The Poison Diaries

I literally could not believe my luck when recently picked to do some illustrations for The Poison Diaries flash website.
Over the last few weeks I have worked with the Duchess of Northumberland, Zoƫ Watkins of FourteenFiftyFour and Chris Minett of 20:20 on what has become an all time favourite job.
Work continues on plant characters so keep checking the site for updates.

If you can get hold of a copy, I must also recommend the stunning original graphic novel by the Duchess, featuring outstanding illustrations by Disney animator/artist, Colin Stimpson.

Above is a detail of the very long image I created for the website's scrolling garden. Chris Minett requested all items to be isolated on their own layer, so rather than build the whole scene I rendered each element separately and combined them in Photoshop.

We grew up opposite a graveyard and contrary to popular opinion, I always found them very peaceful places. However, since moving to Edinburgh I noticed many of the older headstones used the skull and crossbones motif. I find their rather brutal message grimly fascinating, and as a consequence started sculpting this slab in Zbrush. Not long after, The Poison Diaries came along and the two seemed to go together, so it was used to create a mood shot before starting the project proper. The inscription, 'Mors Omnibus Nobis Venit' means 'Death Comes to us All,' which seems deliciously appropriate for the story of a murderer. Click images to enlarge.

The Mandrake Plant
I've recently been creating a series of plant characters for the Poison Diaries project which are planted in groups of 4 at the poison garden -
The first batch has been up for a while now so I thought I'd highlight some of my favourites as we go along, starting with the Mandrake.
Atropa Mandragora has a rich historical relationship with humans and was used for both good and bad. Medicinally, it has helped people sleep, soothed pain during operations, cooled skin complaints, calmed the mad and warded off demons. In the wrong doses Mandrake causes nausea, rapid palpitations and madness (quoted from The Poison Diares by the Duchess of Northumberland.)

The roots often split to resemble
human limbs and some believed new people
could literally be grown. When harvested, the mandrake was said to scream so loud it killed anyone nearby. The solution was to tie a pet dog to the plant. When the owner ran clear of the scream, the dog ran after its master pulling the plant up, therefore killing the dog instead. They don't farm like that anymore!

Most subjects require a few options at the concept stage but the mandrake was pretty much accepted at first attempt. We decided to change the shape of the scream for the final 3D image.
I like sketching concepts in ArtRage, usually on a canvas texture with a thinned oil brush, but there are so many other options in ArtRage it makes me giddy. Another nice touch is the ability to load, resize and rotate reference images which float over the canvas.
The sketch is then brought into acclaimed 3D package, Cinema 4D and 'traced over' with 3D geometry. The 3D model is textured then cameras and lights are set before the final shot is rendered.

Click on images to enlarge.