Geeky Cover

Awesome Artwork

28 July, 2006

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Artist Colin Howard is probably best known to a certain generation of Red Dwarf fans as the man responsible for some of the Smegazine's best and most beautiful covers, as well as creating all kinds of genre artwork.

Well now he's back (from outer space, etc.). We've pulled Colin into the Red Dwarf fold once more to create the cover art for the Beat the Geek DVD.

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Colin: It was a one of those really nice 'outta the blue' moments. I'd recently got a website gallery up and running with a lot of my paintings on display. One day in May I received an email from Grant Naylor asking if I might be interested in the possibility of providing some artwork for this project.

Andrew: During a production meeting with Doug Naylor, we'd landed on the title Beat the Geek and were knocking around ideas for the cover art. Doug was keen that we make use of Dwarf's resident geek character, Duane Dibbley, to tie into the quiz's title and concept.

Meanwhile Helen and I were adamant that the cover showcase the two Hollys, seeing as they were the stars of the game. I had the glimmer of an idea and scrawled a doodle in my notepad, putting the two together in the most... symbolic way possible. Doug took one look and went "Yeah, like that."

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There was no way a concept like this could be created from existing pictures, not with the comic energy we needed. Colin had done a Smegazine cover of Kryten and a 'monster' called a GEAP - when I remembered that, and showed it at the meeting, we knew it was just the style we needed. Energetic, funny, epic, but also basically 'realistic'.

Colin: Andrew had sketched out this idea that Duane [Dibbley] was being hit on the head with a television set, steered by both Hollys. A photo mock-up had already been produced at a very rough stage, however it needed more humour injected in a way that photo manipulation just couldn't supply.

I had a look at the design and then started on a pencil [drawing]. I put Duane back in his traditional 'geek' livery and added a pose that showed the 'shock' of the impact. Initially I'd used reference [shots] of Hattie and Norman from an earlier season, but these were ditched in later versions as we updated the Hollys to their current looks as featured on the DVD.

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Andrew: While we knew some of the specifics of what we wanted - Holly and Holly looking as they appear in the quiz, Duane geeking it up - other things were really up in the air. We had no clue what the background was going to be, for example, and Colin was the one who figured that out. He came up with a spacescape that paid a little homage to the book jacket for Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers.

As soon as we saw that extra space around Duane, we realised that the planet surface, while good, could be made more specific to the show by placing him on top of the Red Dwarf ship. This really ties in with the game itself, which makes a pretty big deal of the fact that you're moving around the ship.

Colin: I added Starbug as the source of the plummeting TV, [and] the television was altered to 'Mel Bibby' it up a bit. I added a B-Movie style aerial on top as well as a trailing plug to add a little more humour to the piece. After approval from Doug it was then time to take the art to colour.

Andrew: We'd had to change the scale a little from the first version, to make the artwork function as a DVD cover - the characters had to be reduced to allow space for logos and captions. With all those elements locked, Colin was sent a rough mock-up of the layout. He didn't complain once about the pretty ugly 'colouring in' job we'd done to his pencil art!

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Colin: I [still] work in much the same way as I used to. I'll start with a blank sheet and pencil the rough idea down. Sometimes, as in this case, getting a reference photo in on another layer to work from/around. Then I'll create a new layer for the background and paint that in using the airbrush.

The television was a tricky thing to paint, particularly because of getting the colour choice right to tie all the elements together. Hints of green and yellow to link with the 'Bug, Dwarf and background. I'd also realised my pencil [drawing] was a little out of 'square' for the screen, so I altered that at this stage.

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Both Hollys were painted straight from reference [photos]. I had a nice screen grab [of Duane] from Polymorph II - Emohawk, it was just the right expression for what was needed.

This meant, however, that I really had to go all-out to get the completely invented pose/costume as good as possible due to the quality of the reference I was using. There are tons of little details on his Parker and cardie. [Plus] I thought it'd be nice to sign his Thermos and brand it 'Smeg'!

Andrew: It's a great piece of work, and so strange to see it progress from a notebook doodle. It's important that people get a look at the art close-up - the detail and photo-quality of Colin's picture is probably going to be missed when it's printed at DVD cover size. Which is a huge shame. Maybe there should be a poster...

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Colin: I'm really chuffed with the end result. I think my likeness' are among the best I've ever painted, and the whole thing being artwork should help the DVD really stand out on the shelves amongst all the other 'samey' covers that are around at the mo'.

Andrew: It finally came to me the other day what this reminds me of - it's like a computer game cover. Not the current crop of console games, which are usually trying hard to look like movies, but the old Amiga and PC games of the early-to-mid 90s. All artwork, no photos. That gives it a really likable, kind of 'retro' quality.

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Please note: The final image displayed here is still a GNP mock-up. The final Geek cover art will be posted in in the near future.

More DVD Details will follow soon...

Beat the Geek will be released in the Autumn/Winter of 2006.

Colin Howard's Website.

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