Joe Golem #1 start to finish

-By David Palumbo

Here is a quick step-by-step on a typical job for me, from thumbs to finish:

The first thing I do is thumbnail.  Depending on the assignment this can be anywhere from two to 12 pages like these above.  I'm in a loose frame of mind thinking entirely about shape and message.  This particular cover was to be the first in a series and the publisher (Dark Horse Comics) wanted to have a pulpy sort of vibe.  In the story, our hero is a hard boiled detective type who faces off against a big green skinned monster in a version of Earth where mid-20th century Manhattan is half underwater.  I keyed in mostly on the sinking city and the detective being stalked by the monster.

These three sketches were done 4x6 inches each in oil, choosing what I felt were the most promising roughs and developing them.  These were all aided by some form of photo referencing.  I sent this batch in and received notes to push the pulp further, as well as stick a snub nose in Joe's hand and a fedora on his head...

The editor liked this one and gave me the green light to move to finish.

My reference had already been shot during the sketch process, so I was able to dive straight into painting.  I printed up my ref and my sketch at the size I would be working to help keep the arrangement accurate as I redrew it onto the full sized panel.  I believe that I projected this as well when scaling up, though I may have just hand measured and eyeballed.  I tend to switch that up depending how I'm feeling.

With the underpainting dry, I washed in some thin colors and set straight into defining the focal areas

I'm bouncing back and forth a bit between figure and background, letting one inform where the other needs to go

With the piece finished, I did a bit of cleanup and color correcting in Lightroom and Photoshop and sent it in.  My editor asked if we could kick the saturation up a bit further so I did some more color tweaking, pumped up the green on the hands, and increased the lantern glow.

And here is the finished piece!