Thursday, June 28, 2012

Prison Beating - How to Draw a Cover Illustration

Phoenix New Times - Illustration: Graham Smith
Art Directors Peter Storch and Zac McDonald, assigned me another scary and gruesome story to illustrate for the Phoenix New Times cover article.

Prisoner Alan DeLong was beaten mercilessly in the bathroom of Joe Arpaio's Arizona jail. His eye was knocked out at the hands of  the "Torpedo Man"- a gang enforcer, in a case of mistaken identity. The prison guard threw up when he saw the extensive injuries. 

The Phoenix New Times sent me the official court deposition and medical examiners photos as reference for the illustration, the article was not yet written when I began drawing the thumbnails.

I took a storyboard approach to the illustration assignment and thumbnailed key scenes from the attack in the prison bathroom. These thumbnails are tiny little drawing done very quickly, using a fountain pen, and colored with watercolor.

After review, the Art Director wanted a few ideas cleaned up, plus wanted to see the actual Punch-In-The-Face! I began to develop the thumbnails into pencil "franken-sketches" right away. 

Pencil sketches are more developed, 1/4 page size, and "franken-comped" quickly in Photoshop - using any means necessary to get the idea across. The blood red was emphasized at this stage, because something that gory would be a talking point on the client side.

The Torpedo Man
Found Alive
The Victim

Once the final direction is decided, I create the illustration, and create a few color comps offering different possible croppings and colors ways.

Magazines want their cover to be a different color than the week before, so be prepared to be flexible!

They also need a lot of negative space for the masthead, headline and other copy. Adding plenty of extra bleed to your cover illustration will give your Art Director some wiggle room when designing the cover.

See More:  Seized! The award winning cover illustration by Graham Smith and AD Peter Storch, for The Phoenix New Times.

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