What The Whales Saw


This has turned out to be one of my most popular images. I sell it on a regular basis from Redbubble and Society6, which is very cool. I thought I’d use this post to explain a little bit on how I came to create this image.

It really started off as an experiment at an underwater scene. The software that I like to use, Mojoworld, doesn’t do underwater images. You can create scenes with water, and make that water transparent (with full reflection AND refraction) but you can’t position the render camera under the water directly. So I had to try and find a way to fake an underwater scene.

The first step was to try and replicate the atmosphere of an underwater scene. I experimented with different densities to create a dreamy watery look. Once I got a density I was happy with, I then experimented with different colours. Eventually I settled on the above colour. The main problem is I couldn’t replicate the bits and pieces floating around in water that you might normally expect – so this ocean is a very clean one!

Once I’d gotten the atmosphere close enough, I then set about posing the models. I moved the Cthulhu model far back in the scene. I wanted to deliberately try and put the emphasis on the foreground whales, with Cthulhu appearing more mysterious. I’m guilty of over-using Cthulhu in a lot of scenes so I wanted to move away from that traditional scene of the old chap himself directly in view.

The whales are more to provide a sense of scale, but I really liked how they are central to the image. Luckily the render engine created their shadows which was very fortunate!

With all the models posed I rendered out the full scene but it still wasn’t quite realistic (yeah, right, because a massive Elder God is realistic!). I took the picture into Photoshop and experimented with the light rays coming down. If you look carefully there are also some caustics on the floor but I was more interested in the light play so that’s what I focused on.

So there you have it. It took quite a long time to get this picture right so I’m happy that other people also seem to like it. Let me know what you think in the comments below, always love hearing what you have to say 🙂



How I Approach Commissions


This image was created for the fantastic Occult Detective Quarterly magazine. I was asked by one of the founders if I would like to contribute so I jumped at the chance. He forwarded on a story to me and basically gave me free reign, which was brilliant. I’m sometimes asked to do commissions but with only a brief outline of the story – which is very hard to do, as I’ll explain below.

Firstly, I read the story quickly. As I mentioned before, without the story to read I don’t find it easy to produce images. By being able to read the story I can get a feel for the story –  to try and understand the genre. Was it pulpy, prose-y, gore-y and so on.

Secondly, I read the story again but much slower. This time round, I wanted to try and get a feel for where images sprung to mind. As I was reading it, a few key parts of the story stuck out to me and so I focused on those.

Thirdly, once I had some ideas in my head from the story it was time to try and see if I could replicate what was in my head into reality. As I work digitally using 3D pose-able models I am sometimes limited to what models are out there. However, it also allows me to work within certain parameters quickly and, using the relevant software, easily.

After a few drafts, I focused my attention on what eventually became the above image. I posed the character to be sat in meditation, and posed the exact same character behind him to look like he was floating in an out of body experience. I had to learn how to shade the character to appear ghost like, but with a few tweaks I got the look I wanted.

As Rob Ross was keen on saying, happy accidents should be embraced. When I posed the character I didn’t originally intend the light source to be directly behind his head but the resulting effect was very cool so I went with that. The only problem was the light source didn’t light up his face. Hence the lamp in the center of the image. The dead crows added a slight folk-horror twinge, something that I personally enjoy.

Once it was all done and dusted, I rendered it out full size using Daz3d’s IRay render engine. I probably should have rendered a test render to see what the editor thought, but I got carried away. After a few small tweaks in Photoshop to bring out the sunset/eclipse effect (and produce a black and white version) I sent it to the editor to see what they thought. I’ve done commissions before and there tends to be a lot of tweaks needed before the editor is happy. Luckily, this was a first as the editor loved it straight away and ran with it. I’m keen to say this image is now included in the Occult Detective Quarterly magazine, and I believe the full colour version is included for some lucky people.

The Well

The Well

This is one of my favourite pictures. It’s heavily inspired by the works of Aron Wiesenfeld, who creates amazingly bleak but beautiful oil paintings. His work often leaves me wondering about what is around the corner.

As a render, I was very pleased with the results. I have a habit of over lighting scenes so with this scene I deliberately kept the lighting to a minimum. I’ve since discovered that this type of lighting (if I was a real painter) is called Chiaroscuro – a strong contrast between light and dark. The intention was to try and draw the focus to the well, but also to not have anything obvious coming out of the well. Another bad habit I have is to add tentacles to everything and anything so on this one I kept it all out. I guess it was my attempt to replicate that sense of mystery that Mr. Wiesenfeld achieves so effortlessly.

The picture features two recurring characters I like to put into my renders. The girl is called Lenore, and the little alien thing has been dubbed Albert. His real name is Loik, by the fantastic modeler Nursoda.

The Pillar

06 - The Pillar

This image started off as a bit of a test of a new 3d model – the central pillar. It was looking good: creepy, moody and a bit odd but was missing some sense of perspective. I added the birds but again it needed something more. So, that’s where the boat comes in. Quite why a boat would be going towards such a thing is beyond me, but it provides a great sense of scale. It also adheres (to an extent) to that golden rule of thirds.

After the final render was complete, I brought it into Photoshop. Here I was able to add a few mist layers to increase the depth of the image. I also added the waves of the boat, using a free transparent image and Photoshop’s transformation tool.

The final image was eventually picked up by a leading RPG book company based in Wales, sold for an undisclosed figure. Needless to say, I’m more than happy with the results from something that started off as a test!