Commando Comic No.5193 ‘Cold Steel’

I have another new cover for Commando Comics out right now and my supporters can read all about the making of that cover at my Patreon website. Right here you can read about my third cover for the comic called ‘Cold Steel’. This post was originally created for my Patreon supporters back in January 2019 and I have decided not to update the text so it reflects my feelings and thoughts at the time.

Four Commando Comics are published every fortnight by DC Thomson & Co Ltd and you can find out more information about them and a free digital trial at their website:

You can also buy this issue of Commando ‘Cold Steel’ digitally over at Comixology.

I went straight from one cover commission and onto the next which made me feel like I was hopefully getting to grips with what the Commando Team where after. Another cover with a cold theme (three winter paintings in a row) but this time we were travelling much further back in time to the Napoleonic Wars. The brief arrived mostly though a telephone conversation with the office and a large pile of reference indicating that they were… ‘looking for a movie poster feel with a big heroic stance to the fore and pure evil in the background.’

Above: Supplied interior art reference by Muller & Klacik.

There was a lot going on in the script and rather than concentrating on one exact moment we wanted to create a cover that grasped many elements from the comic and summed up the overall story. I’ll not spoil the story for any potential readers but essentially you have a French Napoleonic Officer who torments and kills many of the people under his command leaving you set up for a classic revenge story.

So first things first was for a quick beginners crash course internet search on Napolean’s Grande Armee, the outfits (many and varied) and the burning of Moscow which is featured in the story. Even if I don’t need to know a great deal about an historical event to be able to illustrate something from it, it still helps to get the basic idea and potentially stop yourself from making a huge inaccurate mistake. I’m no military historian and certainly no expert on outfits of any time period (modern day included) so I have to balance what I can find online and in books I own with the art reference I am given by the client. I’m looking to compliment the work done by the interior artist and while I want to be as accurate as I can with the detail of an outfit I want it to look good and not be the deciding factor for the piece.

Referencing done, decisions made about what to have where and what to show from the story I settled down to create the rough layout for the cover. With the front cover being about the collection of characters I knew I had room to play with more background elements that would be appearing to the left hand side and on the back of the comic. The burning of Moscow and the winter theme were too hard to ignore and I had already envisaged a destroyed canon left in the snow. After pencilling the layout I scanned it in and quickly worked up a coloured version in Photoshop. As always this helps me get my initial colour scheme decided and helps the client get a better idea of how I’m going to paint the final image.

With the rough approved I moved onto pencilling the art, tidying up some loose elements and adding in some detail to the costume and outfits of the characters. As always I pencilled this reversed on tracing paper to help spot any balancing issues and to then transfer the work onto my art board of choice ready for painting.

Normally a section of a painting will stand out to me as the obvious starting point. Often this will be the main figure especially if there is a likeness or portrait involved. More often than not though I’ll find one section that I want to ‘nail down’ in order to feel like I’ll be fine for the rest of the painting. This cover was slightly different in that I could easily break up the overall painting into smaller sections like the main and support characters, the evil officer, burning Moscow, the canon etc and work on them pretty much separately from the overall whole. So that is how I approached it, tackling each section while being mindful of the desired effect I wanted from the finished painting.

With Clement and Jakob being shown in full body and therefore quite small overall my main concern for them was making sure that I still gave their faces and appearance a lot of character. It is obviously easier to paint a face with some amount of detail and expression at a larger size so I knew I wanted to spend as much time as I needed to get them right. Painting tiny hands holding intricate handled swords was also high on my ‘get it right Graeme’ list!

From there I moved onto painting their two comrades in arms Denis and Albert. I wanted them to be seen as separate from the current actions of Clement and Jakob and as they where involved in the past events link them into the background colour scheme of the burning of Moscow.

Speaking of fire what is not to enjoy about letting watercolour paint do its trick and paint some glorious vibrant flames below a smoked filled sky. Again internet searches of what Moscow would actually look like in that time period brought forth lots of paintings from the Napoleonic War and that era that helped me base the skyline on at least the right kind of buildings. With flames still in mind it was time to paint the bad guy Lussier into the image. Finally I added the ice beneath their feet and enjoyed adding the quiet little scene of the broken canon frozen in the snow. I think I enjoyed adding the snow and the stark blades of grass poking through the build up of snow just as much as painting the violent flames above.

With the painting finished I scanned in the piece and tidied up the image removing any dirty marks in Photoshop. I colour corrected some elements and took the time to smooth out the transition from Moscow to the canon removing some watermarking that had occurred. I also wanted the blades of the sabres to look a lot sharper, crisp and clean so I repainted the blades.

The work was supplied to the client and approved, another cover completed and now out in the shops to buy! Here’s the press release:

Commando 5193: Action and Adventure: Cold Steel

A coward and a bully, Colonel Jules Lussier seemed determined to break his own men in his quest for self gain.

Privates Clement, Albert, and Denis of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armee would not only need to fight the enemy to make it through the war, but also endure relentless attacks and betrayal from their own leader. With the odds stacked against them, can the honourable comrades survive and claim victory over the dishonourable Colonel?

Will old scores be settled or will they suffer the icy bite of… COLD STEEL

Story: Jim and David Turner | Art: Muller & Klacik | Cover: Graeme Neil Reid

Guest – Jim Ink

There is a skill and technical level in using any tool for illustration and a lot of that is mastered in applying yourself to create with those tools. I often use a biro as a means to sketch out what I intend to paint onto a canvas but beyond that I’ve never considered using them to create a finished illustration. There are many illustrators who do however and one of them who quickly caught my eye is Jim Ink. I’ve followed Jim’s Instagram account for a while and have marvelled at his biro illustrations so I was very pleased that he agreed to do a guest post and chat to us about his process.

Over 10 years ago, I reached an impasse after studying painting for about 6 years and pretty much stopped doing that. I was starting to do almost all aspects of my professional work digitally, and picking up the ballpoint pen was an attempt to stay in touch with art on a hands on basis. I gravitated to the initial impulses and tools from when I was a kid. I had become quite adept at drawing things in the margins of my notebooks all through school. So I bought a classic composition notebook which I kept for about 10 years. Much of the work I did in keeping it is up on my Instagram page.

They’ve actually come a long way with the range of ballpoint pen colors, and I started to work with all the colors that were available. It turns out, the ball point is a versatile tool, capable of subtle graduations like a pencil, or bold lines like a dip pen. I prefer the bolder line, and create color blending by hatching one color over another. Optical blending occurs when you do this, as with the dots in pointillist painting.

There are downsides to the ballpoint as a tool: they are not archival sound, and will fade if subjected to continuous light. They spit, especially in the warm weather. You end up scraping out little blobs of ink with a razor blade. You have to continuously wipe the tip, but there’s always one or two that happen anyway! The big plus is they are perfect for sketching on the go, and 2 multi pens (Bic being the most easily available with regard to those) can have you walking around with a range of 8 available colors!

Many thanks Jim for sharing your work. You can go see lots more of his fabulous art over at his Instagram page and you can watch more of his movies on his YouTube Channel.

Commando Comic No.5187 ‘Ice-Cold Commando’

To celebrate my latest cover for Commando Comics being on the shelves here is a post looking at the creation of my second cover for the comic. This post was originally created for my Patreon supporters back in December 2018 and I have decided not to update the text so it reflects my feelings and thoughts at the time.

Four Commando Comics are published every fortnight by DC Thomson & Co Ltd and you can find out more information about them and a free digital trial at their website:

You can also buy this issue of Commando ‘Ice-Cold Commando’ digitally over at Comixology.

There was a four month gap between being briefed my first Commando cover and the next. The gap seemed to widen when my first cover was printed and on the shelves without having received the next brief but thankfully back in September a new cover arrived. At that time it was titled ‘Winter Warriors’ and the brief was pretty straightforward with a few supplied visuals.

‘Daytime, Finland. Very snowy. Two German Ski soldiers fire at Len who is jumping over a crevasse. Len is a Commando so he’s in a Commando uniform and he’s scavenged the coat from a dead Russian Lieutenant. To make matters even more confusing, he’s scavenged a German MP 40.’

Above: Hunt the Killer art by Alessandro Biffignandi and interior art on Ice-Cold Commando by Jaume Forns.

Having spent some time searching for various references, including your typical ski and ski poles used during WW2, I set about producing the rough that would let the Commando team see what I had in mind. I knew they wanted the character to be the main focus and that it needed to be a good action piece. Just as much for my own use as to show the editorial team I also worked up a colour version of the rough. This helps me make up my mind how I’m going to approach painting the work (and even in what medium) and also lets the the client get a good idea of what the final art will look like. Their only alteration at this point was to move the main figure more to the middle of the cover, an easy enough change and one I quickly changed on the colour rough and re-supplied for their approval.

As is my usual practice I then went onto pencilling a final version of the art but flipped onto tracing paper. As I’ve mentioned many times before flipping the art helps highlight any balancing issues. You can easily draw something like a face that when flipped looks odd and uneven, it is an easy way to spot your balancing mistakes and I recommend every artist should photograph or scan their work as they produce it and flip it to spot any potential mistakes before it’s too late. Also, as I pencil onto tracing paper it makes it much easier to then transfer the final pencils onto your art surface of choice.

Starting the painting I knew I wanted to tackle the overall background first and I also knew I’d be doing this in a mixture of watercolours and gouache. Many brilliant watercolorists can use the negative space left by masking the board to fantastic effect and if I was going to paint this purely in watercolours that is how I’d have approached doing the snow. However I wanted to use gouache for the snow and I started by painting in the mountain and trees in watercolour. The trees look like how I would paint them before the snow storm arrived and that is pretty much what happened.

I outlined a lot of the main character in watercolour in appropriate colour hues to how I was going to paint him. This acts almost as a barrier for the washes of paint I was about to add into the background. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t stop paint from running over the lines but it does hinder them and with a bit of self control you can make life easier for yourself. All of the background hill and crevice were given a wash of watercolour and then gouache was added in afterwards. Several tones of grey/blue gouache were added as the snowfall on the trees and then a much lighter but not actual pure white was added mostly to the right hand side of the trees to indicate the strongest light source. The snow falling through the motion of the skiing character would be added near the end of painting.

I then painted in the main character and the two German Ski Troopers in watercolour making sure that their white coloured outfits were treated to a different greyish tone to separate them from the whites of the snow. Len’s stolen Russian winter coat was also treated to a brown/yellow hue to fit in with the mountains, the same golden glow right across the middle of the cover.

After finishing the painting the next stage was to scan it in and tidy up the file as it was. Again I knew from the beginning that I wanted to add a motion effect in Photoshop to give Len even more movement. Part of me regrets that some of the lovely snow covered trees became blurred but I think the effect added helps a lot with the action. 

The final art was supplied to the client for approval which, I’m pleased to say, was with much enthusiasm. Here is the press release for the comic which should be on the shelves from the 27th of December and for the next two weeks after.

Commando 5187: Home of Heroes – Ice-Cold Commando

Graeme Neil Reid returns for his second ever Commando cover! Fronting Jaume Forns’ icy interiors to ‘Ice-Cold Commando’, Reid’s cover leaps into action with Commando Lieutenant Ron Lamont’s escape across the frozen Russian wasteland. Get your woollies on, troops, it’s time to go skiing!

Story: George Low | Art: Jaume Forns | Cover: Graeme Neil Reid

It’s quite exciting that the press release makes a big deal of the cover art and for myself I’m excited that the story is by an ex-Editor of the Commando Comics range. I haven’t read the story yet myself so I plan to walk into town and hopefully see it on the shelves and buy myself a copy. If you can get a copy yourself please do and let social media know all about it, it helps me get more work from the team if they know folks like it! 

James Bond, Dr No – Part 2

Following on from the previous post this is Part 2 of my look back at the work involved in creating a poster for the first James Bond film ‘Dr No’. This post collects together a series of posts from my Patreon back in 2018. Most of these posts show video clips as I worked through the painting in gouache and you can see the whole painting in a full video at the end.

10th September 2018

“I was curious to see what kind of man you were.”

I had planned to make a start to this painting over the weekend and several times I had a couple of hours in front of me with nothing else planned but for one reason or another I just couldn’t begin. This happens every now and then, I wouldn’t call it a creative block as such as I don’t really get those, but just the wrong frame of mind. I ended up rearranging my shelves and tidying up the studio instead. All useful things to do of course and it also took a while to set up the camera for recording again.

Not a bad start today, always begin with a likeness and always start with the face furthest away opposite to the hand you are using, so in this case top left for my right hand. Wish I’d got more done but then I’m happy with what I painted so that is the main thing. Again I’m doing this in gouache a medium I’m starting to enjoy more and more and with that I’m going to have to put buying gouache paint and brushes onto my to do list.

This video is sped up (I record using the iPhone’s own time lapse settings) but in this case you get to see me paint Julius No’s face over the space of one minute whereas in the final edit it’ll probably be about 20 seconds as I’ll speed it up again.

11th September 2018

“Careful. The whole place is probably wired for sound.”

Two sessions for you to see and again although these are speeded up they’ll be even quicker in the final cut. Quite happy with how it is all progressing, the paint seems to be happy to do what I’m asking it to do which is great.

Dr No’s outfit might need some more lighter colours added to it but I’m holding off until I’ve seen how it looks with the green circle background added. With that in it may lighten the outfit anyway so best to wait.

12th September 2018

“East, West – just points of the compass, each as stupid as the other.”

On it goes, I’m hopeful that a good session tomorrow and the painting will be finished. Most of the main elements are done other than the metal hands and the circle background. Once those are in I have some small detailing to add but that should be it. After that the usual story of scanning it in and sorting it out in Photoshop.

14th September 2018

“Unfortunately, I misjudged you. You are just a stupid policeman…”

The final painting session didn’t take long, maybe just short of three hours, but the scanning and tidying up of the art in Photoshop took the rest of yesterday and this morning. Scanned in artwork always shows up all the little imperfections as you can zoom right into the art. You have to take a balanced view as it would be easy to correct every little thing until you have nothing left of the character of your brush work. I always remove dirt and scratches and correct the colour to match as closely as possible the original work. This might need adjusting or changing for the poster later on but I like to have a file that is as close to the original painting as I can make it.

I decided not to lighten Dr No’s outfit colour. In the movie it does come across as being lighter than the colour I’ve left it but I think it suits the colour scheme of the painting better. It gives the green circle warmth and fits in with the well tanned features of Mr Bond. Again if I decide to I can always create an altered lighter version for the poster but at the moment I’m liking the balance.

Next week I’ll figure out if I’m going to have time to paint the Bond ‘Girls’ for the poster, it might be that I can fit it in in time. And I’ll need to sort out the video recording too.

17th September 2018

“What should I say to an invitation from a strange gentleman?”

Over the course of Sunday and this morning I’ve managed to paint the three Bond ‘Girls’ for the poster and get  them scanned in. I thought they should be done in the same medium and style as the main image but kept them monochrome as they get coloured in the design. I need to set aside some time this week to sort out the poster, create all the text and logos etc.

18th September 2018

“World domination. The same old dream.”

The final full video of the actual creation of the painting. I spent way too long animating a little circle going across the screen last night 🙂 Probably a very easy way to do it but I ended up creating every frame in Photoshop and placing them in order on a timeline. When it comes to video technology I’m stuck ten years back. Anyway it looks okay and I wanted it to be like the start of Dr No in some small way which I think it is.

19th September 2018

“That’s a naughty little habit. Listening at keyholes?”

Just finished off the final design for the poster which you’ll all be able to get your mitts on at the start of October. (Editorial note: My Patreon supporters get to download a high resolution file each month which they can print for themselves, in this case the Dr No poster print was available in October 2018). I’m glad I made time to paint the three ‘girls’ as I think it suits the design better. I’m pretty pleased with the look of this one, it’s nice when it all works out well together.

James Bond, Dr No – Part 1

Back in 2018 I had started to make a concerted effort to paint larger pieces. I’d mostly been creating smaller paintings due partly to my lack of experience resulting in a nervousness to working larger but also the need to create work for sale meant working smaller I could produce more quicker. I knew I hoped to expand on the film scene pieces I was creating and wanted to dabble in the film art posters that are very popular.

This work is from a serious of posts from my Patreon back in 2018 and I’ve split up this particular group into two parts. The first part I chat a bit more openly about referencing and my plans for the piece and the second part is less chat as I get on with painting.

Photoshop rough

4th September 2018

The successful criminal brain is always superior. It has to be.

Some of you will no doubt recognise this character straight away but I’m not going to talk about the Bond films in general in this post but rather about using reference shots. I’ve talked about this subject before and it is something that I feel hampers a lot of artists and especially those who create fan art, the lack of understanding of the reference. All art tutors will tell you that you need to understand the structure and form of what you are looking at before you can capture it on paper. The classic High School art class will have you endlessly drawing and shading a sphere or apple to help you understand that you need to convey that it is a three dimensional item. The use of photography or screen grabs as reference for art is a tool only and shouldn’t be used as a single point of reference especially if you don’t understand what you are looking at.

I often see fan art online where I can instantly spot which well known image they’ve used as reference for their piece. But often there is a element missing or something that just doesn’t translate well to having been drawn exactly as the photograph showed. If you read my post last week about altering a hand on a photograph because the angle would look odd if I drew it as supplied then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Copying a photograph means that you need to imagine how the subject actually looks in three dimensions in order to understand why it looks that way in the photograph. Often there will be highlights, shadows or strange marks that look odd unless you understand what you are looking at. I’ve shown you examples before where I make up a reference board of a character from a film, often a few major photographs will be used for the basis of the piece but having as much reference as possible is preferable. Knowing how someones hair looks viewed from behind will often explain why it looks a certain way from in front but if you use one source of information you may be successful in rendering it well enough but won’t necessarily understand why.

My next painting will be on the theme of Dr No the first James Bond film from 1962. The villain of the film is Dr Julius No who you don’t see for a large amount of the movie and when you do he doesn’t do much more than sit still and calmly look menacing. Most of the pictures you can find of the character online are of the same pose and most of the fan art you find is all based on those same photographs. At the end of the film he attacks 007 and becomes quite animated for the first time but you’ll be hard pressed to find any decent reference for this scene as it all takes place at distance form the viewer or when up close the action blurs any chance of good reference photography. For myself I enjoy the challenge to create a piece of art that I hope most people will look at and assume there must be a great piece of reference photography somewhere that I used. I hope a lot of people and especially other artists look at my art and think ‘where did he find that great reference pic’.

Deciphering the information of what something should look like is a great way to understand exactly what the photographs are showing you. A good example in this case is that Dr No has metal hands. No I’m not sure why either? He seems like a brilliant scientist so after his horrific injury you would have thought he might have come up with a better solution than the mostly useless metal hands but I’m guessing back in 1962 the bad guy having black metal hands was a villainous design choice. Anyway, the main problem when looking at photographs of his hands is that you really can’t make out what you are looking at. Apart from the fact they are black which doesn’t help you never get a good close up of them apart from when he meets his demise in a manner that was really asking for him to have taken the time to come up with something better than metal hands. So even knowing that I will paint his hands black and lose a lot of detail anyway I still feel it is worthwhile to study the pictures you can find of them and then decipher that into something you feel could actually work. I know a lot of people would argue it is a waste of time but especially if you don’t see this information in the final art but the point is is that I will understand it better and in doing so make it easier for myself to paint.

The digital rough I did of Dr No has helped me understand more than his hands in this instance. As I said he spends a lot of the film looking quite calm and the shots of him angry are blurred or from a distance so I needed to work on changing his expression while in an action pose. Apart from working out his hands I also wanted to look closer at his radiation suit which covers his clothes that you see in other scenes of the film. I could easily ‘fudge’ the detail of that when painting it but it makes more sense to understand it and in some cases even ignore the details I’ve found. For instance underneath the plastic style covering you can half make out a zipper which has been left undone at his arm, no doubt it helped the actor move better and you can hardly see it, especially not in the film, but should I paint that in? Personally I don’t think so as it would make no sense. I have to admit I enjoy this visual detective work and I think if you are an artist who looks purely at one good photograph for your reference then you are missing a vital part of the process and learning how to strengthen your work.

Tracing paper pencils

September 5th 2018

Don’t worry. I’m not supposed to be here, either.

James Bond films have been around longer than I have so obviously I grew up with them and more specifically I grew up with the Roger Moore films, the earlier films with Connery and Lazenby followed behind. Bond films come in for a mauling these days and I offer no defence of them. They are a product of their time, time which has moved on and changed. Dr No was released in 1962 and was the film adaption of the 1958 book by Ian Fleming which wasn’t the first in the Bond series but was picked due to legal wrangles and the relative cheap production costs. The film of course spawned a franchise that rumbles on to this day. Just like Doctor Who the main character changes as the years roll by and the actor decides to move on or is forcibly changed so we’ve had six actors in the film franchise as the British spy with a licence to kill.

The first Bond and to many the best was Sean Connery who at 31 was cast as Bond in Dr No and went on to star in a further six films as the character. I’m not going to attempt to analyse Connery’s version of the character or offer any morale thoughts on the actions of 007 in Dr No other than to say that if it wasn’t for Connery’s obvious charm and on screen allure we could have easily been watching a murderous anti-hero kill and rape his way through a mission sanctioned by the evil British Empire. Anyway, aside from Connery one of the stand out moments and a piece of cinematic history is the arrival of Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder in her white bikini on the mysterious and deadly island of Crab Key. Apart from some fine supporting actors the film also introduced as to SPECTRE and the start of a long line of bad guys for Bond to tackle in the form of criminal scientist Dr Julius No. A half Chinese half German played by Canadian actor Joseph Wiseman. Wiseman’s casting and make up add another mark against the film for many but there would be worse cases of cultural misappropriation to come from Bond in the future and the actor does a fine job of playing the part.

Photoshop tonal practice

I’ve still got a few elements to work out for this as most likely I will be making another movie style poster with the final image. But in terms of what I’m going to be painting then with these pencils done I’m ready to transfer the image onto my watercolour board. Often the pencils can look a bit odd as I don’t add any tone so occasionally for my own piece of mind I will quickly add tone in photoshop to an element to check that I’ve caught the look I was after. In this case after scanning in the pencils I wasn’t clear on my likeness of Connery so to hold back the fears I spent five minutes in Photoshop proving to myself that all was fine. Next I need to transfer the pencils and figure out the design for the poster as it will determine what colour the circle that frames the two characters should be.

September 6th 2018

I can assure you, my intentions are strictly honorable.

A lot of today was spent designing the first few drafts of what will be my Dr No film poster. I’d always known from the opening titles of the film that I wanted to use the graphic style in the animation sequence by Maurice Binder and Trevor Bond as part of the design. Quite a few other artists and poster creators have used this idea too when creating their own version but it is too good an element to pass on and apart from it actually being in the film it also helps with the feel of the kind of design work from the early 60s when the movie was released. As you can see from the YouTube video above the titles include that iconic Bond theme with the animation before moving onto a calypso with what would become a recurring motive for the opening titles of silhouette dancers that as the franchise continued would slowly find themselves without clothes.

Title sequence graphics

I took a pile of screen grabs for inspiration and to keep an eye on the colour combinations. Knowing that I would be using the circular motif I added the large framing circle that holds the two characters and from the beginning I thought I’d make this a light apple green colour which I’m pleased to see works well with the design I’ve come up with.

I’ve created two versions with the same design but with a big difference in the second. If possible, if I have the time, I want to paint three of the ladies from the film and add them into the poster. Although there are more female characters in the film these are the three that fans would call ‘Bond Girls’ as they’ve had the attention of James himself if you know what I mean. I’ve used photographs for the time being and I will just paint these photos exactly as they are in monotone to be coloured in photoshop in the style you see. This is all very time allowing and I do hope I can manage as at the moment it is my preferred version of the design.

The design may alter after the painting has been created and I see it in place but I think it will be pretty close to how I have it now.

Peter Cushing

This post uses a few ‘Work in Progress’ posts from my Patreon back in 2017 but also some new bits that I thought would be quite interesting. This is a chance to show the couple of times I’ve painted actor Peter Cushing but in two different roles. The first instance is really just the actual finished image and I have no behind the scenes progress to show for this Artist Card small (3.5″ by 2.5″) painting but I like to show it off anyway.

Watercolour and gouache Artist Card sized painting

25th February 2017

“This is, I think, a two-pipe problem.”

I guess everyone has their favourite actor in the role of Sherlock Holmes but like the Doctor in Doctor Who you accept all the other incarnations as a part of the whole. I couldn’t comfortably say who my first Sherlock Holmes actually was. I certainly recall seeing a season of Basil Rathbone films but more in passing than in a effort to see them. Probably around the same time I saw the Hammer Film version of The Hound of Baskervilles starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. As a young child I did take seeing any Hammer Film as big treat so I would have watched this film adaption as ‘must see’. My favourite Hammer Film was Dracula so I always had issue with accepting Lee and Cushing in these other roles but eventually I grew fond of Cushing’s portrayal through seeing a repeat of his BBC TV series from 1968.

I wouldn’t say there was anything unpredictable about the way Cushing plays Holmes, in fact it seems a pretty straight forward expected depiction especially for the time it was filmed. However Cushing brings a warmth to the character, you like the actor and therefore find it easier to accept the super sleuth. Lots of actors have played the great detective exactly the same way, especially during the 70s, but they’ve brought nothing extra to the role and the warmth has been missing. As much as I enjoy Cushing as the Baker Street detective he isn’t my favourite Sherlock Holmes but I certainly rank him one of the best.

A return to watercolour for this painting as I thought the delicate detail of the Victorian wallpaper and Cushing’s fine features would be best served in that medium.

Blue lead pencils

13th November 2017

“You have transferred us in time and space and I haven’t even set the controls.”

In the last few years I’ve had a lot of similar conversations about Doctor Who at the various comic conventions I’ve attended most of them to do with if I’ve actually painted ‘all’ of the Doctors. In general I’ve always said I have painted all of them with the added proviso of ‘all the TV series Doctors’ but you always have some people who mention the film Doctor to which I counter ‘why not Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Trevor Martin and a whole lot of other people who have also played the Doctor’. Most of the time that just draws blank looks though.

So to combat some of those who like to mention the two Peter Cushing films I’ve decided to get around to painting him as the good Doctor, not from Gallifrey but the eccentric English inventor who just happens to create a time machine and bump into the Daleks a lot. This painting is based purely on the first 1965 film ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ which sees Dr Who, his two granddaughters Susan and Barbara and Barbara’s boyfriend Ian accidentally travel through time and space. The films can be a tricky thing for avid Doctor Who fans to accept but I’ve always enjoyed the charm of them and it is easy to accept Peter Cushing as the loveable ‘grandfather’.

As you can see here are the pencils ready for painting, I couldn’t resist painting a film Dalek and I’m going to play with the plume of smoke that the film Daleks shot and make it more like the blast of fire/smoke that the film posters preferred to depict. 

I’m often asked about using sourced reference shots for painting well known actors. While some likenesses of famous people can often be based on just one good picture I prefer to use a few sources to try and come up with enough information to create something new or not just ‘oh they’ve used that well known publicity photo’.

Aside from that I like to create ‘mood boards’ in Photoshop to help give me an overall feel for the subject. Below is the mood board I created for this illustration mostly showing Peter Cushing but also the sense of colour scheme the used in the film. I ended up mostly painting the petrified jungle colours for the background but having a board to refer to is great for keeping you ‘on brand’ with the overall look and feel of the movie as a whole.

Mood Board
One of the film posters that I wanted to reference.

15th November 2017

Originally I was going to leave the background quite stark and fairly colourful in an attempt to highlight the quite brash look the film had but I actually realised that the petrified forest that Tardis lands in covers that brief well. It may be a dark forest but the colours used where very striking. Purple lighting against green lit tree trunks and yellows seeping into the ground, it certainly wasn’t dull.

I did think of adding a hint of the Dalek city through the trees but I decided against it as I wanted to concentrate on the figures more. I knew I was going to use gouache to add the brash highlighting so I was quite happy to slap on the watercolours and see what would happen.

The final painting scanned in and tidied up in Photoshop.

16th November 2017

“In electro-connective theory, space expands to accommodate the time necessary to incorporate its dimensions.” Granddaughter Susan explaining quite simply why Tardis is bigger on the inside. I’ll take her word for it.

As you can see the piece is finished and I’m quite happy with it even if I do say so myself. I think it looks nice and vibrant and I’m pleased with my likeness of Cushing.

Guest – David Hitchcock

I’ve known artist David (Dave) Hitchcock for a long time, we used to write letters to each other before emails where a thing, so that long. He’s a good friend and an amazing artist with a long list of projects to his name. He made his name with his creator owned work like ‘Spirit of the Highwayman’ and the Eagle Award winning ‘Springheeled Jack’. He’s produced a wide variety of comic work over the years including the two volume Madam Samurai with film screen writer Gary Young, Frankenstein Texas with Dan Whitehead and has an ongoing association with the UK’s sci-fi comic 2000ad.

Dave has a very recognisable style to his art, something that I think a lot of artists spend a lifetime searching for but he’s refined and expanded upon his ‘look’ over the years. I sent him a couple of questions and then asked him to talk us through his work on an illustration.

You are well known for your style and fluid pencil work, do you have any favoured tools of the trade?
I prefer a soft lead, a 2b or 3b sometimes even 4b for darker areas. Last year I started adding a colour wash to some pieces. For those I use coloured inks and watercolours, no particular brand, whichever is at hand.

You’ve produced a varied amount of work but have you always favoured comic art for your own projects?
I started self publishing around 1987, yep I know, I’m ancient. I’ve always had a fondness for gothic type work and found that that had become my niche. Recent years I’ve done the occasional bit of work for 2000ad and Heavy Metal, currently I’m working on commissions and any other gig that might come my way.

Whose work outside of comics do you look for inspiration?
I do like many artists outside comics, but my mainstay is the Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham. I’m always amazed when I look through any of his beautifully illustrated  books, the sheer imagination, for the time period is unbelievable.

Where can we see more of your work?
I’m sadly lacking a website, so I can only direct you to either my Facebook pages or Comic Art Fans where I have a gallery of my work and also a few pieces of comic art from other artists I admire.

Here’s a handy list of links:

Dave’s Artist Page on Facebook

Dave on Comic Art Fans

Dave’s old but still clogged full of art blog –

Insta Dave at Instagram

I’m generally always available for commissions, a lot of the work I produce is simply just what I fancied to draw at the time, like this Thor image. I love Jack Kirby, so I fancied doing my take on Thor v The Destroyer. I’m always on the lookout for more regular comic work, but in the meantime I may as well scratch a few itches.

Here’s a step by step of the way I generally work. I do my initial layout loosely on the actual  paper the piece will be on, so there’s never any scraps of paper floating about as a rule.

I begin to pencil a little tighter then I start inking  certain areas. There was a lot of erasing with this one in order to get the correct stance for our thunder god and the destroyer. At this point I was thinking how the colour would be on it, as there is a lightning bolt right through the middle.

I continue pencilling in some background details. And then use an ink wash to darken the sky and the masonry above the destroyer.

As the lighting is reflecting off the sides of the figure I thought it only fitting to add some patented ‘Kirby Krackle’.

More watered down ink wash to try and create some ‘light’ from the open visor.

Then I begin to add watercolours. Sometimes I use coloured inks too. Whichever suits at the time.

I then add some colour to the crackle effect and use the same shade as reflection on his torso.

Finally I add more falling rubble and masonry. I lay the watercolours/inks directly over the pencil shading. 

Here’s the finished scanned image.

Many thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer the questions and walk us through his process. I’m sure you’d all agree that Dave should get himself a nice new website to show off his portfolio of fantastic art. Check out the links above to see more of his work or contact him for commissions.

Four artists paint one tree

Just as a quick follow up to my last post about my Sleeping Beauty homage painting I thought I’d share a link to a short documentary film made by Disney back when the film was in production. Here we see four Walt Disney Studio artists, Eyvind Earle, Marc Davis, Joshua Meador and Walt Peregoy all paint the same tree but with wildly different approaches. It’s a fascinating glimpse of the working life and way of thinking these artists had at the time plus of course amazing to see them actually create art.

In a faraway land, long ago…

I’ve used quite a few excerpts from Patreon to make up this post on what was to become my acrylic painting ‘Dragon Steps’ a homage to the classic 1959 Disney film Sleeping Beauty.

29th December 2018

…before Christmas I had decided to once again return to the plentiful land of Walt Disney and the film Sleeping Beauty. 

It was only back in May that I worked on a painting of Maleficent’s tower castle and I’m sure most of my supporters will know my admiration for the design and styling of that film along with most of the Disney output. While referencing that last painting I was struck by three or four scenes that I thought I would return and look at again at some later point. So it is back to Maleficent’s castle but this time the interior and in particular a scene where she descends to her dungeon to converse with Prince Phillip.

Screengrab from the film and some quick Photoshop layout changes.

You can see from the screengrab I took that it is very dark and brooding. The castle is obviously very old and the dark tone offsets the fact that there are a lot of colours going on underneath the surface. In the scene you have a light source coming from further down the stairs but also from above, neither are strong sources of light.

I thought I’d expand on the scene as seen and and decided to make some changes to accommodate what I had in mind. I want the light source to mainly come from below so that Maleficent is walking from the gloom down to the light, this will mean I can add in a long casting shadow of the character back up the wall. I got rid of the just seen archway at the bottom of the stairs to open up the extent of the light source. In general I thickened up the pillars and adjusted the angles slightly. The pillar on the far right being the most obvious as I didn’t want its archway to then come into the picture as it does in the actual screengrab but I did want it still there to help frame off the light coming from below. The stairs in the film are somewhat higgledy and the steps lower down are of different sizes. I decided to make them a bit more standardised and also to drop their position to make them appear steeper. This in conjunction with the angle of the steps I added to the left help give the staircase a much better sense of depth and height as if she descending into the bowels of the castle.

Digital layout pencils done in Photoshop

It’s important to get the basics of this right and I’ve spent a good bit of time yesterday and today sorting out the rough of just the castle, after all it is the majority of what is going to be the painting. I quickly coloured the rough to help keep me straight as to how I want the light to work. I’m happy with how this is looking so I’m going to move onto pencilling the piece and at that point I will add in Maleficent, Diablo her raven and the shadow caste by them.

Traditional pencils

7th January 2019

During the holidays I started work on a new Sleeping Beauty piece and this past weekend I took the chance to pencil up the painting and transfer it onto a board ready to get painting.

You’ll see I’ve added in Maleficent and her long (dragon) shadow, Diablo her pet raven and given the crumbling brickwork some more character. I’m planning on painting this in acrylic but with the latest Commando cover taking precedence then I’m hoping that I can perhaps find and hour or two in the evenings to make a slow start to this. Hopefully doing a little bit while concentrating on the paid work will keep my mind on the painting and not feel like I’ve got to rush through it when the Commando cover is finished.

First washes over painted acrylic pencils

14th January 2019

I was determined to make a start to this painting over the weekend and although I didn’t get as many hours in front of the board as I wanted (I never do) I did managed to begin. The majority of the time was spent painting in the pencils again in acrylics. This is as boring as it sounds and takes no small amount of time but it does afford you the ability to make some minor changes which I did with the dragon shadow. If I had started to add washes of acrylic on top of the pencils without first painting them in again they would’ve quickly disappeared. Often when I do this I paint in the pencil work in roughly the colour I think I will then be painting the area in. So for example a lot of it was painted in various shades of grey and blue but on the right hand side I painted a lot of the steps in a medium green.

Having finished the pencils (again) I then set to adding in washes of colour over the whole piece building up colour and tone. This is very much like using watercolours and you can make it do some similar effects but I just want to keep building up the layers until I get to a level I’m happy with then I will start to add in some detailing.

So far I’m keeping the palette very limited having used Payne’s Grey, Cerulean Blue, Sap Green, Ultramarine and Zinc Mixing White and I reckon that will be the colours for the majority of the painting. I will add in some others but only in smaller amounts.

Building up the layers on the brick work

18th January 2019

I spent the day working on castle walls keeping to the colours I mentioned before. Ultramarine with Payne’s Grey for the blue colour coming in from the top left and all the ‘faces’ that look onto that direction. A mixture of Cerulean Blue and Payne’s Grey mixed with Sap Green for the sides that are being lit by the glow at the bottom of the stairs. 

At the moment I’m being put off by the untouched steps at the top and the fact that I need to do more work on the walls above it. So the next session, hopefully over the weekend, I will concentrate on sorting that out.

Top steps and the dragon take shape

21st January 2019

This was what I’d managed to get done over the weekend, essentially as planned I painted in the steps nearest to the viewer, added more tone to the wall above and painted in the shadow of the dragon. At the moment I think I’ll need to darken up the head of the dragon but today I’ve been working on the green of the lower stairs.

I’m at that frustrating point where I’m not happy with things but I know I just need to keep going and it’ll come together. I’m not happy with the work I’ve done today anyway so maybe it’s best that you are seeing the weekends progress rather than todays. More work on it tomorrow should hopefully sort out my issues.

Filling in those lower greens

22nd January 2019

Well the trouble with painting at a larger size is that it’s taking more time 🙂 I always hit a point in a painting when I know that I’m well past the half way mark and that it is maybe not quite the home stretch but I can envisage the end.

Getting that first stab at the lower green walls and steps was hard going. I mistakingly decided to add Emerald into the green mix but quickly spotted my mistake and swapped to adding Lemon Yellow in with the Sap Green to get the right shade I was after. Still lots to be done on it but I know the base is right and with it the painting is coming together.

Tomorrow I’m going to do more detailing and with the majority of the board covered I’m going to start sorting out some tonal issues. And I want to add some random strokes and some light colour changes (small blobs) in places to help break up the monotony. All of this has been painted without any Black as I want only the characters of Maleficent and Diablo to be painted in Black to help them stand out from the dank interior walls. So there is more washes of mixed Payne’s Grey and either Ultramarine or Sap Green to be added to help get the tonal balance right.

Diablo and Maleficent start to appear

23rd January 2019

Good session today, lots done although you might not be able to tell comparing this to yesterdays post. But I did a lot of tonal changes today and added in more random detailing on the walls. I still think I might need to add yet another wash of Payne’s Grey on certain places but I’m pretty happy. Finally got the Mars Black out and painted in Diablo and started on Maleficent before time ran out.

All being fine I reckon I will finish the painting tomorrow then it might be best to let it sit for a day so I can check on anything I’ve missed on want to change before scanning it in. 

The physical painting finished

24th January 2019

It’s done! I finished painting it this morning, sat with it for a few hours and then realised I’d missed of Maleficent staff! Doh! So with that added I painted on my little ‘R’ signature and removed the masking tape. Pretty sure the painting side of this piece is done and dusted and all I need to do now is scan it in and tidy it up.

I’d always planned to paint in the three ‘glowing’ dots of the following fairies but I’m not sure you’ll have spotted that throughout showing the work in progress? Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are sneakily following Maleficent down into the dungeons but of course her dragon shadow has its eye, mouth and claw on them. I fully intend to enhance the fairies glow power in Photoshop once it is scanned in.

By pure coincidence, while looking online at title logo designs for Sleeping Beauty, I’ve noticed that it will be the 60th anniversary of the films release next Tuesday. I honestly hadn’t intended to paint this image in recognition of that date but it seems somewhat apt now.

While painting this piece it became quite apparent that I was running out of acrylic paints. Many of the tubes I own are quite old and have dried up through age so after I finished painting I went online to my art supplier of choice and ordered a nice big pile of acrylic paints. Luckily they’re having a January sale on acrylic paints so the pennies spread further and I could order more than I intended and some new brushes. Being able to order paints like this comes down to having your support. Seriously, apart from using your pledges to pay for postage on the postcards recently I’ve saved up the last few months pledge money and blown it on supplies. You guys keep me going. No exaggeration, and I hope you’re enjoying what I’m painting with your support!

Commando Comic No.5153 ‘The Red Devil’

This post was originally created for my Patreon supporters back in August 2018 and I have decided not to update the text so it reflects my feelings and thoughts at the time.

An altered version of this post was printed in the excellent Illustrators Special ‘The Art of Commando’ book published by The Book Palace in 2019.

Four Commando Comics are published every fortnight by DC Thomson & Co Ltd and you can find out more information about them and a free digital trial at their website:

You can also buy this issue of Commando ‘The Red Devil’ digitally over at Comixology.

Released today, Commando Comics No.5153 ‘The Red Devil’ is the first of what I hope will be many featuring my art on the cover. If you live in the United Kingdom and follow British comics at all you will probably have come across these digest sized comics at some point. Commando has been published since 1961 and is well over 5,000 issues and counting, it is a well known feature on many newsagents shelves. For myself Commando and its science fiction offshoot Starblazer (now sadly not in print) were, along with rival publishers titles like War Picture Library, just part and parcel of my comics reading as a child. You picked up these war comics along with humour titles like Buster, The Beezer and Nutty and action comics like Victor and Warlord. There where so many of them that you never ran out and you swapped and traded copies with friends.

When I was 16 I went to the offices of DC Thomson & Co Ltd (to give them their full name) with my high school portfolio stuck under my arm in the dwindling hope that I could convince them to take me on as some sort of art office junior and learn my trade. Sadly it wasn’t to be, times were changing at Thomson’s and the arrival of computers on the scene was radically changing how the art department worked. I spent a great hour or so being shown around the art department and given encouragement and criticism from the manager viewing my portfolio. I was dejected but not unhappy with the result knowing that I was going to be heading off to college eventually after having attained the right grades for entry by taking night classes.

Cut to three years later and two years worth of college study later I was about to move onto another two full years in a different course but decided that I would once again see if I could make ground at DC Thomson. Apart from cherry picking some college pieces to show them I purposefully painted a humour piece (they are well known for publishing comics like The Beano and The Dandy) and two sample covers for Commando. Since I’d begun to show interest in art I’d always loved the painted covers found on Commando Comics and I envisaged them welcoming me with open arms to the fold with the two samples I created. Sadly once again it was an interesting visit but a definite no to my abilities. I’m sad to say that as I approached my 20s the lure of graphic design and a steady job took me away from art and my attempts to work for DC Thomson.

Still it was always in my mind what could have been and many years later when I did finally start creating work for the company it was with a sense of ‘finally’ that I had convinced them I was up to the job. Creating some paintings for them of their humour characters (the same characters I had painted before as samples) and being commissioned to do them was a big ‘You’ve done it’ for me. Over the last five or six years though I’ve still looked at the covers for Commando Comics and thought ‘give me a go’ and finally I got that commission. Ghosts laid to rest? Well maybe in one way but now I want, and hope, that they continue to commission me and I can settle into being one of the artists that is known for painting the covers of the title in its 57th year.

The brief for the cover came with a very simple description and a few images of the main character Irina that is wonderfully drawn by the interior artist Vicente Alcazar.
‘1942, Daytime in Stalingrad. Close up of Irina and her sniper rifle. Irina is in herearly 20s, She had long dark hair tied practically wears Russian army Winter private uniform for 1942 and is armed with Moisin rifle.’

I set to work on roughing out the layout for the cover in pencil on paper and knowing that I wanted to impress and put across my ideas well enough I decided to also colour the rough in photoshop. Knowing that the story was about a sniper my mind instantly returned to the countless Commando, Warlord and Victor covers where the crack shot sniper centred onto their target which we saw through the circular crosshair sights so graphically used to great effect. It seems like an almost unwritten rule for a war artist to include these round crosshair sights in a story about a sniper and who am I to break a rule that works.

I submitted my roughs and was pleased to receive a very positive response with only one request to alter the colouring to reflect the title of the comic. So a quick play around in Photoshop and with added red elements the rough was approved.

Onto the pencils where the details of the rifle, destroyed city, targeted soldier and Irina herself where all nailed down in my usual way of pencilling flipped onto tracing paper. The finished pencils where then scanned in and the tracing paper version was used to transfer the pencils onto the watercolour art board I was going to paint onto. Part of the image wraps around the comic and I wanted the image on the back of the comic to stand on its own which is why I placed the ruins of Stalingrad in an opposing colour scheme in this area. It works as a whole but also separately and I recall as a kid, and even now, excitedly seeing what hidden bonus had been painted on the back of the comic.

Painting in watercolour moved through quite swiftly with me concentrating on getting the main character right first before adding in the background. 

The finished piece was scanned in and retouched and modified in Photoshop. With no small amount of trepidation I sent off the cover for approval by the editor and was delighted by the response and praise for my first cover.

Here is the press release for the issue:

5153: Action and Adventure: The Red Devil

Hiding in the thick snow, the Red Devil is watching. In the battle-torn, bomb‑shelled carcass of Stalingrad, she stalks her prey. Her sights aimed and her finger taut, she pulls the trigger…

Specially selected for the cover, Graeme Neil Reid’s exhilarating art shows our hellish heroine in a blood red light, capturing her plight for the Motherland as well as her deadly shot! 

|Story | Iain McLaughlin | Pencils | Vicente Alcazar | Cover | Graeme Neil Reid | 

I managed to read the comic a couple of weeks ago when the editor showed me the proofs ready for the printer. It’s a cracking little story which moves along at a good pace all written by the talented Iain McLaughlin who has a long and varied career on many different DC Thomson titles among other things. The comic will be available in all good newsagents for the next two weeks along with the three other issues also released at the same time. If you can I’d ask that you try and pick a copy up and if possible sing the covers praises on social media to Commando Comics themselves. If the comic sells well and enough people mention my art then it all helps to convince the editor that I’m worthy of more and I’d love to see this become a regular gig. As always with client work where I can’t share the work prior to release with my supporters I will endeavour to record the process and show it upon release of the work.