Illustration: They Stalk the Thicket

Sit down, why don't we have a talk…

Gather round, children, it's NoSleep time again! This time I'm illustrating “They Stalk the Thicket” by author Michael Marks.

Something shady is going on here

The story prominently features the work of the US Department of Agriculture…or so it might seem. Then as the story unfurls, we learn that whatever the protagonist saw in the thicket sure as hell weren't wolves.

I found the idea of the USDA being involved in a government coverup so hilarious that I had to chose that scene for my illustration.

It started with a photograph

I knew exactly how I wanted the scene to look, and I also knew that it would feature some interesting lighting effects playing off of each other — the table being reflected in the laptop is one example of that.

So in order to make sure to have everything aligned properly, I arranged a still life.

Simply arranging this was so much fun. I asked my wife to pose as the suspicious Dr. Karen and made her wear a bathrobe in lieu of a lab coat.

Since I knew I wanted to spend a lot of time rendering the interesting light effect, I opted to save time in the beginning by not drawing from the photograph like I'd normally do, but trace over the existing photograph in photoshop.

I really enjoy how it turned out, and I hope you get a kick out of this small behind-the-scene.

Until next time, my lovelies!

— Jörn

Illustration: Burn

Watch out, coming in hot!

Hi folks! I'm very lucky to be on duty for the NoSleep podcast this week again!

This week's episode, Season 9, Episode 10 brings you a bunch of creepy tales for your listening pleasure, amongst it “Burning” by author C.M. Scandreth, which I chose as the subject for the cover art.

Drawing the flames

This week, I knew pretty early on what I wanted to draw. The claustrophobic idea of being trapped in a burning car, one hand futilely grasping at the window, sent shivers down my spine, so I set to drawing.

Drawing the car turned out to pretty straight forward, and I settled on the blue hue to have a nice contrast to the orange and yellow flames.

Since I had some trouble actually drawing the flames, I sent out in search of some online tutorials. If you ever worked in Photoshop, you know the type: often working with PS tools like layer styles they end up looking kinda like what you're trying to accomplish, but not really.

I tried one or two of them out before discarding the idea, sighed, and rolled up my sleeves. I found a photo of a burning car that I used as a reference and set to work.

Not a carbon copy

I wanted the flames to have a more illustrative look than the photo ref, so I spent quite a lot of time and a couple o' hundred more brushstrokes than I intended on drawing the flames until I got them exactly where I wanted them.

Hope you enjoy the artwork and the podcast episode, and drive save out there.

Take care, my lovelies!

— Jörn

Illustration: Standard Deviations (Book Cover)

Hey guys, who's ready to go back to school?

The test is God.
— Marcus Damanda, Standard Deviations

Thus begins the titular story Standard Deviations by author Marcus Damanda, and if you're into horror, you'll love this story and the others he collected in his book.

As many of you know, I'm a resident artist for the NoSleep podcast, and couldn't be more glad to be a part of this lovely bunch of misfits and do-no-gooders. We often kid that we're part of a big and strange family, and I often feel like we really are.

So when Marcus approached me and asked me to illustrate the cover of his collection of short stories, I was giddy as a little kitten.

So without further ado, here it is!

The tools of the trade

Our original idea was to draw portraits of NoSleepers that Marcus worked with in the past…but mounted on plaques like hunting trophies.

I really liked the macabre idea, but I was worried that people not familiar with the podcast won't see much in the image — after all, it would just be a bunch of strange people to them!

Since two of the stories, the titular Standard Deviations and the fantastically gory The House Sitters both feature surgical instruments (and I'll leave it to your twisted imagination why that might be), we settles on an arrangement of tools with just a liiiiiiitle splash of blood to make people see at first glance that something is off.

Oh, the things you will see…

First thing I did was forage the text for mention of specific tools. Take the Gigli saw, for example (it's that corkscrew looking thing in the middle! You use it to saw bones!). Next, I went hunting for reference images, and let me tell you…there were some images that made me glad I was sitting already.

Also, one of Marcus' many fans is actually a forensic pathologist, and he said that I nailed the blood pooling. How cool is that!

The book is currently in the publishing process, and I will make sure you're among the first to know when it is out!

Take care, my lovelies!

— Jörn

Illustration: The Forest of a Thousand Legs 🕷

Little Lucy Lockhart ran
From her daddy’s frying pan
The Forest of a Thousand Legs
Killed her and then laid their eggs
— Rex Lovezinski

This eerie children's rhyme starts off the very aptly named story “The Forest of a Thousand Legs” by author Rex Lovezinski, the story I chose to illustrate for this week's episode of the NoSleep podcast.

The “thousand legs” part refers — of course — to our animal friends of the small and eight-legged variety, so if you're creeped out by spiders or other crawling creates, I'm sorry.1

What to draw, what to draw…

After NoSleep's executive assistant, the ever-lovely Violet, shared this story with me, I was at a loss, at first.

There were a lot of elements that feature prominently in the tale, but I wasn't sure they would lend themselves to an illustration that has to work as a podcast cover.

My first idea was to draw the forest itself, because Rex' description of the creepy place really sent shivers up my spine. I saw, before my minds eye, tall, ancient trees, almost monumental, casting a shade that was hardly ever pierced by the day's light, all covered by a thick, sticky membrane of old spider webs.

The problem with that? Drawing trees is not really my forte, and I would have to really draw a lot of details to aptly communicate the image I had in my head.

Okay, back to the (literal) drawing board

I hope I'm being vague enough in telling you the story features a certain monster creature, as many NoSleep stories are wont to do.

I always enjoy painting those monsters and thus bringing them to life, as I did — for example — with the wonderful Skinny Rogue episode.

The problem with that, of course, is that revealing the monster in art form before the listener even started the story, is that it takes away from the storie's suspense, so in my recent works for NoSleep, I tried to stay away from that.

So, no monsters, no forest…

Then I had the idea of illustrating different insects and spiders that feature in the story, since it mentioned one of the characters owning a collection of rare insects.

As soon as I grabbed my stylus and started working, I knew I was in for a treat. Painting those little guys, especially the shiny jewel beetle, was time-consuming, but a lot of fun.

I decided to add the graphic effect to really draw the listener into the story and make the illustration more enthralling, graphically speaking.

I hope you like the illustration, and I'll see you soon with the next one!

Take care!

1 I'm not really. :P

Design: Congeria — Lineup

Are you guys looking for a new podcast to listen to?

Because Congeria is nearing the final stages of production, and if I'm not mistaken, it's gonna be a wild ride (trust me, I read the script).

Congeria is a noir-esque crime drama with a supernatural twist centering around the central protagonist of Jenny, a hard-boiled, no-bullshit PI who's on a fast track to becoming my favorite female lead of all time.

My friend Atticus Jackson was kind enough to commission me for this graphic, which will be featured on Congeria's iTunes page upon launch.

We quickly settled on the idea of a police lineup, but agreed that painting full-body illustrations of each cast member would put too hard a strain on the budget, so we came with the solution of representing them as silhouettes.

This way, I was able to hint at the character's appearance, while still being vague enough to not stifle the listener's imagination.

If you want to make sure you don't miss the launch of Congeria's first episode — and I highly recommend you make sure — follow them over on Twitter!

Illustration: Catamancer — Catsplosion

Hi peeps, guess what I got?

New client, that's what. The lovely folks over at commissioned me to paint one of their cards called Catsplosion (and yes, before you ask, it's exactly what you think it is).

Catamancer is a mobile game centering around the theme of — you guessed it — cats.

Exploding Kittens  has nothing on this.

Exploding Kittens has nothing on this.

Getting started

It was really fun to explore the cartoon look of it while still paying attention to texture.

Because I really wanted to get the form of the mushroom cloud right, I started out with a reference photo of a nuclear explosion and drew my initial sketch right on top of it.

Color inspiration came from a picture of cotton candy, and I achieved the texture by using the watercolor brushes from Kyle T Webster.

Hope you have as much fun looking at the Catsplosion as I had painting it.

Illustration: Wolf — Custom MtG Token

Oh boy, howdy!

This weekend contained a pretty nifty bank holiday in Germany, so I was able to kick back, go outside and relax a bit in the warm summer sun.

Kidding. I spent it painting instead!

“That's a pretty neat wolf,” I hear you saying. “What are you gonna use it for?”

Glad you asked! I assume you guys are familiar with the vastly successful trading card game Magic: The Gathering. If you're not a massive nerd like me and spent the better part of your youth playing it, I'm pretty sure you at least heard of it here and there.


Some Magic cards have a special effect that creates so-called "Tokens", game elements that are not directly represented by a particular card.

In order to keep track of those tokens, many players carry extra cards with nifty illustrations on them to act as a placeholder. Those may look like this!

Nifty, huh?

I'm currently thinking selling those token illustrations at a fair price...but, sadly, not yet. Shipping the cards all over the world would be an absolute hassle from Germany, so I'm not sure how I will tackle that, yet.

But fear not! I already have some ideas, and you guys will be the first to always.

Take care, my lovelies!

- Jörn