Monday, October 11, 2010

Norman Saunders: Illostribute

Over the summer, illustrator Toby Thane Neighbors asked me if I'd like to participate in a new collaborative blog he'd started called Illostribute. The idea for the site is to pay tribute to famous illustrators and fine artists by "investigation through interpretation." And he's been able to gather up quite the impressive roster artists, including regular contributor Nate Wragg. I missed the first few rounds because I was crazy busy, but was able to carve out some time in September for the current artist, Norman Saunders.

You can see the full post --> here

...which details Saunder's career as one of the most renown pulp fiction illustrators, creating more than 800 covers in his time—and includes well over a dozen outstanding tribute illustrations.

I began my investigation by poring over cover after cover of Saunder's work. There are many great resources, including this one over at After much searching, I settled on the Mars Attacks trading cards he co-created for Topps in 1962—a good online index of those can be found here. This is apparently the set that inspired Tim Burton to make his movie of the same name. I chose the image on the left because it features one of Saunder's trademark women in distress, and of course, because I knew I'd have fun drawing the alien.

Here's the sketch I started with.

Which I then scanned and inked in Flash.

I imported the inks (with transparency) into ArtRage, where I did all of my painting and coloring. Above is an in-process screen shot. As always, I highly recommend this program for digital painting.

And the final rendering, which I imported into Photoshop to design the typography, added texture, and to crop it to match the trading card (see image at the top of the post).

The process of visual investigation was definitely a fun one, though I'd consider it a cover or tribute more than a unique re-interpretation. Still, it was enjoyable to take one of his images and remake it. Plus, I normally work in flat colors, so moving the paint around and rendering the forms was a welcome exploration.

For more on Norman Saunders, there's a great book out by his son David Saunders, published by The Illustrated Press. Shane Glines has great praise for it, too.


ETCIllustration said...

OMIGODILOVEIT. It would be great to see you explore that painting style more, it really translates well to your work!

Chris Garbutt said...

Awesome post!
Great to see the process and the end result is fantastic.

My copy of Heeby Jeeby turned up on the doorstep this morning. Thanks for the cool doodle inside. Great comic, I hope you guys do more.

Lionel Serre said...

Hi mr Flyn
I've just read your comment on my blog. I feel very grateful for that cause I really apreciate your funny style and characters.
I hesitate to do something with the mens magazine cover or the Mars attacks cards. But the martians win !
Thanks again (excuse my english) and i keep an eye on your site.

David said...

This is awesome Bob! You should make your own complete set of cards.

David DeGrand said...

Bob this the best!! Love seeing this classic card in your style, sooo awesome!

damon said...

wow very cool i like!!

Bob Flynn said...

Thanks, guys! Much appreciated. I'm working on something else in ArtRage right now, which may end up having a similar painted look.

Chris: Glad you got your Heeby Jeebys! Definitely stay tuned for a future book.

Lionel: Thanks for stopping by. Again, really dug your Mars Attacks piece. I went back and forth, too. But as you did, settled on martians!

Anonymous said...


Leo Matsuda said...

Hey Bob, Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. Your piece is hilarious!! i love the alien expression and his intense eyes popping. The sense characters are absolutely brilliant!!!