By Horror Artist Jerrod Brown
I've never had much interest in doing a 'Step by Step' or 'How To' of one of my paintings. Mainly because I never felt my work was up to that caliber. A lot of artists are doing this these days (especially in the digital world) for their portfolios. But, here I am with paint brush in hand and camera at the ready, for my own little life cycle of an Acrylic on Canvas. There's really no reason at all that I chose this book cover... I guess I'm just finally in the mood.
The Title of the book will be 'Life After the Undead' by authoress Pembroke Sinclair to be released by eTreasures Publishing in both print and e-book format. Pembroke sent me the following synopsis to give me an idea of what the young adult horror (zombie) novel will be about:
The world has come to an end. It doesn’t go out with a bang, or even a whimper. It goes out in an orgy of blood and the dead rising from their graves to feast on living flesh. As democracy crumples and the world melts into anarchy, five families in the U.S. rise to protect the survivors. The undead hate a humid environment, so they are migrating westward to escape its deteriorating effects. The survivors are constructing a wall in North Platte to keep the zombie threat to the west, while tyranny rules among the humans to the east. Capable but naïve Krista is 15 when the first attacks occur, and she loses her family and barely escapes with her life. She makes her way to the wall and begins a new life. But, as the undead threat grows and dictators brainwash those she cares about, Krista must fight not only to survive but also to defend everything she holds dear—her country, her freedom, and ultimately those she loves.
With this information, I have to come up with the concept and how to approach the canvas to best reflect what the author has in mind. The only request Pembroke asked of me, is to make sure somewhere in the painting is 'the wall constructed by the survivors'. Of course my first thought was to paint a wall straight down the middle of the canvas, with the survivors on one side and the zombies on the other. Then, I thought O.K. this is probably the direction most artists would take and it was (in my mind) too generic. So, I decided to go with a more straight forward approach, looking at the wall dead ahead...
Even though the canvas comes packaged as 'pre-primed', I still completely prime my canvas' with 2 layers of Gesso over a 2 day period, this eliminates the oils on the pre-packaged canvas that separates the acrylic paint. Along with the final layer of priming, I add my first background color. In this case adding cobalt blue hue for the sky. The majority of this coloring will be covered up.
For the distant background, 'Apocalyptic': A burned war torn horizon. I was thinking along the lines of 'Resident Evil'. First penciling in some destroyed buildings in the distance and painting them in with Titanium White, Mars Black and Hansa Yellow. Then airbrushing in some smoke and burning in the air with Dark Brown, Yellow, Orange and Opaque Black.
Now I want to paint the wall. As mentioned above (from a dead ahead approach). I didn't want to go with a typical brick or mortar look, instead a steel, more industrial feel. As if the survivors built the wall from iron scraps. So, I wrote Pembroke and verified that steel was O.K., making sure a brick/mortar wall was not mentioned in the story line. First drawing in the wall with pencil and then painting it in with Mars Black, Titanium White, Red and Yellow Oxide. Then darkening the shadows and crevices by airbrush with Dark Brown. I deliberately wanted the wall and city to be a dark, doom and gloom look in order for the Zombies and main characters to pop out more. Then adding a few lines of barbed wire at the top of the wall with Red Oxide.
For the background (window to the other side of the wall), I based it in with a solid Cadmium Red Deep Hue. My first thought was to have Krista hiding behind the wall looking thru at Zombies coming toward her from the city and perhaps trying to get at her thru the window. Then I reversed the idea and had a Zombie toward (us) the viewer, with Krista dramatically coming thru from the city side, shooting her gun (a Zigana T). So, first I sketched the two main cover characters with white colored pencil. Once I got them in place where I liked them, I sketched in the remaining background view of Zombie hands (as if Krista were up against hundreds of zombies).
The far background (with zombie hands) had to be painted first before the main character (Krista). So, I airbrush in some areas over the Cadmium Red with Opaque Black. Not too heavy, just enough to give it some smokey areas. Then I filled in my white pencil sketches of the zombie hands and the foreground zombie with Mars Black, Raw Sienna, Unbleached Titanium and Naphthol Crimson.
I sprayed over the zombie hands area with Deep Red airbrush paint. To set the hands further back in appearance, so they wouldn't overpower the main character. As for Krista herself, I painted her in with Mars Black, Burnt Siena, Titanium White, Napathol Crimson, and Unbleached Titanium. Then adding some blood spatter to the foreground zombie with Cadmium Red Medium Hue and adding torn jeans with Phthalo Blue. As a final touch, I added an old rusted 'North Platte' street sign hanging from the barbed wire, using Hookers Green and Red Oxide. Finishing out the painting with a few tweaks here and there.
The jpg was sent out for eTreasures Publishing and Pembroke Sinclair's final approval. They added the Title and Authors name to the approved cover art. 'Life After the Undead' Cover Complete!