In my Christmas editorial I promised that I'd showcase some of my undead-related artwork on my blog. In 1995 I was contacted by Valentina Nightingale to illustrate a short anthology of vampire stories she had wrote. This was a dream come true for me as I was heavily into vampires at the time. This was the period that my Vampire: the Masquerade rpg campaign was at its height and I was actively involved in the Camarilla fan club for the game. Valentina sent me the five stories that would appear in the book and gave me free reign to illustrate them as I saw fit, with the brief being one full page illustration per story. So I present to you the five illustrations in the order that they appear in the book, which was called Darkling, I Listen.
"The city at night is a wonderful place to be when one is looking for something to warm the soul..."
Andreas loves the night-life of Phidean's Drift - what vampire wouldn't? When he meets an old friend, he learns the story of the Kite-Flyer, an enigmatic young man, who is ridiculed for his beliefs and desires. Desires that only Andreas can help fulfil...
In my illustration, Andreas is the guy in the leather jacket. The dude in the cape is the Kite-Flyer, a young Goth who wants to be a vampire but most of all, wants to fly. His attempts at becoming a vampire end in failure and his attempt to fly ends when gravity teaches him a harsh lesson after he jumps off a tall building. A bunch of rubbish bags break his fall but he still smashes all his limbs and his mind becomes that of a 10-year old boy. I chose to show Andreas granting the Kite-Flyer his ultimate wish - to fly. This is my least favourite illustration for the book, not because I think it's bad - simply because I think the others are better!
"It was the first on November, in the year nineteen hundred and sixty-seven when Nathan Lee Wallace first saw her..."
A white haired lady haunts the graveyard where Nathan's father is buried; though she is not strictly human, she knows more about the virtues of human love than any mortal. Only Nathan knows who the true vampire in his life is - and it's not the woman who waits patiently by his father's grave...
This was the illustration that I most enjoyed drawing for the book. Less than a mile from where I live is High Usworth Church. I spent some time during the summer of 1995 sitting in the church's graveyard sketching the scenery to ensure it looked right. The weather was perfect and I was on an emotional high throughout that summer as I worked on the illustrations. Ah, happy memories! I'm also very pleased with how the little boy, Nathan, and the white-haired lady have come out. I'm immensely proud of this illustration and it is without doubt, my favourite in the book.
"Lights: like little flames swimming in a pool of darkness..."
In a deserted church on Angel Street, a hundred candles burn. It's Hallowe'en and the city is alive with lights; at a costume ball, no-one knows the real nature of those whose identities are hidden by masks. Loneliness, madness, and love; angels and devils... there is more than one person out tonight who has something to hide...
This beautiful woman is Oriana, whose name means "the girl with the white skin." She is the heroine of the story and she attends the Masquerade ball dressed as Salome in her seven veils. More than anything else, I love drawing beautiful women, so this was a project that was right up my street. I'd love to say that I had a live model pose for me for this illustration but Oriana is a combination of photographic reference and imagination. I'd nominate this as my second favourite illustration for the book.
"Lisle is a vampire. She lives in a flat above a bookshop and plays games with dice and human lives. Lisle dresses in dead girls' clothes, and dances all alone..."
When the pain of living becomes too much to bear, death can sometimes seem like a blessed relief from mortal memories, but Lisle knows this isn't always true. Lisle knows that fate is as unpredictable as the throw of a dice...
Here we have a vampire who choses her victims purely randomly by throwing a ten-sided die to generate a phone number. If the victim answers her call and gives their name, she looks it up in a telephone directory and pays them a visit later that night. I suppose if anything was to date this illustration (other than me dating it by my signature) is the cover of the British Telecom phone directories. They look a lot different then to what they do now. The walls of her apartment are covered in pages from her favourite vampire novels and in a bit of continuity with The Kite-Flyer, she also lives in Phidian's Drift.
"Picture this: the year is 850 AD, it is night..."
Jake Ingrams is a Paranormal Investigator: he makes a living from solving mysteries, but even he has never come across anything like the Moon-Calf before. A house full of secrets, and the dark memory of sacrifice; a plea for help from a stranger and a fearful memory from his own past... all these things Jake will have to face, if he is to succeed at putting the stranger's mind - and his own - at rest...
This is the longest story in the book and I chose a scene from chapter two to illustrate, where young Jake is taken by his parents on a visit to Raincliffe Hall. There he sees a mysterious face in a window but when his mother notes that the weather is taking a turn for the worse, Jake looks away for just a second. When he looks back at the window the face has gone but he is left with a feeling of dread. My brother is an architect and I have a keen interest in the subject myself, so it was an easy task to come up with a design for Raincliffe Hall. This is my third favourite illustration for the book.
DARKLING, I LISTEN
This is the illustration that I drew for the front cover of the book, but it wasn't used. It did not bother me that it got turned down as I wasn't 100% happy with how it turned out. It's not as good as any of the interior illustrations, in my mind.
For each illustration, I worked out the design in pencil. This usually took a few attempts to get right. I have a home-made lightbox that I use, so that I can place a drawing on top of it and cover that with a blank sheet of paper. The light shines through the paper, allowing me to trace it onto a fresh sheet. Once I have the preliminary sketch done to my satisfaction I go to work on it with pen and ink.
All illustrations were A4 sized but are A5 sized in the printed book. I used a variety of Rotring technical drawing pens for all of the fine detail work in the illustrations. For large areas of black, I used a brush and black ink.
From start until finish, each illustration took roughly two weeks to complete.
It would be nice to end by saying the book was a bestseller, but sadly, it wasn't. I don't think many copies were sold. I do remember it received a very favourable review by noted spoon-bender, Uri Gellar, in a magazine devoted to paranormal mysteries. He had some very kind words to say about my illustrations, which pleased me no end.
Anyway, this is my one and only claim to fame; illustating a book of vampire stories. I can happily live with that! I'll post some more of my illustrations soon, including the work I did for the Camarilla fan club.