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Hughes on Artwork

By Alistair Hughes

Something which illustrators or writers (and a host of other 'creative people') must sometimes regret (or perhaps it is a blessing?) is the opportunity to actually be present when their work is viewed and be able to describe the initial ideas and inspirations behind the finished article.

Whenever I do get this opportunity, I'm always interested to find how knowledge of the concepts behind an illustration that I've done can alter someone's perception of it. The viewer either appreciates elements not immediately obvious in the artwork, or argues violently with me over what I'm trying to depict (when I've finally stopped rambling, that is). Either way, it's usually an interesting interchange of ideas.

So, for these reasons, I'm going to take this opportunity to describe some of the artwork which I've submitted to TSV over the past year (in terms of the ideas involved and various techniques used) and hope like mad that this doesn't sound like a huge ego trip.

The first illustration I submitted was actually the pencil sketch of Patrick Troughton shaking hands with Jon Pertwee which appeared on page 27 of TSV 12. However, I sketched this when I was 14 years old (and certainly looks it!) so I'll skip over this product of my misbegotten youth and turn to the back of that same issue (and the back of 13 and 15) for a look at the 'Pertwee Montage'.

This was intended as a visual summary of the Third Doctor's career - in my humble opinion the Golden years of Doctor Who. The Pertwee era was full of action and fascinating alien creatures, but I decided to concentrate instead on human (and Time Lord) characters, and their relationships with the Doctor. I felt trying to obtain a good likeness of the Doctor, Brigadier or Jo would be more of a challenge than drawing Linx or the orange plastic bag from Claws of Axos.

So the sequence begins at the top right of the illustration with the Third Doctor tumbling out of the TARDIS at the opening of Spearhead from Space and then then 'zig-zags' chronologically through the various companions, a certain enemy and characteristic situations to end with the 'Great One' and the Metebelis 3 crystal from Planet of the Spiders.

Although one of my great aims was to avoid monsters, I included the Great One because spiders - oops, sorry 'Eight Legs' have such interesting, evocative shapes.

I was very careful in choosing my reference material for this particular illustration, wanting to use situations and poses typical to particular characters, while also avoiding copying over-used publicity photographs. This meant that I sometimes had to make up scenes from mixtures of different pictures (the Doctor and Jo studying the TARDIS console is a prime example of this).

The technique used for the 'Pertwee Montage' is scraperboard, which involves coating china clay-skimmed board with a layer of black Indian ink. When this has dried, the actual illustration is then scratched onto the ink with various types of styluses, exposing the white board beneath. Scraperboard is regarded as a 'dead technique' by many illustrators, because of the amount of time required makes it financially nonviable (and there's a constant threat of repetitive strain injury). I found it absorbing, however, but as much as I enjoyed working on it and driving my wife mad with four weeks scratching sounds, I have to admit that the result probably isn't too well suited to TSV because of the over-abundance of black. C'est la vie - we live and learn.

I'd like, sometime in the future, to do a similar type of illustration for each of the Doctors - beginning with Tom Baker or perhaps Peter Davison, but I'll use less black this time!

[Thumbnail]

1) This tiny 'thumbnail sketch' (actual size) served as a starting point for the illustration, giving me a vague, visual impression of my idea. As you can see, practically all of the elements (characters, situations, etc...) are present which remain in barely altered positions right through the process to the final illustration.

[Sketch 1]

2) This larger and more detailed sketch then followed, and served as a blueprint for the final two stages. Refining and enlarging my initial thumbnail sketch to full size (A4) enabled me to organize the desired sizes of each character and the scene in relation to the others. For example: I wanted the Brigadier's and the Master's faces to be the same scale, while I felt that the scene at the bottom featuring the Doctor, Sarah and the Aggedor statue, should be relatively small.

[Sketch 2]

3) The final sketch contains all the detail required for the finished illustration. The central picture of Jon Pertwee has been built up with a grid-like structure of straight lines to ensure that the basic proportions are correct, with tonal shading to be added at the final stage. The sketch is then transferred to the scraperboard by coating its reverse side with the white chalk and then retracing the picture over the top of the board ( in a manner similar to a carbon-paper copy).

[Final result]

4) Four weeks of scraping later, the illustration as it appeared in Time/Space Visualiser Issues 13 and 15.

This item appeared in TSV 18 (May 1990).

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