Illustration: Whitefall 🚌

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All aboard!

Hel­lo my lovelies! So glad to sit in front of a key­board and talk to you all again, because wow — it has been a while!
Since we last talked, I moved to a dif­fer­ent city and set­tled in at my new house. It took some effort to get my draw­ing bat­tlesta­tion up and work­ing again, but now I am back, more rest­ed than ever, sty­lus poised and ready!

Let’s do this!

I imme­di­ate­ly sprung back into action when my old pal David Cum­mings of the NoSleep Pod­cast asked me to illus­trate the cov­er art for the sea­son finale of sea­son 12 of the show.

As I men­tioned before, I con­sid­er draw­ing the finale art­works a very spe­cial hon­or that I was lucky enough to have done mul­ti­ple times in the past (The Pub­lic Domain, When the Stars Go Out and The Hid­den Web­page).

The script for this episode, enti­tled White­fall, came from C.K. Walk­er and real­ly took me on a fan­tas­tic and intru­ig­ing journey.

First ideas

The story’s main pro­tag­o­nist, Kris Stykes has a fight with his girl­friend and sets out on a very long bus jour­ney across the US. As usu­al, I’m try­ing to keep this most­ly spoil­er free, so I won’t tell you where the good guy ends up, but I think I won’t give away any­thing when I say that what looks like a bad sit­u­a­tion quick­ly becomes a bad, bad situation.

Kris spends the first few scenes of the sto­ry care­ful­ly rationing out his remain­ing cig­a­rettes, so the image of him light­ing a smoke was the first idea that popped into my head. Even if the pro­tag­o­nist quits his addic­tion lat­er on in the sto­ry, he pon­ders some real­ly deep ques­tions while smok­ing, which was exact­ly the light I want­ed to por­tray him in.

Since a lone­ly fig­ure stand­ing in the fore­ground would make for a pret­ty dull pic­ture, I want­ed to incor­po­rate oth­er impor­tant facts from the sto­ry as well. My first idea, as you can see in this sketch, was hav­ing the objects — includ­ing a pop­tart and a pay­phone — fade into the cigarette’s smoke in the background.

Pasted-image-Fri May 17 2019 16 38 54 GMT+0200 (Central European Summer Time)

While I was still tin­ker­ing around with the arrange­ment of the dif­fer­ent objects, my girl­friend just hap­pened to walk past my art tablet and asked: ​“Why don’t you just use the smoke to draw the oth­er stuff?”

And — of course — that’s exact­ly what I did!

Paint­ing smoke

Paint­ing smoke, whether from cig­a­rettes or camp­fires, is actu­al­ly one of my favorite things to do! I start­ed out with a tech­nique sim­i­lar to this Pho­to­shop tuto­r­i­al, rely­ing heav­i­ly on Photoshop’s Liquify fil­ter, which helps you ​“smudge” around shapes and can achieve some stun­ning results if done right!

It worked well for a while, but the fad­ing of the Liquify fil­ter caused the image to get a lit­tle ​“clut­tered” after a while. Espe­cial­ly when you’re try­ing to build some­thing the view­er can rec­og­nize from the chaot­ic lines, you need some more clarity.

So I decid­ed to just have parts of the smoke be this play­ful and chaot­ic (as you can main­ly see in front of Kris’ face), but paint the oth­er parts with a soft brush and a lot of patience.

After I sent the image off to the NoSleep team, David asked me if I could include a snow storm effect into the paint­ing to hint at the fact that most of the sto­ry takes place in a bliz­zard. I achieved this by:

  • build­ing a brush in Pho­to­shop which paints pseu­do-ran­dom dots
  • alter­ing those dots by hand so they seemed more natural
  • using a com­bi­na­tion of gauss­ian blur and motion blur to give it the illu­sion of motion
  • doing mul­ti­ple lay­ers of this so it actu­al­ly looks like the snow is waft­ing around Kris

End result

I’m pleased as punch with how the final illus­tra­tion came out. I think the cen­tral focus on Kris and one of his last cig­a­rettes works well, and the smoky fig­ures in the back­ground hint at dif­fer­ent parts of the sto­ry, with­out giv­ing too much away.

I hope you enjoy the illus­tra­tion as much as I enjoyed mak­ing it.

All the best,