I've been intending to post about my most recent piece of digital art, Observation Point for a while, so finally here we are.
One of the great things about bouncing ideas around for book cover projects is that there are inevitably ideas that come out of the mix that have potential to be pieces in their own right, and that's exactly what happened here.
This was my original mono sketch – which wasn't right for the cover in question, but I felt it had something about it which I was keen to explore further.
As I've said countless times, it was the science fiction and space art of the 1970s and 1980s which first caught my imagination as a boy and that ultimately inspired me to create my own art – and it continues to inspire me to this day. There is certainly a gentle nod to that special era of SF art in my work, and that was certainly starting to come across here.
A simple image, of an enormous space vessel, in orbit above a planet; a classic SF image. The planet was originally going to be the Earth. But then I had a last-minute change of heart, and decided to make a heavily cratered moon instead.
This was when I discovered that craters are not as easy as they look. It is all about the light and shade, and getting the shape right. Which at first, I didn't. My initial craters were very shallow and more resembled a large pitted orange than a moon!
If these were impact craters, then we needed to see that impact, and the build-up around the edge. But once I'd worked more on really giving the craters more of a three dimensional texture, the piece really started to come together.
When it comes to painting starships or other alien structures, I've started to adopt a much looser approach. Providing the style is consistent with the rest of the piece, and that the perspective is accurate, then I don't mind it looking a little more sketchy or impressionistic rather than something too crisp and clean, which has that evident "digital" look to it.
The craft itself isn't massively changed from the original sketch, and despite the slightly rough and ready appearance, it still has a good deal of surface detail and texture:
Rather than showing a scene of a spacecraft in flight, I decided to have it floating in space, in an ominous Rama sort of way. And through that, came the slightly unsettling title of Observation Point.
And here is the finished piece...
...nicely rounded off with some text specially written by Richard Hayes:
A spacecraft orbits a heavily cratered moon, the distant sun of this star system casting its light across the scene. The vast size of this vessel’s engines tell us that it has travelled far to reach this point, but they are now cold and silent – it has reached its destination. Even so, there is still much activity aboard the craft. Lights appearing through windows show that its occupants are busy going about their work, and its surface is covered with sensors and antennae which suggest that its role is to measure and analyse data.
We are left in little doubt that these space travellers are here to observe something, but we are not certain what that can be. It might be some feature on the surface of the moon below, or on its parent planet which lies outside our view. What we can be sure of is that the civilization that sent this spaceship to this remote location had the resources, and the will, to dispatch a sophisticated mission – possibly for purposes of scientific research, or perhaps for some more sinister reason.