Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Water Gun Sky Attack Solves A Problem Like Maria" Back Cover Process pt1

A couple of weeks ago Aissa emailed me asking if I was interested in helping create artwork for a friend's Ep that involved "drawings of zombies and scared people".  I figured this would be a good way keep up my art education while at the same time giving my work a bit of a wider audience, so I talked to Water Gun Water Gun Sky Attack Solves a Problem like Maria's Mia and we agreed over the course of a few emails to have me do the back cover or their EP.

The basic storyline of the album is of a young woman named Panic trying to make her way through a zombie apocalypse to her old house, where she hopes she'll find her boyfriend.  I wasn't given any particular story line to illustrate, so I chose to illustrate a scene where our protagonist runs out of gas right outside the town and is bracing herself to go in and see if anyone's alive.

Over the course of the past week of creating this image it's morphed so much from the original thumbnails that I thought it would be instructive both to me and any readers out there to go step by step over the changes that were made to it.  A lot of the changes were suggested by the people at conceptart and cgsociety, which I will be crediting here.


Here you can see the thumbnails I sent to Mia to review and choose what she liked the best.  I only showed her the ones that I felt were worth showing, but in total I must have gone through about 15-20 thumbs (not nearly enough, some people would say, and I'd agree).  They chose option 3, a thumbnail that had a relatively simple composition that started from the girl in the truck up to the town and into the moon.  A good enough start, but I could already see that it was going to need changing.


Here is the first large WIP using the thumbnail as my base, with some changes in the basic composition. I've changed the flow of the composition by making it in a sort of S shaped form.  I've given some thought to the areas of interest and arranged them according to this flow to end up at the moon, which I hoped to use to frame the 5 tracks of the EP.  I wasn't feeling very confident about this so I put it up on conceptart and cgsociety for feedback and this is what I got:

...the story doesn't really come through for me. It looks more like she's waiting a church to explode or waiting someone to come down the road so she can shoot them or something. I don't get a real sense of wearyness or anything like that from her pose and the town doesn't really look like a town either. I figured the zombie thing with the bodies but it's not very strongly conveyed either.

If you change all the main elements to silhouettes, the "town" turns into one large house, her gun and pose are totally hidden inside the car which is also bit awkwardly cropped and one of the bodies is lounging pretty casually.

Also the way she's sitting doesn't fit the car, her lower leg would be phasing through the car to achieve that.

Your vanishing points all seem to line up (from me just eyeballing it instead of actually measuring), but that wheel looks pretty wonky to me. Why didn't you use the circular marquee tool and then right-click and stroke it? 

Your composition is a bit too evenly spaced between each main element right now. I would suggest varying their spacing a bit. You might also want to overlap the house and the moon a bit--it's a classic composition trick that works every time, creating a compelling contrast of both values and silhouetted shape.

I've put the comments that I decided to focus and work in bold, so you can see my thought process going into the next image.


I'm excited to make changes now.  When people give good feedback that I know is workable it excited me to explore their ideas and see if I can make them work in my piece.  Based on teh comment about the truck being cut off, I moved it completely inside the frame.  I changed the protagonist's pose to address the issue of her not looking weary, but as we'll see later on that wasn't a success either.  I moved the town to the right of the image to keep the S flow going, and placed the moon behind it as suggested to enhance the visual interest in the town.

As a result of these changes, all of which I think were for the better, certain unexpected things came about.  The songlist was now floating in space.  This is a bad thing, since the song list is actually the most crucial element of the cover.  I haven't placed much emphasis on it thus far because I got lost in drawing the other elements, but that's something that I'll have to consider later on.  Second, shifting the elements around led to two visual elements instead of four as in the previous image (well, three if you count the songlist, which I really should!).  My gut feel is that this is actually a good thing, and it makes the image more focused.  I put the image up on the forums again and waited for feedback.

The girl on the truck looks like she is out sun bathing, not resting from a fight.

I would play with the perspective more to go for something that suggests that there is still more road to go, Road sign saying 20 miles to "Zombieville" or where ever she is headed and the road going down to a town in the distance.


I like the changes at the top, and while the changes at the bottom is good too, I think the main focal point is placed a bit too close to the bottom border of the image, making it unnecessarily crowded at the bottom. Try raising the stuff on the bottom a little. 

Also, what if she's actually on the S shaped road and walking towards the building at the top, and there are dead zombies all around the truck?


 This is the image that I came up with after the previous round of comments.  This feels much better and getting close to done, but there will still quite a few changes left!  While I was initially going to go over this in red (marker) like the previous images, this post has gone on for quite a bit already and I think it would be better to split it up into two different posts to allow time to absorb all the information here.  I'll put up the next post in a couple of days so stay tuned!


  1. I really enjoyed this post. You've described your process well, and you're not shy in talking about your mistakes. Can't wait for the next part.

  2. Thanks Sony. Part of why I started this new blog was to educate myself as well as other from seeing my mistakes, so I'm glad that people appreciate that.

  3. Good god, man, at this rate you'll have put more thought into the back cover art than we're putting into the EP!

    But seriously, thanks so much for doing this. It looks like it's coming along amazing.