27 June 2007

A slight delay on this cover owing to the poor selection of photos from the story leaving me rather uninspired. Featuring the robot was, of course, a given. But I decidedly didn't want to do the whole multiple-images-at-increasing-sizes-to-show-it-growing thing, as it's become rather cliched and, besides, the robot growing is only a fairly brief event at the end of episode four. I thought a shot looking up at the robot to imply it's size was a nicer way to go, but couldn't find any decent photos. As I also wanted to feature Miss Winters on the cover - it being my style to include the major villain - I knew I'd have to wait for the DVD to be released to see what gems might turn up in the photo gallery before I could even begin this cover.

The nice people at Sendit got my disc to me on the day of release and (this is true) the first thing I looked at was the photo gallery! But no luck. A few photos I hadn't seen before, which is always a pleasure, but none of what I needed (in particular none of Patricia Maynard). The opening slide looking up at the robot was promising, but in the end I decided it was too low a shot and the robot's iconic face was too obscured (besides, it doesn't look like the real costume to me, but a (impressively accurate) model - anyone know if this is true?). So my heart sank a little as I concluded I'd have to use screengrabs from the episodes themselves. This is generally a last resort for me as the video resolution of the DVDs doesn't make for great quality captures and they need a lot of tidying up. In the event, this wasn't too bad for Miss Winters - a mid-shot of her body with a close-up of her head composited so at least the face would be more detailed - but the prospect of using screengrabs for the robot contributed to my tardiness at getting the cover completed.

On the upside, the robot's marvellous design made the touching up straightforward, if time-consuming - lots of drawing paths around the various shapes of the face and body so I could paint in sharp edges. Of course, repainting on this scale tends to lose any detail that may be in the screengrab which is hard to reproduce realistically even with fine brushwork and judicious adding of noise, and the final image looks more painted than photographic, but hey ho. Damn Clayton Hickman and his access to nice hi-res scans! So in the end only the Doctor comes from a scanned photo. Although this was an A4 image of him standing in Bessie (from the back cover of The Frame #15), the reproduction was a little poor so even he needed a lot of touching up.

Bringing the three elements together introduced a new aspect to my covers, which you'll no doubt have noticed. When I had the idea of using a low shot of the robot, I suspected I might need to have his head overlapping the logo as he would need to be placed centrally, and in fact I felt that in this instance it would add to the sense of looking up at a huge creature. In the event, the image I used was a bit more face-on than I wanted, so this effect doesn't wholly come off, but it makes a nice change. It's not something I plan to do a lot, although nor have I deliberately avoided it in the past, but I guess now there's a precedent it gives me some extra flexibility. It was only when I came to cut out the image of Tom, however, that I thought it might be nice to have him leaning on the bottom bar (he's leaning on Bessie's windscreen in the original). I tried running the text behind his hands as well, but it was too obscured and, although no one using the cover will really need to be able to read it, it just looked too odd.

I'm a little disappointed with the background - a bit generic, but I couldn't find anything from the story that I felt was significant enough to make a good backdrop and fitted the perspective of the robot. And lastly, something that's starting to become an issue at last is the choice of background colour. From the start I intended each story to be different to those either side of it (rather than colour-coded by season or anything). At first this just meant picking a colour that suited my final illustration, but now releases are increasingly consecutive I'm having to think about it a bit more carefully. My cover for 'Ark in Space' is red, and anticipating 'Planet of the Spiders' being blue, that ruled out what are perhaps the most obvious colours for 'Robot'. So I picked the purple from his shoulder straps. A little bright, perhaps, but not totally out of keeping with the story itself.

Download the final ROBOT cover here

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