Develop your art on the canvas
Discover how one artist is able to bring their own style to an established comic series, as George Pratt explains how he paints a Fables cover
George Pratt paints the cover for the latest Fables.
for a long time now I’ve enjoyed the artists that Vertigo has used for the Fables comic covers. James Jean’s covers were spectacular and João Ruas is no slouch. I had heard that João had left the series and was surprised – and pleased – when Vertigo editor Shelly Bond decided I should create a cover for Fables issue 127. Mine would be the last of that particular story arc, with the other three
1 Sketch with photos
Before I send sketches I’ll work out ideas very simply, focusing more on gesture than actual drawing. Once I’m happy with a few of these I’ll go ahead and shoot reference to work from. I shoot digitally these days and work from black and white images. I’ve included two of the reference shots here with the blessings of the model, Onoh. My sketches are never very detailed and luckily the editors I’ve collaborated with trust my instincts enough to work with looser sketches. covers being supplied by John Van Fleet, Greg Ruth and Dan Dos Santos. Pretty good company!
Shelly forwarded me some notes by writer Bill Willingham, which gave me a clear sense of the story. They were originally looking for a Battle Royal scene with quite a few characters from the series. Not quite the type of image I produce, really. My images are more iconic, dealing with one or two
2 Taking the next step
I was hired to do this cover as I was leaving to go teach at the Illustration Academy, which I do every summer in Kansas City. We have life drawing two nights a week there and I was able to hire Onoh to pose for Rose Red. Turns out she’s a fan of the series, so she was excited to work with me on this. I spent a good deal of time playing with the light while shooting. Moving it about constantly looking for something that would solidify the silhouette and accentuate the forms nicely. It’s designing with the light – pushing shadows and trying to show more with less. characters. I felt the main thrust of the piece was the fight between Rose Red and Prince Brandish. I chose to focus entirely on Rose Red and the feeling that her battle is also an inner struggle.
I’m a traditional artist and decided to work the final in oils, although I blended in other media. Working with Shelly on this cover was a joy. Her insights were wonderful and she was pretty handsoff throughout the process.