The Gunfighters

22 December 2011

My initial back-of-an-envelope idea for this was to have Johnny Ringo and Wyatt Earp facing off on either side of the cover -- knowing there were photos of each pointing a gun -- with the Doctor in the middle. When I came to sketch out the layout, however, I found the narrowness of the cover made this impossible, as the Doctor would be covering up the cowboys' guns too much. I had to move the Doctor down, and reduce the two gunfighters so their outstretched gun-arms would fit and be suitably pointed at each other. This opened up an awkward gap between them, while shrinking the Doctor but keeping him in the middle left too much empty space either side of him. I also had to consider where to put the title. With it breaking very unevenly (why couldn't it be called 'The Gun Fighters', which splits more evenly onto two lines?), it didn't sit comfortably in the top-right corner where I'd originally envisaged it.

The only solution was to move the Doctor to one side and have the title at the bottom. Even with the original idea, I'd been vaguely thinking of having the two cowboys on a Wanted-style poster pinned to some boards as the background for the Doctor. I still liked this idea, but now needed a more interesting backdrop for the bottom corner (I hadn't decided if the Doctor would be on the left or right at this stage). Sticking with the wooden planks, I decided to open them out, creating a hole through which could be seen a scene of Tombstone. That was a little static, but luckily the DVD photo gallery provided a shot of the Clanton brothers looking suitably menacing (ish). With the poster pinned to a plank now at a sloping angle to better fill the top-right corner where the title wouldn't now be, I just had to think of something to go between the Ringo and Earp, and the OK Corral sign seemed the most appropriate.

I began with the fence, finding a photo of some wooden boards and cutting out each one so I could rearrange them to create the spaces where I needed them. I worked on them individually to position them and add shadows where they overlapped, then merged them into a single layer to apply overall colouring and lighting. Next I did the background, cutting out around the buildings to replace the studio ceiling in the original set photo with a shot of the sunrise, adjusting the lighting on the buildings as well as possible to match the rear light source. I then coloured and cutout the Clanton posse, although with their backs to the rising sun I didn't want their faces completely in shadow, so had to keep them front-lit - maybe some sunlight's reflecting off a window onto them!

Cutting out the two figures for the poster was straightforward, but I had to adjust the balance of different parts of them -- faces, hats and clothes -- so that when they were reduced to pure black or white (no greys) to give an impression of being printed you could still make out the necessary details. I had intended to keep some of the background detail behind the Corral sign as well to better fill the space, but this made the figures less distinct, especially their hands and guns, so I painted most of it out. Lastly I coloured and cut out the Doctor as usual.

Download the final GUNFIGHTERS cover here

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