Late last year I produced a piece for John Freeman's Sci-Fi Art Now book, the final version of that is still under raps for now.
Well, over the last week, I have been working on another piece for the book. Originally intended as a Steampunk Warfare piece. I played around with an aerial 'dogfight' from WWII as a start point. Spitfires take on a Heinkel He111 bomber with a sort of Art Nouveau influence added to their styling. "THAT'S NOT STEAMPUNK!" I hear you cry, and you're right, it ain't and that was the problem... also that the Spitfires, even with Davinci style wings just asserted their character too heavily.
In my efforts to "Steampunk" this, I found a sort of definition of what it is... "The path not travelled." How would a future or a modern day look if something that had fallen by the wayside in our own world had become a dominant influence/force? It still wasn't really inspiring me, it has to be said...
I thought the problem was that I was lacking any human content, so I tried to add the perspective of one of the Spitfire pilots, albeit skewed with a weird hat design. This naturally led to an inset panel, which in turn led to me developing a whole 'comic strip' treatment for it. One that was based in part upon Roy Lichtenstein's 1963 piece: 'WHAAM!" its self inspired by a DC comic from 1962.
It's just not a single illustration for an art book though, is it? and also there's still that problem with the Spitfire hanging around... I was pretty happy with the Heinkel redesign but still felt the piece lacked something. If the main panel was to succeed, I'd need to feature some kind of narrative. I decided in the end to focus on the 'Future War' aspect of the submission. I thought about a War of the Worlds style flying tripod maybe mixed with a Matrix Sentinel thing... I designed straight out alien ships too, but it was still failing to give me a backstory in my head that I cared about. An unrelated factoid drifted into my brain regarding swarms of small creatures attacking large animals...
Making the seemingly more vulnerable side the winning one was much more interesting to me, almost instantly, in my head, I saw a bonkers looking soldier with rocket boots... air borne infantry! I doubt it is an original idea, but it was that concept that made it work for me. Suddenly, it all seemed to work, in my mind I had a backstory that interested me, there was human content in the illustration and I realised that the ship was vaguely Flash Gordon in influence too!
I'm happy with this and my other submission. I hope that both of them will feature in the book, but there are only 200 spaces and with submissions from some pretty big names in Sci-Fi illustration and comics already in, I'll count myself lucky if I'm included at all!