Sketchbook: Tesla Strong

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I try to keep working in my sketchbook as much as possible but I am finding that I can’t maintain the pace I worked at just seven or eight years ago. My son Conrad frequently takes me to task for measuring myself by the quality and quantity of work that I do….and he’s right. Unfortunately I have sixty-plus years of dysfunctional thinking sitting on the other side of the scale.

I stumbled onto Tom Strong at about the two/thirds point in the original run so I was delightedly able to amass a couple of trade paperbacks and just visually gorge myself. I don’t know if you could call Tom Strong “steam punk” because the tech level is about 50 years more developed in terms of sophistication. Whatever. Alan Moore is a great writer and the only complaint I have about Chris Sprouse’ art is he made the images before I could.

HammerHead Submersible Boat: Exterior

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Coming up with interiors and exteriors that match up isn’t always an easy thing to do. I’ve tried completely rendering-out the exterior then interpolating the interior by referring to surface details. I’ve tried completely rendering the interior and then letting “form follow function” when coming up with the outside. Ultimately I’ve had to adopt a “badminton” approach to making everything sync.

I come up with a rough exterior view, then I use that exterior to locate major interior details like hatches and major structural features – the “load-bearing walls” to borrow a carpenter’s term. Then I go back and continue to add interior details with pertinent tech-level limitations in mind. ( Can you picture the idea bouncing back and forth like a conceptual shuttlecock?). Finally I make one last drawing incorporating all the additions and changes made as I moved back and forth between the inside and outside.

Cutaway drawings are not the easiest type of work that I do – but they are SO much rewarding. I end up concentrating so hard on both the aesthetics and function of the design that I feel like I have just built the actual vessel!

Hammerhead Submersible Boat Cutaway Drawing

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One of the nicest things to happen to me in the time we’ve lived here in Clarksville has been getting to know Scott Taylor. He tracked me down through the Internet five years ago when he realized that there was this unnamed gaming artist with a strong industrial design background whose work appeared all over classic role-playing material from the 1980s that he was curious about…which was of course me.

After some initial hesitation on my part we became best of friends and have gone on to collaborate on a couple of projects, most notably the books Gun Kingdoms and Airship of Fools. Set in a “mage-punk” universe (steam-punk with magic) both books have proved to be  positive, imaginative and readable much like the books we read (and loved) before the success of DUNE made a 500+ page count and heavy psychological content requisites  in printed speculative fiction.

Airship of Fools was late in getting completed – I struggled with ongoing upper respiratory infections for most of last winter so my contributions were completed way behind schedule. Scott was goo-natured about the delays but he took so much flak from KickStarter supporters that he lost most of his interest in penning and future volumes.

I’m not done though, so this time I am going to finish the cover, interior/exterior images of the featured vehicle and a master/prototype/maquette for a limited edition resin-cast bust of the series heroine Skyla. I figure if I get all this stuff done Scott will get sucked into writing the next book….and he really needs to. He is one great word-cruncher and should be published a lot more than he is.

This post features the cutaway drawing of the ‘submersible boat” Hammerhead. If you want to know more about this vessel start bugging Scott to write the book.

Gun Kingdoms 3 (Work in Progress)

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It’s a stormy day today so the light isn’t very good  but I wanted to show a work-in-progress – the main figure from the cover illustration to the third Gun Kingdoms book. After dragging Scott Taylor’s good name through the mud by being so late with the art for the last book I decided to get everything done FIRST! I’m planning on finishing a cover, a cutaway of a submarine and the master figure with which to cast multiples of a Skylla maquette if so desired.

Steam-punk SpiderWoman

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Unfortunately I can’t take credit for this idea….but oh how I wish I had been.

While  reading the latest issue of Marvel Comics PREVIEWS I chanced on an advertisement for a two-part Spiderman story coming up in December entitled The Spider-verse.  Semi-hidden in the illustration (and briefly mentioned in the text) was a Steam-punk version of Spiderwoman.  Given my background it should surprise no one that I immediately jumped into my sketchbook.

I’m not a regular “Spidey” reader but I am definitely doing so in two months.

Airship of Fools – SkyGlaive

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Airship of Fools - SkyGlaive

Central to the plot of Airship of Fools is a mysterious airship – or more accurately an “air-battleship”. It just so happened that I had a model of such a craft which I’d started about ten years ago and subsequently shelved in favor of paying work…then forgot.

(Every cabinet, shelf or drawer in my shop/studio/den has at least one stalled project box….)

Though not finished off to presentation standards, this will make excellent reference for drawings and paintings to follow.

Airship: Skyla (color version)

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Airship: Skyla (color version)

A second look at Skyla, our heroine from Airship of Fools ( and Gun Kingdoms) As was the case with Vivian I drew her in black line on an 11″ X17″ sheet of paper, but then had copies made on both white and light blue colored paper. I cut selected areas out of the white copy and used spray adhesive to attach it to the blue copy. It is one of my favorite techniques and makes the whites pop!

I had to think about my choice of color for the toned ground. While I really like the way the salmon colored paper works out on the finished product, in this book Skyla has a grey-colored cloak that can magically change into any item of clothing – the only proviso being it has to be grey in color.

There have been some changes in Skyla’s costume and hair – both Scott and I like the idea of characters continuing to change even in their lives “outside of the books”. She’s traded her dart gun for a pistol, but I don’t think anyone will ever pry her throwing knives out of her grasp…

Airship of Fools: Vivian

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Airship of Fools: Vivian

VIllainess of Gun Kingdoms Volume II, Vivian is Kaleb’s wife via an arranged marriage and is NOT a nice person. Think of a combination of Emma Frost from “X-Men” and and Alexis Carrington from “Falconcrest”.

A lot of (seemingly) bare skin area will actually be covered with lace or mesh when the colored version is done. Even so, her appearance is a much more effective weapon than the pistol stashed in her coat’s holster.