Great article on artist Peter Jones

Toward the end of last year I posted a new image - "Explorers Of The New Frontiers" - that was inspired by a fantastic image by artist Peter Jones.

As a fab follow-up, scifi author John Guy Collick has a great article on Peter over at his blog - well worth reading!

Way Station

Way Station is an attempt to do 70's -ish space station image; now the interesting thing about that statement is that you don't actually see that many space stations in the art of that period. Look through the work of Foss, Hey, Elson, etc, etc and weirdly, space stations are strangely rare (especially given that they are a staple of the genre).

Way Station-thumb

Anyway, I had the image in my head - more Elson than Foss…. So off I went. In fact I was extremely lazy about things. The wheel part of the station I stole from my Tennhauser Gate image, so most of my effort went into the central section.

For some reason, I really struggled with the windows on this mage - I tried dozens of window textures: made from real, totally Photoshop, hybrid, different scales, colours…. You name it. However great they looked when I was making them, they didn't really work for this image. I remain deeply unhappy with the final effect.

I'm also unhappy with the visiting starship; this looks really interesting in any other image - but just looks like a butt plug here.

You have probably formed the impression that I'm unhappy with this image - and I am. It just isn't working for me at all. I have tried different lighting (it started off with lighting taking their colours from my background nebula image), angles, etc. Nothing has really brought the image alive for me.

So… Station textures are mostly Dosch. The windows are obviously mine the docking bay are Philip K. The starship textures are mine.

There were three lights for the scene (one backlighting, the sun and a fill for the shadows), plus an extra light in the docking bay.

Explorers Of The New Frontier

So… Full retro scifi mode here! I’m attempting full-on 1970’s - 80’s book cover, so including every trope I can:

• Futuristic spaceship/vehicle, centre stage - check!
• Yellow, orange or red sky - check!
• Lots of planets, one of which is a gas giant - check!
• Wispy atmosphere - check!

Explorers of the new frontier-thumb

The inspiration for this one is principally artist Peter Jones excellent cover for Heinlein’s ‘Orphans of the Sky’, but mixed with a big dose of Peter Elson (variously this one, this one, and this one)

The basis of the ship mesh comes from (I’m fairly certain) an unfinished project available on Kenny Mitchell’s (now defunct) website. I really liked the cockpit on that, but stripped away the wings and engines rebuilt the bottom, top and sides. 70’s, scifi was definitely about ducts and vents!

I added new wings (gull-wings, which I’m so proud of I will find another excuse to show this ship) and engines (which are from the ship I built here)

The alien language used in all the ship icons and logos is Marain, from Iain M Banks ‘Culture” books, care of the MarainScript font by Daniel Solis.

The ‘hexagon flower’ logo is a little tribute/nod to Peter Elson - he used it in this brilliant image.

Lighting was a Dosch HDR sky (I bought the pack over a decade ago and use them all the time, well worth the money). No 43 in the pack is a lovely golden cloud-filled sky, which provided a nicely tinted light for this image. I augmented the HDR with a fill light to create shadows at the angle I needed. The background I built in Photoshop, using a cloud stock image and planets I created years ago and have used many times in images you’ll see here in my gallery.

Texturing I kept very simple - the main texture is just a really pale grey in the colour channel with dirt in the diff layer. I did try a sort of Jonathan Ive look first - glossy and clean - but that did’t work.

My only niggle with this is image is the pilot(s) figure; my own astronauts aren’t ready - still rigging them - and so I dropped in a low-poly pilot figure by Christopher Schell. I really, really need to find time to sort the rigging on my figures!

Pulp Horror Magazine Cover PSD Template

A couple of years ago I released a Photoshop template for creating faux1930’s-style pulp sci-fi magazine covers (available in my Resources gallery here: ). At the time, someone asked if I would do a horror version, so quietly, and very sloowwwwly I have been chipping away at one on the background! So, finally, here it is; my Do-It-Yourself 1930’s Pulp Horror Magazine Cover Creator ☺ Download link on DeviantArt, see the ilnk below.


The point of the template is a simple means for you to create your own pulp horror covers in the style of the classic 1930-40’s pulp magazines. The template provides (editable) magazine titles, story headings and lots of hyperbole! I also include various style FX for adding dirt (like an old, used magazine) and colour layers to give your cover mood and atmosphere. There are also some villains, creatures and monsters - but really these are just to get you started, as are the backdrops.

Horror is not really my thing - I enjoy the old Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney movies, the Hammer horrors and so on, but I quit watching horror films with the rise of slasher movies in the 80’s. I don’t have a natural feel for this, therefore, so did plenty of research - this site was especially helpful: All the same, I found getting the ‘look and feel’ right quite difficult.

From my research, a couple of things…
• The pulp horror magazines were not as sophisticated in their design and layout as the pulp scifi magazines. If you’re going for accuracy, you will probably want to make a number of changes to the layout options my template.
• Few of the pulp horror magazines lasted more than a handful of editions
• We think of torture porn as a recent invention - don’t believe a word of it! These magazines are chock-full of torture porn stories. In fact, I willing to bet that much of Hostel was lifted from these magazines.
• …and what is with with bad guys wearing cowls?

There is lots more information, as well as a download link, here on DeviantArt

Starship - in the style of Peter Elson

Another image ‘in the style of…’ and another Peter Elson… If you took a look at his site and the images I linked to for ‘Science Vessel’, you won’t have any trouble recognising the inspiration for this one.

Images drawn looking toward the back of spaceships are common in Elson’s work, but you’ll see clear inspiration for my image here, Galactic Cluster here, Sunburst and here The Best of Isaac Asimov 1954 - 1972
Multi-Engined Frigate-rear view-thumb

The ship used here you have seen before - it’s the ship in The Tannhauser Gate I have made a few mods - but not many - and retextured a la Elson ☺ The fins that I added to the back are a sort of tribute/reference to the Anime film of EE ‘doc’ Smith’s ‘Lensmen’. The ships in the shuttle bay are from this image and the engines I have used before too - here . The engine exhaust trails are created with light objects. The principle textures are available in my Resources gallery here on DeviantArt :Generic - Hull Plate 3 (used with a blocky plates texture in the diff channel) and Red Worn Metal Plate Texture.

I did a version of this image with the ship coming toward the camera, but it looked so much like a screen grab from ‘Homeworld’ that I felt I couldn’t use it.

Created, textured and rendered in C4D as usual - I do love that software! The lighting is a bit of a cheat; given the apparent light source, the ship was pretty much a silhouette, so there is another (warm, weak) light source behind the camera for some infill.

Post-production in Photoshop as usual, too; principally colour adjustment, adding blume and sharpening. I also (surprise!) exaggerated the glow over the engines.

I’m tempted to one now in the style of another artist who did some great covers in the same time period, including images in the Terran Trade Authority books - Colin Hay Though, it will need a lot of texture development!

Chris Foss Style Starship

I actually found myself with 5-6 hours time - enough for a quick render… The first time I have been able to create an image since October 2014!

It certainly wasn’t enough time to do any modelling, so I looked in my unfinished projects folder and found an old tutorial I did in 2007 - you can see here at this blog entry.

The ship is based on a tutorial by Adam Benton, creating a Chris Foss-style spaceship with some basic box-modelling and C4D’s hypernurbs.

I created a new background in Photoshop - I wanted colour in the traditional Chris Foss style. The ship textures were mostly mine; the hull texture is from my “riveted hull textures” you can find in my Deviantart resources.

Hypernurbs generally create some issues when texturing, though you can reduce these by clicking on the hybernurbs object and selecting ‘Current State To object’. This creates a new object with the shape of the hypernurbs object, but which behaves like a normal, editable object. I would normally clean up the mesh at this point, but didn’t have time - perhaps for a V2 at some point.

chris foss style ship-thumb

Anyway, some quick texturing, render and away.

Post-render touch-ups were in Photoshop.

The mesh defiantly could have done with a clean-up - but I think the image captures the spirit of Chris Foss! Happy

Cargo Vessel Design

I’ve had a little bit more time recently, so went back to a book cover project I was approached to do by an author to do at the beginning of this year.

The author approached me because he had seen this image, the ship design being similar to a ship he imagined in his latest book. We swapped several emails, but I eventually turned down the project for several reasons, not least that I wouldn’t have been able to get to it until April at the earliest.

I recently came across the emails again and they contained a basic illustration of the protagonists ship, as well paragraph’s from the book describing the ship. For the hell of it, I decided to have a crack at the ship. The key thing about the ship (and why the author liked my other illustration) is that the ship is a cargo vessel, with an external/visible bay that holds 3 containers.

Looking at the authors basic sketch again, it reminded me of something and so I dived into my folder of images of designs I like - as I looked through them I came across this. I knew that was basically the overall shape I wanted - more of a wedge than the authors sketch. The other thing on my mind was Gerry Anderson; I knew I couldn’t do a cargo vessel with an exterior container bay without referencing his work. The man that brought us Thunderbird 2 and the Space 1999 Eagle just had to be honoured in this somewhere. I was wandering through the Space 1999 catacombs when I saw a reference to this and this ...

Chris Foss AND an Eagle. That was it!

The key elements of design specified by the author were the location of the ships main windows, tractor beam device, cargo pods/containers, internal hold and access door, as well as main engines. My design honours these whilst stealing liberally taking inspiration from the Homeworld ship design, Foss’s early Eagle design and the Eagle design we know and love.

However, hopefully the result is something original!
cargo lifter thumb

I worked out the ship’s dimensions as carefully as possible to accommodate the internal layout as specified by the author - the one change I have made (had to) is to push a chunk of the main engines outside the hull at the rear.

I am pretty please with the cabin/cockpit area, as it melds the authors original sketches, the Homeworld ship and Chris Foss’s illustration together in a workable design. From the side you can see the Eagle-shaped window design. Again, with the Eagle in mind, the cockpit interior is largely a cream-beige colour scheme.

You can see further Eagle touches with the Airlock door, the red/white chevron around the FCS thrusters and landing thrusters (recalling the command module red/white livery) and the tubular framework in the cargo bay itself.

To save time, I re-used landing legs, engines, RCS thrusters, lights and comms array meshes that I had built for other projects. The cargo containers are by Dex and the landing bay is by Axeman3d, modded and retextured by me.

The other textures are from all over: the landing bay textures are mostly Dosch, the ship textures are mostly mine - many available here in Resources Gallery. The cargo container textures are Dex and Total Textures.

Sorry about the gratuitous use of flare; I have recently watched both the awful JJ-Treks and not yet fully recovered.

Chris Foss Inspired Image

Found some more time for a quickie render… This time, I chose as my inspiration this image from Chris Foss. My intention wasn’t to reproduce the image, but to try and catch the spirit of the image…

In to the Nebula-final

As I’m still pretty busy with other work at the moment I saved time by using a free model as the basis of the floating city (by Avalon3d and available here). I modified this by building cylindrical towers for top and bottom, removing a lot of detail from the edges, adding a comms system and, finally, greebling the crap out of the upper hull plates (using the Greebler plugin).

Foss’s original image has several delta-winged ships of varying design which I melded into a single ship as I wanted a simpler overall image.

The main hull texture for the floating city is from the Dosch Scifi textures collection. All other textures on the floating city, including the windows, are mine. The main hull texture for the delta-winged ship is from the Marlin Studios scifi collection. The decals/markings and windows are, again, mine.

As ever, the image was modelled and rendered in Cinema 4D with Photoshop post-work.

Latest work: Helium 3 Transport

This image can truly be said to have had a gestation period of around 35 years… When I first came across Chris Foss’s cover for Asimov’s Early Years I became fascinated by the odd ship in the background. Then the Foss cover for Voyage of the Space Beagle reinforced this obsession with asymmetrical designs.

So recently I decided to have a go at creating a ship along these lines… My first mistake was brute forcing the design - not working it out ahead to time. I usually work this way (brute force), but this time around I found myself constantly fighting against the objective of creating an asymmetrical design. My brain’s normal desire for symmetry won out.

There are also some scifi visuals that you can’t win against; I experimented with tubular engines but it always looked like something from the Trek universe. Also, blocky engines on supporting struts in a symmetrical design makes any ship look like it’s from Starship Troopers - mine looked like an anorexic ‘Roger Young’ for ages. Anyway, I kept at it; the result isn’t remotely Chris Foss-like - from the front, in fact, it now looks like it could be from a Gerry Anderson production!

Helium 3 Transport-1024x768

Other elements of my design were driven by a preoccupation with Freighters and Transports… No idea why. So, I gave it slide-loading doors for freight and rear-access doors for people/robot crew/passengers. The ungainly sensor strut towards the front of the ship is straight out of Peter Elson’s style.

Textures are mostly mine, though there are a few by Philip K, AsileFX, and Total Texture SciFi pack. The main hull textures you can find in my
DeviantArt Resources collection.

The engine glow was created partly in C4D - using textures in the Luminosity channel - and in Photoshop

1930s Pulp Scifi Magazine Cover PSD Template

If you check out my gallery here or on DeviantArt regularly, you know that I have been having a little fun with some faux 1930’s-style pulp sci-fi magazine covers. Having done quite a few of these, I realized I had ended-up with quite a set of resources in Photoshop - ideal for a template.

So, I’ve done just that - pulled the resources together to create my Do-It-Yourself 1930’s Pulp Scifi Magazine Cover Creator. You can get it over in my DeviantArt Resources Gallery


More Pulp Scifi Covers!

Having started developing my own pulp covers, I can’t stop! Here is the latest… Laugh

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New Images & Gallery Updates - Sept 2012

I have been working on a few new book cover designs over the last month or so - both featuring spacecraft that I designed some time ago.

The first features my freighter; I built this model just over a year ago, the design is inspired by various craft from Gerry Anderson series - including Thunderbird 2, the moon shuttle (and its mother craft) from UFO and the superb Eagle from Space 1999. The Sikorsky Sky Crane was also an influence. The distinctive blue-and-white striped pain job is a direct steal from Chris Foss’s excellent cover from ‘The Early Asimov, Vol 1’.

Asteroid Mining - Special Delivery-thumb

The second image features the flyer that previously made a guest appearance in my September 2011 free wallpaper ‘preparing For Take Off’. In this new image you can see it’s slightly bizarre design much more clearly... The design of the flyer comes from two main sources; firstly, the space pod from series 3 of the 1960’s TV show ‘Lost In Space’ and secondly this piece of concept art for Homeworld.

Low Orbit Thumb

I have added both of these book cover designs as faux covers to the Spacecraft gallery - so please take a look. Happy

Do let me know - via Facebook - what you think!

Spacewreck 6: The Shuttle 'Britannia' released

Spacewreck 5 - mountain

OMG! Now it’s 3 images in a month! You can tell its Christmas vacation time! Also, this is my second post for an image created in Carrara; Bryce is definitely taking a back-seat!

As you can see, I’m well-and-truly back to Spacewrecks, and also I have been thinking about book covers - particularly the small size of the image, the amount of detail that is necessary and so on. I produced and rendered the image in Carrara, some mesh manipulation in Hexagon, and as ever image colour correction was done in Photoshop CS1. I’m really happy with the way this one turned out - colours are good, ship turned out well... I think the image looks very convincing.

Only disappointment is the amount of detail I put inside the shipwreck: only the engines are visible...

As with the previous images, there is a little story for context: “By the beginning of the 21st Century, it was already known that the majority of extrasolar planets were gas giants, like Jupiter and Saturn. It was also known that many of these gas giants were even larger than Jupiter and Saturn many times so. Our solar systems own gas giants have many moons because their enormous mass gives them a huge gravitational attraction, enabling them to easily capture passing objects. This holds true for the gas giants elsewhere in the galaxy too. Additionally, because of their size, and because some of them orbit closer to their star, some of these gas giants have moons that are really terrestrial planets like Mars and Earth.

The problem as discovered by early waves of settlers is gravity... When you have the enormous gravitational influence of a super-sized gas giant, plus the gravitational interaction of many other moons, it makes for a very unstable environment. All of the earth-like moons so far discovered have such unpredictable meteorology and violent tectonic activity that they have been classified as unsafe for settlement. The survey shuttle Britannia was lost surveying one such earth-like moon around the gas giant HD 62509 b, which orbits the star Beta Geminorum (Pollux). A sudden electrical storm caused a complete white out and knocked out the ships sensors, causing it to come down in a near-by mountain range.”

Rendered in Carrara, colour correction was done in Photoshop.

Spacewreck 5: Discovery at Lagrange point released


Long time between posts... Real-life keeps getting in the way! Also, learning to use Carrara... This is my first post for an image created in Carrara; interesting ride, moving over from Bryce. I went back to Spacewrecks, and also I have been thinking about book covers - particularly the small size of the image, the amount of detail that is necessary and so on. I produced and rendered the image in Carrara, some model manipulations in Hexagon, and as ever image colour correction was done in Photoshop CS1.

I’m really happy with the way this one turned out - colours are good, ship turned out well... Only the little moon is unconvincing - tried all sorts too... Larger, smaller, closer, further away - but it didn’t help. However, I felt the image need a planet there to balance the picture. The background for the image is a skydome - a sphere mapped with an image (or in this case, images) - the Sky dome Starfield was created in Flaming Pears Glitterato, and the Sky dome Nebula image by Magma, available at Devientart. Spacewreck textures by Magma, also at Devientart.

As with the previous images, there is a little story for context: “During the second wave of mans colonisation of the stars, proof that life existed, or had existed elsewhere in the universe was finally incontrovertible. In a small planetary system 10 light years from the Doradus nebula, advance scout ships of the colony ship Endurance discovered a derelict, drifting at the systems Lagrange point Unfortunately, the evidence also indicated that the ship was also incredibly ancient; in fact, when this ship had sailed the stars, dinosaurs still ruled the earth.”

Spacewreck 3 - The Mayflower released


I am a long-time fan of the work of Chris Foss (I used to stand in WH Smiths as a young teen staring at his book cover art for hours...). Recently, I decided to produce a piece influenced by one of his book covers, but as part of the Spacewreck series. Fans of Chris Foss will recognise that this image is a homage to Chris,s work for E E Doc Smith’s ‘Grey Lensman’ book cover during the 1970’s.I’m really pleased with the results this time... I agonised over the shade of the hull, the amount of ‘rot’, as well as the lighting - producing hundreds of images in the process... Think that the final image is just about right, though.

As with the previous images, there is a little story for context: “The workhorse of mans colonisation of the stars was the ‘Behemoth’ Utility and Colonist Transport Craft. These were essentially the 22nd Century equivalent of container ships used in late 20th Century industrial age. Behemoth’s were half a million tonnes of hyperspace engine and storage area, transporting thousands of colonists at a time along with everything they needed to establish their home on the new planet.

Here we see the Starship Mayflower in orbit around a colonised planet some 41 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cancer, around the star 55 Cancri, a binary star system. Like most Behemoth-class starships, the Mayflower was stripped of any useful components once the colonists had established themselves on the planet. Since then it has been left to its fate in high orbit, being peppered by small meteorites, reduced to scrap piece by tiny piece.”

Ship rendered in Bryce, background and overall image colour correction in Photoshop.

Pulp Scifi Covers For March

So, here’s another faux pulp scifi magazine cover… I’m accidentally creating a Photoshop template for creating these, which I think I’ll post soon over on my DeviantArt page. I’ll let you know when I do. These are just so much fun do to. Happy

Nemean-web Science Mar2013-1024x768

Pulp Scifi Covers And Guilty Pleasures!

One of my guilty little pleasures is spending far too much time playing with Bradley W. Schenck’s brilliant ‘Pulp-O-Mizer’ on his site Thrilling Tales.

The Pulp-O-Mizer allows you to build your own faux 1930’s pulp scifi covers… The only problem - for me - is that you can’t use your own content or save them… So, I’ve started to make my own!

Here is the first...

Nemean-web Saucersjan2013-1024x768