The evolution of a cover drawing

I’m quite pleased with the cover drawing to this recent Astorial Compendium book. It depicts Tamblyn The Secret Architect dashing through the corridors of the imaginary Astorial Hotel. But the scale, the proportions, and the perspective, are all wrong – no building like this could possibly exist, and no human being could possibly be running in the way that Tamblyn is. For that matter, he himself appears to be too tall to fit inside the lobby.

This is all deliberate; I want to create a completely impossible space, a location where anything could happen. This is all part of my conception of what the Astorial Hotel means, an infinite dimension that can accommodate all manner of events, and people. At the same time I want to show that Tamblyn is an all-powerful entity, the master designer of this space, and that he can move freely through it in ways denied to the rest of us. He leaps over 20 hurdles and passes easily over obstacles.

The drawing also contains what I hope is a vaguely troubling air, the sense of a plausible space, and an architectural system of some sort which is both open and closed at the same time. Staircases and doorways apparently leading nowhere, yet our man (who casts a very palpable shadow) seems to be emerging from one impossible doorway and is about to enter another.

The images below show various stages in the creation, starting with a very rough pencil sketch. Then there’s the finished pencilled page, and next the partially-inked page. Here you can see the unerased pencil lines showing through the ink. The finished inked page has all the pencil rubbed out. The last stage was adding colours, all done in the computer (to be precise, adding transparent layers in The GIMP program).

But there’s one stage just before the pencil sketch, and this tells you how I happened on the receding perspective image. While looking on the internet for something completely unrelated, I happened to click on a very small image of a record cover. It had a similar receding perspective, and a figure floating on top of it, except the perspective was I think produced by mechanical means; repeating the same image three times, only reducing it in size each time.

However, I don’t like to copy things directly, especially not the artwork of others. So I did not save the image to my PC, and I moved my browser away from that page instantly. A few seconds of glimpsing that record cover was enough for me. I then walked over to my drawing table and dashed off the sketch very quickly, making sure to incorporate the lettering I needed, and putting Tamblyn in the centre. I knew at once this was just right. To transfer it from sketch to Bristol board, I did a little bit of measuring to get the proportions as I wanted them, and brought my set-square into play for straight lines and angles.

From this fleeting inspiration, I found I had solved the cover problem which had been nagging away at me for a few days.