Another fun gig from Irene Gallo at Tor.com. Seems like I'm the go-to guy for messing around with their logo (at least for now, knock wood). Or, as she put it, I'm "the sucker guy." High compliments, people.
December is Cthulhu Month at Tor. So I was asked to have tentacles in the logo interacting with Stubby the rocket. I probably had a lil too much fun getting nutty with the tentacles slopping all over the letters. They were obscuring the logo, so Irene suggested two tentacles. Still a bit too much, try one tentacle. The one tentacle worked but we needed some grace to it. I worked up some quick gestural sketches and she picked her fave. And now we have the gooey joy of a otherworldly horror reaching out to steal your sanity... in a website's masthead.
I had just finished reading some H.P. Lovecraft, so his flavor of awesome was still fresh in my mind. Usually when thinking about making these I go through lots of failed ideas before connecting something random to something else that could relate in shape or texture. I landed pretty quickly on Santa's beard being similar to Cthulhu's tentacle mouth. After that, I just needed classic scene to befoul, like a child in Santa's lap. My first thumbnail and loose drawing was just to figure out a pose and loose shape to play with. I knew I'd have to fit batlike wings in somewhere so Santa's chair became ornate to fit those needs. You can see I was playing with sizes and shapes still in the rough sketch from the doubled up legs on the child. From here I grabbed a bunch of reference of classic shots of Santa, Santa's lap, happy or screaming children, etc. I wanted it to read as the quintessential happy boy waiting to tell Santa how bad he wants a bb gun type thing. Old illustrators and Saturday Evening Post covers are a great place to start for that timeless imagery, google image search helped with the rest. Then I refined the sketch to get the folds and figures believeable. The chair became important since drawing simple ornate carvings bores me, and reflect in the drawing. So I dropped hints of Cthulhu into the before shot, which was a lot more fun. Photoshop helped a lot in that I only had to draw half and then mirror it to get a nice symmetry. Then I gather some reference for Cthulhu. Its a little strange to look up photo reference for something that doesn't exist, but in this case it was necessary. I had Lovecraft's prose to go by, but he writes in a very old timey way that can be interpreted different ways. So, seeing what some other artists have done helped understand what I wanted to do. Since the jump from before to after can't be too dramatic, I've found the best way to work is to use a print of the sketch and tracing paper to get the shapes equal. When the shapes match up, I retool them to be the after shot. Even then I end up tweaking and resizing a lot in Photoshop to get it right. The before shot of Santa obviously dictated a lot of the after shot of Cthulhu. I had to pay attention to both my sketches and the finished paint to tell me where to go with value and color. Tentacles are always easy to play with, and matching the gestures of the beard and candy canes definitely added a nice touch. To finish off the rollover, I laid the after shot onto the before and erased out some of the wings to show some of the chair behind it, making the transition much smoother.