy with the result. It just needed to get done. The story had hit that all consuming stage where you eat, sleep and dream it. I thought about it so much it was starting to affect my day job and my relationship with my wife. It’s so hard to stay focused when you have multiple characters vying for the podium inside your skull. A lot of days I was rendered to subhuman slop just barley drawing breath. This one took a lot out of me emotionally.

And by a lot I mean A LOT!

I really worked through some deep seated pain on this one. There were things I had made myself forget that came bubbling to the surface all of a sudden. Which was another reason for the mad blitz, but it was never rushed. I kept my pace of 500 words a night and chipped away. And after many sleepless nights I uncovered book 2 which, as you can tell, is still without a title. It comes in about 10k words less than its predecessor and it’s all business. I’m going to let it stew while I work on the book 1 edits and the cover.

I feel lighter now, so much lighter. It’s been said over and over to let it all out on the page and there are few things better in life than truly opening up. Sing it out, paint, draw, sculpt it out, or write it out, just get it out. I’ve seen too many friends fall to it over the years. Mask it, morph it, do whatever you have to but release it. I suppose that’s a major theme in book 2. I can’t wait to share it with all of you. Beta readers get ready because it’s coming.

In the meantime I’m going to try to be a better blogger and all around social media persona. Next up is a series of blogs on how I do cover work since I’ve been asked by quite a few of you. Some really cool artwork coming up.

Writers, keep writing.

Norm