Thursday, July 3, 2014

Battle Beast

This certainly was one of my favorite projects.  Not only due to the fantasticaly fun concept but also because of the band behind it.  And in the process of making the next chapter in the story, I thought it was only appropriate to explain a little bit how it all started.

The first time I listened to Battle Beast's music I was blown away by their classic metal flavor and how super catchy their songs are. Right up my alley!!!  

I am a child of the 80s...  a true generation X geek.  I grew up watching Masters of the Universe, Thundercats and Transformers so to say the project fed my inspiration and excitement is really an understatement! 

The original working title of the album was 'Machine Revolution' but somewhere along the line the guys decided to simply call it 'Battle Beast'.  I guess it was a statement of rebirth since they were presenting a new singer and a fresh new sound production; this time recording an mixing resided in thr sole hands of young Anton Kabanen.  And I must say he did a killer job.

Anton gave me specific sources of reference and inspiration but at the same time gave me enough room for creativity to propose an original scene.

Some of the reference material for inspiration he gave me was 'The Terminator, 'Mad Max and of course 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe'.  Funny that while recently checking our notes I realized Thundercats and Transformers were never among the original references, but everybody assumed they were the main source of inspiration.  I should take the blame; I guess some things found their way out of my subconscious!

Either way, though obviously cats, the main characters are closer to Conan The Barbarian and Frazetta's work than to Thundercats; which wear color spandex body suits and not bronze age garments in partial nudity!.  The concept is just pure old school epic fantasy art with a modern flavor.  The perfect mix for me.

I proposed two basic sketches for this project. Both set in a fierce battle between Cats and Machines.  Surprisingly enough, the first sketch hit right on the mark!   The second sketch was obviously on the right track but lacked the iconic composition and spectacularity we needed.  No lioness either!   In the original sketch, the lioness wears a battle style maw-hawk but Anton pointed out that it was maybe too unfeminine, so I gave her a very sexy feminine hairstyle.

Anton asked me to make the main characters the center of attention so I just applied one of the oldest tricks of classic painting;  to suggest background through shapes and silhouettes.

The technique I used for this job consists basically in a very detailed grey pencil drawing later colored digitally.  Only the 'irregularity' and raw finish of the pencil can give the feel of analog art...  people know when it's a full digital work!

The scene required a very dramatic lighting atmosphere.  The sense of a battle that has been going on for hours and it's close to the end...  maybe all night!  In fact someone pointed out how the sunlight from the left manages to pass through the all the chaos and smoke get to the cats in a very hopeful way... a sort of hint of hope for our brave warriors, though surrounded by evil enemy forces, might still have a few surprises!!!   Honestly I never intended it as sunlight but what do I know!? Maybe it is!

Personally, I saw this project as my grain of sand to the dynasty line of epic album covers.  I remember being immensely captivated as a teenager with Ken Kelly's larger than life album covers for KISS and Manowar.   His work eventually led me to discover the fantastic work of Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo;  my life was turned upside down after that... I knew what I wanted to do in life.

The cool thing about working with Battle Beast is the fact that I know that for each new cover, there will be a new story to tell about our Lion-Man.   It's not that common to work in a consistent ongoing fantasy project with permanent characters... specially in metal music!  So for that I'm very grateful.

Who knows what new adventures are still ahead for Lion-Man!  Unleash the Beast!!! 

Click on every image for larger view:

The first sketch hit right on the mark!

The second sketch was obviously on the right track but lacked the iconic composition and spectacularity we needed.  No lioness either!

Refined pencil sketch of the concept.  This was the blueprint of the cover.

 Basic pencil render of the main character.  Later digitally colored.

Basic pencil render of the battle lioness.  Later digitally colored.

Basic pencil render of one of the cybernetic enemies.  Later digitally colored.

Final illustration.