Craft: X-Statix/Abbey Road Illustration

I have really good luck with commissions. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a commission that involved drawing something that I didn’t really like. Most recently, I got a commission to do a pinup of the great Mike Allred/Peter Milligan superhero team, X-Statix. The book started in the early 2000s (initially as X-Force) and it was one of the few superhero genre books I was reading at the time. Luckily I still had my old issues of it floating around to use as reference.

Initially, I’d started out thinking I’d just do a straight “pin-up” of the team–just them lined up, standing on a blank background. Searching for ideas, though, I remembered how much I loved Mike Allred’s rock and roll comic book series Red Rocket 7 and I started brainstorming on rock-themed ideas. What I decided to do was to base the drawing on a well-known rock album cover. I needed something that was immediately recognizable and that also featured actual people on the image (rather than a design or illustration) so I could “swap” those people out for the members of X-Statix. I narrowed it down to the cover of the Ramones first record and The Beatles’s Abbey Road. The client liked the idea and selected Abbey Road, so that was settled and I got working.

I began in my sketchbook, just doodling out poses in pencil. I start with a light blue, then orange, then red, then (if necessary) going on to pencil for a final refinement.  Here, though, I just wanted to get something on the page to start monkeying with, so I just went through three iterations: up to red.

Next up, I scanned the rough, turned it into a grayscale image in Photoshop, and began playing with the sizes and locations of characters. I decided to do a general “wedge” design, with the tallest elements on the left, and elements getting gradually smaller to the right.

At this point I went ahead and refined this drawing a bit and added in some details of each character. Now you can see recognizably (left to right) Anarchist, Venus Dee Milo, Mr. Sensitive, Vivisector, Doop, and Dead Girl. (Is there a greater modern superhero name than “Mr. Sensitive”? No.)

I now needed to get them adjusted so they could be drawn in the Abbey Road setting, walking across the street, so I mocked them up over the actual album cover, adjusting scale and position again.

I then printed this out and I used some graphite transfer paper to transfer the important stuff to a piece of Strathmore bristol. Once done, I polished up the pencils and added the setting/background.

Finally, I inked the piece using a combination of brush and nib–brush mostly for the foreground figures and dip pens for the background.

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