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Hughes on Artwork

The Leela Special

By Alistair Hughes

InVision is a fanzine, published by 'Super Fan' and author Jeremy Bentham. It covers Tom Baker's period as the Doctor, each issue dealing with a certain story, with the occasional 'special' which examines a certain character or aspect of Doctor Who.

My first contact with InVision was a conversation with Jeremy Bentham at last year's Glasgow Doctor Who convention. Not wanting to let a chance go by, I took the opportunity to show him some of the illustrations which I had produced for TSV. He appeared interested, gave me his card and asked me to 'keep in touch'.

Working in a remote Highland Castle and then a lengthy trip around Europe occupied me for several months after this, however, and it was only when Rose and I returned to settle in Glasgow that I dug Jeremy's card out of my wallet and decided to write and follow his offer up.

I was surprised to receive a reply within a few days. Not only did he remember me, but asked me to think along the lines of some illustration ideas for an upcoming InVision 'Leela Special' and the following Key to Time Season. Greatly encouraged, I responded as quickly as possible and sent off some small colour sketches for the Special, The Stones of Blood, The Power of Kroll and The Armageddon Factor. Being ambitious by nature, I designed these roughs as cover illustrations, complete with the InVision logo and title, hoping these might influence him.

Jeremy advised me that my roughs had safely arrived, a few days later, and not to worry if I didn't hear anything further for a while. He and the Editors apparently needed meetings and discussions before any further decisions were made.

A couple of weeks later, a major Doctor Who convention called 'Manopticon' took place in the city of Manchester, and this is where I next met Jeremy Bentham. Abandoning his wife to hold the InVision counter on her own, we borrowed a reserved table elsewhere in the hotel, and he outlined the criteria that the Key to Time covers were to fill. Jeremy also asked me to submit a more finished rough of my Leela design. He and the InVision editors were pleased with my idea, but felt that some extra reassurance of my illustrating ability was needed. I thought this was fair enough, being, in his words, an 'untried force'. Our conversation also ranged over Doctor Who in general, and his huge enthusiasm for all things Who became very apparent. This, combined with Jeremy's very friendly and easygoing nature makes him the ideal 'ambassador' for Doctor Who fandom.

Back to Glasgow, and an A4 black and white visual is quickly completed and dispatched. A great deal of effort is spent on this, as I'm well aware that my first commission depends very heavily upon it. A week later I received a final letter from Jeremy which began: "OK lad, go for it..."

The Artwork

Of the TSV illustrations which I showed to Jeremy Bentham, the one which impressed him the most was the issue 15 cover based on The Mind of Evil. I decided to base the Leela cover on this idea, with the faces of various monstrous foes swirling around the lady herself. I decided to capitalise on the fact that most of these foes were either helmeted, or caricatures of human features, and so the original line-up consisted of (clockwise) a Seer (hooded) from Underworld, Commander Stor, a Voc Robot, the Fendahl Core (Thea Ransome), and Magnus Greel.

The Seer eventually disappeared when the InVision editor, Justin Richards, requested that I replace him with Aldred. "She did marry the guy, after all," he wrote. This was a change which I felt improved the design, but I lacked any good reference material of the 'Gallifreyan Wimp', so elected to depict a Chancellery Captain, rather than Andred specifically. A silhouetted profile of Tom Baker appears at the top of the illustration (who else could that nose belong to?) with his scarf forming an encircling frame for the composition.

I tried to make Leela, in a typical 'huntress pose' as anatomically correct as possible. In continuing tradition, her left arm actually belongs to my wife, Rose - once again stepping in to model for me. I'm less happy with the facial likeness, however. Louise Jameson isn't the easiest person to draw, but at least there's really no mistaking who it is.

I used a very different technique for my first colour illustration: 'soft pastels' or chalk. My personal mission in life is to do anything an airbrush can do, without using an airbrush. Annoyance at art directors who can't see past these 'paint-spitters' has caused me to take this attitude. Consequently, I'm led to use various unusual techniques. Because chalk is difficult to control, I produced the illustration on a very large scale: almost A2 size (594mm X 420mm) which is then, of course, reduced to a quarter that size for the InVision cover.

I took great care in balancing the hues and tones in the colours of this illustration, keeping them warm and earthy (which I felt was appropriate for Leela), and complimenting a hopefully interesting composition.

Thank you, TSV, without whom I couldn't have produced the work which led to my first commercial cover illustration!

[Image 1] [Image 2] [Image 3] [Image 4]

1. My original black and white sketch.
2. The colour 'thumbnail sketch' which I submitted to InVision.
3. The more highly finished A4 black and white rough requested by InVision, which eventually got me the commission.
4. The final cover, complete with Andred.

This item appeared in TSV 24 (August 1991).

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