Friday, August 17, 2012

Rata Blanca

Here I go...  my first medieval castle!

Rata Blanca is the most classic heavy metal band in South America and this image was commissioned to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the band.  When it comes to album covers, working with classic bands is always a privilege for any visual artist.   One of the first things that got me into art and graphics when I was a kid were all those fantastic illustrations on heavy metal covers from the 70s and 80s.  So the minute this band got in touch with me, I knew it was going to be something special.
The original gold was to upgrade the cover of the band's first album; a modern, more sophisticated version of that old castle.  Even though the original illustration is extremely simple, I didn't want to departure too much from it; just to add more detail, color and volume.  

My first approach was to add characters since I thought it lacked some action; so the first sketch featured a wizard and a couple of dragons!  This idea was quickly dismissed by Walter Giardino (the band's leader).  He also didn't want to departure too much from the original idea.  So I made another one, which was according to Walter, right on track but "too evil".  "It has to look magical and welcoming... people should really want to come inside", were his words.

So my final proposal is what you see here.  For this, I researched a lot of photo material of castles all around Germany and Austria.   

So please!  Come inside!

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click on every image for full size


Cover with logo

Sketch #1 (unused)

Sketch #2

Sketch #3 (with variations suggested by Walter)

Original Cover (1987)


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Journey to The Hollow Earth

I'm a huge geek of strange myths and the paranormal but I don't have the habit of proposing that kind of stuff to my clients. Strangely enough, these subjects find their way to me regardless.   This concept was commissioned by AFM records to be cover art of the album "Center of The Great Unknown" by romanian band Magica.

The Hollow Earth is probably one the most popular paranormal myths. According to Hollow Earth theorists, all planets are hollow and you can access the interior through huge 500 miles openings in each pole. Supposedly, as you navigate or fly through these openings, you are never really aware of where you're going since the holes are so huge that curvature is not perceived by the view.
As our "exterior surface", the "inner surface" has also oceans and continents with various landscapes. All life in the interior is possible due to the "inner smoky sun". It is said that the inner civilization is much more advanced than ours, they had electricity hundreds, probably thousands of years before we had, some people even have suggested that the inner earth inhabitants are the survivors of the last global extinction event some 100.000 years ago; survivors of the big flood and even the lost continent of Atlantis. It has been suggested that even UFOs might have their origin in the Earth's interior!

There have been several expeditions with the intent of proove or disproove this great myth. There are stories of miserable failures and fantastic accounts of new civilizations. One of the most popular stories is Admiral Byrd's expedition to the North Pole. In his Diary, he describes an encounter with the leader of the inner civilization; after that meeting, the leader sent Byrd on his way with a terrifying warning about humanity's fate.

The artwork is partly based on Admiral Byrd's Diary of his expedition to the North Pole and partly based on the book "The Goddess of Atvatabar" (which is somewhat similar to "Journey to the Center of The Earth by Jules Verne). The book tells the story of a group of expeditionaries in route to the North Pole on board a trap steamer. Eventually, they realize that they are actually going to the interior of the Earth through a huge opening in the Earth's pole!. Once inside, they sail the inner oceans to discover amazing cities and new civilizations.

Since I haven't yet visited, the interior of the Earth, I have no idea of how exactly the landscape looks like...   so imagination was a big factor here.    It was quite an issue to achieve the inner-horizont effect; since we are in the opposite/interior side of the Earth's crust, the horizont should curve upwards instead of downwards. The result is a spectacular view of the landscape curving up to the clouds and all the landmasses visible "in the sky". Since the "inner sun" is floating static in the Earth's center, all shadows must be at a perfect 90 degree angle underneath everything. If I would have follow this idea to perfection, the result would've been a very flat (and boring) lighting setting... so I decided to cheat; you can't actually see the sun, but light comes slightly from behind... resulting in a much more dramatic effect.

So here you have it... my take on the inner earth

Click on every image for full size.

Album Cover Art

Wide alternate scene

Concept Sketch #1

Concept Sketch #2


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blind Souls

This might strike you as difficult to believe, but I'm really not good at creating nightmares and dark scenes!  I'm a pretty mellow guy; my favorite movie is Star Wars and I enjoy long marathons of Friends.  So you can say I stay in the realm of the positive side of life...  in fact, in recent years I even stop watching the news, the world is a horrible cruel place.  I've become a reclusive of the fantasy world...   almost everything I watch and read is either science fiction or fantasy.   It's all escapism.

So basically for this image I had a difficult time creating a visual situation I could feel strong and meaningful...  I really don't like horror for the sake of horror.  It's like pornography.  For me, art has to contain some kind of metaphor or clever message; even if this seems kind of obvious, it is not.   The internet is saturated with cool looking images that mean absolutely nothing.  

The basic concept for this one was the contrast and juxtaposition of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.  I tell you, it was by no means easy getting to this solution!   The band originally suggested to depict Purgatory as a dark horrible place, much like Hell...  but then, you would have a cover with "two Hells"!  So I said NO, we will do Purgatory as described in religious mythology:  as a stationary place to contemplate our mistakes... neither rewarded or punished.  Since most people isn't totally good or totally bad, I imagined Purgatory as the most crowded place in all the spiritual realm... I mean really crowded!   Hell would be like nothing we couldn't find on earth; just a horrible place abundant in physical pain and torture.  Finally, Heaven would be a place of meditation; bright and peaceful.

I think the final result is quite surreal...

Cover (wide format)

Cover (Cd format)

Concept Sketch

Unused Concept Sketch #1

Unused Concept Sketch #2


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pink Beatles In A Purple Zeppelin

So here you have it!  Finally!  The flying beatles!!!

This is probably the most extravagant idea I've ever translated into graphic reality...  and it's all Arjen's "fault"!   

As all of you probably already know, this image is the cover of a song from the "Lost in The New Real" album.  The song is about a music service in the far future; they'd be able to create perfect virtual bands for you!  Let's say you love all the crunchy riffs of Black Sabbath and all the majestic operatic vocal arrangements of Queen...  No problem!  They'll blend these two elements together for you and create a new band:  Queen Sabbath!

At first, I thought the concept was just too abstract to actually come up with some solid type of scene...  what could I do?  A computer with musical controls and some technitians working around it?  A collage containing all the bands in history?   I couldn't exactly visualize it graphically until Arjen said:  " man, let's do it exactly as the title!" "...what?" "yeah, let's do some pink beatles flying in the sky on purple zeppelins" "wow, that is so crazy that it might actually work!".  I just loved the idea; it's so different from what I normally do.

I immediatelly knew we would need some special techinque for this; my usual fantasy painting technique wouldn't be the most perfect solution for this theme.  The song was also very old school and slightly hippie.  So I thought nothing would accomplished better this than a trippy 60s image in the style of Hipgnosis!   

I used my own photo material as a starting point to create the composition; except the zeppelins, which I took from historical photographs.  The colors are the result of endless experiments but the gold was obviously an LSD extravaganza!   I went back in time to possess the mind of a graphic artist living in 1969!!!   

So... enjoy the trip!  

The Song

The Art

The Cover Art

Arjen's Discography!



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Arjen's New Real

This is another cool piece of art made for Arjen Lucassen's "Lost in the New Real".

At this point in the story, Mr.L shockingly discovers that he wasn't really awaken from his cryogenic sleep; and more so, he wasn't even a full body!  Dr. Voight Kampff and his team were able to save his brain only,  so they put Mr.L's brain in a preservative tube.  Once submerged in this weird liquid, the scientists connected his consciousness to a virtual reality system that would create a whole new life for him...   Electrochemical signals through wires and tubes stimulating Mr.L's cerebral cortex to induce visuals, odor, touch and sound...   "The New Real".

But is it real?  is he still a man?  or is he a machine?   Mr.L will face this existential riddle at the end of the record...  in the 10 minute title track of "Lost in The New Real".

For this chapter of the story I proposed a very old fashioned concept loosely based in the movie poster of "Star Trek III, The Search for Spock".   I knew that depicting just the brain wouldn't be interesting enough; we needed Mr's L's image to round this painting as a whole.   "Mr.L's essence" is represented by his image over-imposed in the composition... almost ethereal.  Mr.L's physical form at this point is reduced to a lonely brain submerged in a tube filled with a green fluorescent liquid; surrounded by the lab equipment.

I think the result is super-cool but we couldn't release it as promotional material because it gives away the ending of the storyline!!!  So we included it in the last pages of the booklet.

Mr.L lost in the new real...

click on every image to enlarge:

The Painting

Concept Sketch


Friday, April 27, 2012

Yellowstone Memorial Day

Like I said before, "Lost In The New Real" is probably the most richly illustrated album I've ever participated in.  The booklet alone seems like a mini graphic novel!

This particular image illustrates the song "Yellowstone Memorial Day", which is about a massive volcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park.  The moment Arjen told me about the subject of the song I knew how technically difficult it was going to be;  I've never painted neither a volcano or lava before, so as usual, in preparation for this task I reviewed tons of photographic material.  This is what is illustrators call research; I saw countless pictures of volcanic eruptions like the ones of Etna, St Helens and Krakatoa.  I really wanted to get it right but obviously with the fantasy touch on scale and atmosphere.

Te result speak for itself... I think it took me around four days, 8 hours a day.  It is an extremely detailed painting.   Hopefully, Arjen will print posters someday to take advantage of its full resolution.

Enjoy the armageddon!!!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Colonization and cultural contamination are two subjects (or maybe just one) that I always been interested in. Nothing good could result when a developed society invades (either in a friendly or unfriendly manner) a more primitive culture. 

There is plenty of examples for this in history but this image deals specifically with the colonization of South America. It was commissioned by chilean band Huinca (term for the non-aborigine in Mapuche language) as cover art. The concept is a mix of a little bit of mythology with modern politics... it blends the ancient battle of the common man against an impossible adversary (like David and Goliath), which in this case is represented by a massive Lovecraftian creature; in its back, it carries what I call the "unholy trinity" of powers... war (missiles), religion (a cathedral) and economics (oil plants + Wall Street).

Our heroes, are representatives of the three main aboriginal cultures of the lower part of South America: Mapuche, Inca and Rapa-Nui (Eastern Island).  All three against an all-powerful and evil adversary... will they succeed???

This was the second of two sketch proposals; the original concept was a rendition of David and Goliath; a regular joe against a super-powerful foe.  The Cuthulhu-like creature came out almost naturally.    The three aboriginees, represent the three main cultures of the chilean territory (even though Rapa-Nui or Eastern Island is in the middle of the Pacific!!!).  I wanted it to be really epic!   to achieve this I new I needed a very dramatic lighting treatment and a spectacular angle view to take full advantage of size and scope!  It was painted in adobe photoshop; I used very thin brushes for the all the details of the main characters and really thick hairy brushes for the landscape, which is rough and texturized...  this is a classic Frazetta trick!   

I had a lot of fun making this one...  enjoy!

click on each image to enlarge:

Original wide view composition.

Album Cover

Concept Sketch

Unused Concept Sketch

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dr. Slumber's Eternity Home

This image was produced for Arjen Lucassen's "Lost In The New Real" album.

Not every day I get the chance to explore humor in my art commissions.   Most of my clients have an interest for the darker side of life, which I always try to approach with some irony; I couldn't possibly go dark all the way (well, not all the time!)...  I need at least a little bit of dark humor.  Well, this image goes way beyond your usual sarcasm...  it embraces it.

One good day, Arjen sent me this really happy song about a euthanasia clinic in the future...  only Arjen could get away with something like this!    "I want a twisted Doctor and two hot dancing nurses in front of their clinic", he said.    I thought this concept was insane!  But immediately regarded its endless graphic possibilities.  I envisioned the classic "mad scientist" in his creepy Art Deco laboratory;  tesla coils everywhere and a stormy sky!

In Arjen's words: 
"This is a very happy song about...suicide! I wanted the image to look like a campy advert for a 'euthanasia home', where (in the far future) people could voluntarily end their lives in a humane way. But of course I wanted it to be very tongue-in-cheek so we could get away with it, it's such a delicate topic! There had to be an evil doctor holding a syringe, some dancing nurses, a building with sleazy neon letters and a menacing sky. But I expected that would be impossible... Imagine my surprise when Claudio arranged a REAL doctor holding a real syringe and two hot nurses! This image is amazing, just look at all the intricate details that Claudio came up with. A both funny and disturbing image, not easy to make! Claudio did an amazing job with this one, I think this is my favorite image in the booklet"

Concept Sketch #1 

Concept Sketch #2

Behind The scenes with "The Nurses"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Arjen Lucassen - "Lost in the New Real" Cover Art

Oh yeah, boys and girls!
I am allowed to show you now some of the process behind the creation of the cover of "Lost in The New Real", the upcoming solo album by Arjen Lucassen

It was an interesting journey for sure...  one that neither Arjen nor I anticipated.  A journey filled with fierce battles, time anomalies, alien diplomacy, strange communications and weird visions!    It began around June 2011; I decided to establish communications with Mr. L's outpost to express my interest in a possible collaboration.  At first, Mr. L was somewhat reluctant to the idea... he didn't fully trust this new life form so he put my abilities to the test.  He told me about this new concept he was developing; I found the storyline extremely cool and reminded me of an old Gene Roddenberry TV movie called "Genesis II".   So between Star Trek quotations through email and countless days of non-sleeping I came up with some sketches featuring a William Shatner-like character, not knowing that the main character was Mr. L himself!   

After looking at my sketches, Arjen made clear that he didn't want a cold digital-looking cover and this was deffinetelly not the right approach.  Instead, he wanted an old fashioned illustration in the style of the old sci-fi movies of the 50s and 60s.  "Forbidden Planet", "The Day The Earth Stood Still", "Fight To Mars" and "The Time Travelers" (to name a few) were some of the posters we analized to be used as reference for our project.  Again, a very cool idea, but one no easy to create as we would find out soon enough.   At first, I wanted to pay tribute "by the book" to that style and imitate the 50s illustration style to perfection but as I started showing advances to Arjen, he pointed out that some of the elements looked cheap!   I said, "well of course it looks cheap!  everything about those old movies was cheap and cheesy.  It's part of the style!".   He then went on by saying that maybe people won't understand that kind of obscure graphic tribute and will simply see a cheap-crappy-illustration.  It took me a couple of days to process this but ultimatelly I agreed to this logic.  This basically opened up a whole new universe of possibilities since we were paying tribute to classic sci-fi with modern tools.   So the new aproach was, what if 50s illustrators of movie posters would have had Photoshop!  What would they have done!?

The final product of this concept is a very eerie but interesting looking scene.  One that was the result of two weird minds clashing together through space-time continuum.  Mr. L and Mr. C going to where no artist has gone before!

The image itself shows a troubled Mr. L inside a holodeck (those of you who are familiar with Star Trek TNG will know of what I'm talking about - if not, shame on you!) simulating a very colourful alien landscape (somewhat inspired by the movie Forbidden Planet).  In the far distance, the Dream Sequencer can be seen; tying in the whole concept with the Ayeron universe in a way that remains a mistery!  (yes, I know).    Outside the holodeck room and consciously overseeing everything,  we can see the excentric scientist Voight-Kampff, who is also operating the holodeck's master controls.  The whole scene is framed in a very cool space setting that adds just a little bit more oddity to everything.

So there you go!  The cover explained!   

Just wait to see the rest of the art I made for the record.  At least 6 of the songs have individual illustrations, turning the booklet almost into a nice little graphic novel.   And that story shall also be told!

Live long and prosper!

Arjen on the Cover Art:


Click on each image to enlarge.


 Poster Version

Album Version

Holodeck Landscape (with Dream Sequencer)


Unused Landscape Illustration
(with alternative outpost)

Mock-Up sketch #1

Mock-Up sketch #2

 Landscape Pencil Sketch

Original Concept Sketch
Feat. William Shatner
(idea rejected by Arjen)

Original Concept Sketch
(idea rejected by Arjen)

 Mr. L showing off his Star Trek toys

 Mr. C showing off his Star Trek toys

  Mr. C showing off his Star Trek toys

 Mr. L facing danger in an unknown planet!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Arjen Lucassen + Rutger Hauer.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. 
None other than Rutger Hauer, the legendary actor, will be taking the rol of scientist Voight-Kampff in the production I recently completed all artwork for: Arjen Lucassen's solo album. Here's a greeting and sneak peek of that big release!

The Album is another masterpiece by the mad-scientist-hippie-rocker Lucassen; it's an amazing collection of sci-fi stories accompanied by an equal variety of cool artwork (turning the booklet in a quasi-graphic novel!).  It was one of most demanding an challenging projects I've ever taken place in...  can't wait to share it with the world!

It will be released in April through Inside Out Records. 

More info here:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Interview on Rovok (in spanish)

Greetings humans!

Here's a new interview in which I talk about influences, recent work, processes, geeks, pop culture, music, art (and the lack of it) and of course my graphic novel!

To read the interview CLICK HERE (in spanish!!!)

Live long and prosper!!!!