“Monsters in the City” – part 001


Okay… so I guess this side project came about whilst considering options for a more single image oriented project. One that might be tied to something local, perhaps my urban sketching of the city, its architecture, but then maybe incorporated a more fantastical element, as I did with “Room Head”, with the giant figure striding through that curious urban landscape…

So where to start… Well why not the sketchbook and some thumbnails…


As I drew these images down I’d begun to realise I was bringing some baggage with me in terms of influences… So I started to make a list which you can see at the top right of the left hand page… These included the obvious Guy Davis and Shaun Tan and perhaps the less obvious but to me… there nonetheless, Paul Madonna, Robh Rupper, Edward Hopper, Moebius (Jean Giraud), Lebbeus Woods, Butch Belair & Tracy Savage (some of which didn’t become apparent until much further along in the project).

Here you can see the creatures in their spore like nascent form clinging to the lines and posts of telegraph poles, or dominating the sky line in the adolescent form, tentacles waving, and moving along the backstreets, past windows, floundering in dried out swimming pools, wandering through the nearby countryside, and even emerging from the water of a marina (below). Until eventually they grow so large they cannot move and take root like trees dominating the city’s skyline, eventually opening their anemone-esque head and releasing spores of their own… all this ignored somehow by the residents of the cities and towns they have invaded.


Some sketches just dealt with the creatures… not set against the architecture of a city or a town, these came to me as more lonely affairs… More Wyeth than Hopper (laughs)…





Then because my impatience got the better of me I thought about using one of my existing architectural pieces and simply adding a creature to it… Looking through the work I already had (of Hull and elsewhere), I realised that the selection process might be slightly different than simply drawing a building in and of itself as part of a duet with a creature design, the building might have to play a reduced role rather than the central one, which called for a different type of building perhaps. Maybe something more mundane/everyday, rather than grand or characterful…

Which led me to choose my image of St. Patricks Church, Spring Street, Hull (Top of Page, 
here covered in scaffolding), as it appeared mostly brick in my image (its grand door way out of shot in my image).


I then just drew a sketch of a creature… trying to consider how the limbs and weight of the creature might look against the roof and brickwork.


…roughing some basic lines in for the building, meaning when it came to overlaying the creature (below) there was much less adjustment necessary (than if I hadn’t considered it at all).

xx-monster-spring-street-church-hull-x-bclick to enlarge

And then overlaying the drawing using the Multiply Blending Mode in Photoshop’s Layers dialogue box… adding another Multiply’d Layer, and Flatting out some basic colour, then using Dodge & Burn to shade and Hue/Saturation to adjust the eye colour. The seagulls floating about the creature’s head are simply repeats of the three from the top left of the original image.

After that it was back to planning wholly original pieces, so it was back to thumbnails…


You can see here the creatures again moving behind buildings, trapped in courtyards, attaching themselves to towers in that final phase and then towering above the buildings below like giant mushrooms.


I had by this point in time decided that these may well make a great subject for a range of images that might well pull together to become an exhibition. One that mixed drawings, design sketches and finished paintings… And with this in mind I started some further developed drawings and more colour tests of various sizes… Still just using “imaginary” settings or combinations of elements of actual architecture from around the city.


If you are wondering about those numbers up in the top right of the drawing… follow the line down into the drawing… See the “x”, that’s marking the intersection of the upper and right “thirds” of the composition… and so that’s where I’ve place the head of the creature.

But before diving into that large image I thought it best to practice or experiment with the way forward in colour…

These first colour works are done in watercolour, inking over the dried paint…



…and then scanning those and playing with them further using Photoshop.


All the while thinking about the possible “real world” settings for the images.

More sketches…  this one sans creature from our kitchen window…


This one, a scrappy oversized thumbnail, with a creature based on the house opposite…


And here a more finished, measured drawing in my sketchbook… (again using the house opposite)


All the while, away from the drawing board more of those one-off monster images (this one clearly influenced by The Curse of The Black Pearl that we were watching that evening).


Then back to colour and smaller more finished tests…



Before a return to my full size drawing… finishing up the far left of the composition…

This (below) now measures about 700mm x 150mm… and as you can see I pushed the size of the creature to be cropped by the top of the image, which seems to help the composition… the head still remains on the upper right cross of the “thirds” based composition.


…and colour tests for that as well, here totally digital, with the hope to using this colour test as the basis for a traditional watercolour version.


This image above will be the first major test… I went out and found a frame size I liked, and measured the drawing out accordingly… I think I’d like to try a few in this format, both horizontal and vertical.

Anyway, back to the sketchbook and more potential monster shape sketches…


Then most recently heading out into the street to find places of interest…


…and draw the background architecture of the city from life…



Of course just adding existing sketches together isn’t always going to work as the combo above shows… so I’ll have to thumbnail each one out again a few times I’m sure… but I’m convinced this is going to be a fun project, and as I’ve been throwing these up on social media as I made them, I’ve been getting some positive feedback too, which is even more encouraging…

And not only that… I think I’m pretty sure of what I can do after this project (definitely an exhibition in my head now) has run its course too.




~ by hesir on January 24, 2017.

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