Graham Humphreys made a name for himself by painting the poster art for films like The Evil Dead and Basket Case. So who better to create the cover of the Zombie Flesh Eaters soundtrack. Here the English artist explains his thinking…
The Death Waltz Recording Company commissioned this artwork for its launch release of the Zombie Flesh Eaters Original Soundtrack. The film remains a firm fan favourite and features one of the most bizarre zombie moments ever filmed: a zombie shark attack.
My intention is to create an atmosphere through colour and texture – something fetid and uncomfortable. I want it to feel humid and rotten. There's almost a hint of the Spaghetti Western about the film, and the stylised sun is a nod to the films of Sergio Leone.
I begin the process by taking screen grabs from a DVD, to collate a library of reference and inspire the layouts. I enlarge my selected sketch via a printout on a couple of A3 sheets and trace it on to the watercolour paper. I'm now ready to bring the idea to life.
01. Prepare for colour
As with all my work, I begin with brushing water on to the surface. The gouache, although traditionally used for opacity, nevertheless provides a good, though basic, watercolour effect.
02. Set the focal points
Referring to the DVD screen grabs enables me to give form to my shapes, and I can now begin to make further decisions about the palette and focal points, using contrast and colour.
03. Bubble device
Notice how I use the bubbles from the diving figure to link the two scenarios. They float towards the sun and help create a strong visual spine. Finally, I add highlights to boost the contrast and dimension.
04. Setting sun
I convey flare and heat from the light source by warming the edges of the two heads.
05. Hint at detail
Although I intend the background zombies to be silhouetted, there's a suggestion of faces that's enough to offer the suggestion of detail.
06. Use of marks
Look closer and you'll see that my marks are building the suggestion of form and surfaces.
07. Goddam shark attack!!
My crude marks are intended to convey the sense rather than the literal image. I'm aiming to keep a fluid, shifting illusion – something that's more akin to life than photorealism.
I also use the original wash as part of the design and work within and alongside the random marks.
Words: Graham Humphreys
Graham Humphreys is an illustrator and graphic designer based in London, United Kingdom. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine issue 111.
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