1. Zombies are just as freakin' cool to draw as they are to watch.
My first encounter with the undead was the 1968 George Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead. I wasn’t even born until 78’ so it was on cable where I was introduced to this slowly-built-up dread that beat its way through your boarded up window. Talk about suspenseful! To be not really all that gruesome, it’s never really been beat to this day as far as zombie flicks go. Its restraint is what is appealing and it’s exactly that restraint in gore that I brought to this piece. Our over-saturation in violence has deadened (pun intended) our response to it. I could have just as easily drawn entrails and eyeballs and blood spraying like a MMA fight. But that would be like everything else we see today, and that just ain’t me punk!
2. Military vehicles COMBINED with zombies are a cool way to go, baby!
I remember when Peter and I were going over the cover concept together and he talked about this giant armored beast called the HURON. I thought, “Cool! I’ve never tackled a military unit before. This will be fun!” And then I start thinking…the engines churned and fire blew out my tailpipe like an old Tex Avery cartoon. He said he had three covers. This was a series. So I thought, “why not make them connect like some of the comics from the 90’s use to?” I pitched the idea to Peter and his publisher, not really caring if they said no, I was doing it anyways! I already had the image in my head of what to draw, they just had to sit back and wait. I did a rough draft, sent it out and then went full steam ahead.
3. I almost bit off more than I could chew.
Not only did the three covers have to work together, they also had to work as separate pieces when broken apart for their respective books. No small task! The HURON was the centerpiece of this story, so I wanted it on the first book to introduce the character of sorts. Peter said he wanted a car crushed underneath it, zombies scattered throughout, and the Grand Rapids city skyline in the background. But if this story was about military strike vehicles taking on the zombie apocalypse then why not add some really killer beasts of BOOM to go with it?? So along came the tank and helicopter, crowds of zombies, attacking military squads and crawling creatures of the undead. Each cover now focused on a particular vehicle that wrecked carnage with brains to spare.
4. Color ties things together nicely.
I wanted a grimy, used, stepped upon and drug across look for this piece. Zombies aren’t the cleanest things, and life gets a little messy when they’re being crushed or blown to pieces. So I used an Earth tone color scheme, set at dusk, and went to work adding all sorts of cruddy textures to ground the piece in reality.
5. Special effects rule!
Sparks, flames, spotlights, broken glass, motion blur, all used where needed to really sell the work and make it interesting. Photoshop was used for this entire cover from start to finish. But what really sold it was a professional set of filters I used called Knoll Light Factory. If you’ve seen a blockbuster movie in the past decade, then you’ve seen Knoll Light Factory at work. It’s a highly customizable collection of light filters, lens flares, sparkles, etc. that can really transform a piece if used correctly.
So there you have it. Easy enough, right? Whatever the subject matter, you have to tackle the piece with your own style, viewpoint, and skill set available. It helps if you have killer subject matter to work with, too! Thanks for that part Peter!
[No. Thank YOU, Jason. Your TRANSPORT covers ROCK! I couldn't be more fortunate working with a great talent like yourself. I can draw a mean stick figure, but nothing compared to you and the other TRANSPORT artist, Tim Holtrop. You guys hit it out of the park...which is probably good, because John Ball Park (Grand Rapids Michigan) in my TRANSPORT World is home of both the undead and some, er, strange mutations yet to be discovered.]
Jason Conley lives in Chattanooga, TN with his wonderful wife and daughter. He is a writer and illustrator, currently doing cover art/illustration work for Seventh Star Press. His novel, The Kingdom of Vosh, was published in 2013 by Dark Oak Publishing.
Copyright 2013-2014 Jason Conley
Copyright 2013-2014 Jason Conley
Uncaptioned art on this page copyright 2014 Jason Conley, Peter Welmerink