The most crucial step in creating this painting was the easiest, and its something I would invite you to try as well. Hell, don't try - just do it! The first step of my journey was to contact the site operator for, a podcast geared towards the science fiction side of things. I sent off a quick email inquiring about doing some art for their monthly Audio Magazine called Aural Delights.

I quickly received a response from none other than the amicable and tremendously enthusiastic Tony C. Smith. Believe you me, if you are having an off day, pop on over to the "Sofa" and Tony's rapid-fire and cheerful uplifting banter will set you straight in no time at all.

Tony preceded to email me the Story he had chosen for me to illustrate, in MP3 format, which I quickly saved and eagerly sat down to listen to. To my utter horror he had sent me a story that was slightly longer than 1:45 minutes.  No small story there! After mildly cursing his name a few times I gave it another that point I began realizing the richness and depth the world of Michael Flynn's story created for his listeners.

undefinedBefore long, I had a scrap of paper and a pen scribbling ideas in what are called 'thumbnail

format' -usually because they are as big as your thumbnail! The whole point of doing these is as a creative visual 'shorthand' of all the ideas in your head.

Next I started doing larger versions of these, a little bit smaller than a playing card in size.

All the while I was doing these little sketches, I was listening to the story on repeat to glean details about its characters, enviroments and anything else that might help me later on in the creative process. At the same time, I was trying to come up with my own take on the story: what I felt was the message, or the mood after listening to the words flow by my ears.

For me the main character was a mix of Sayid from Lost and with a little bit of Omar Sharif from Lawerence of Arabia. A man that is proud and has strong morals, but has seen and done things that most others would not have dared  at all.


undefinedI decided the confrontation near the end of the story would be best to make a coherent image that represented the entire narrative well. This is a meeting of three worlds: the indigenous natives, the impeding Humans, and the arrival of the third mysterious race from the Large Blue Planet.

The scene I had chosen is the point in the story where the main character suffers a great loss, has first contact and learns his last lesson. Pretty heady stuff to try and include in one frozen image of time!

Once that was established in my mind, I opened up Adobe Photoshop and began using large geometric shapes to block in the major objects I wanted to present in the scene. I added in some temporary StarShipSofa text to get an idea where Skeet will place the final StarShipSofa Header and Footer. It helps to keep this in mind as anything important will need to be kept clear of these areas. I knew I had to have the hot air balloon and the blue planet, so I first worked those elements into the scene. It was an obvious choice to take a viewpoint that was looking downwards upon the Native city in the distance, as that is where the majority of the story takes place.

I felt a sunset colour choice would work well and reinforce the symbolism of 'an end of things' feel to the whole piece. It also allowed me to use some dynamic lighting and a traditional colour scheme that would imbue realism


and familiarity to this fictional world. I decided early on not to stray too far from the norm for the vegetation for reasons of time and believability. The temptation to stop and create a new type of tree or creature was persistent throughout the whole process. I did manage to satisfy that urge a little with my rendering of the alien Native species, as it was the only thing I really worked out before beginning to work with Photoshop. I actually did a little sculpture  of a Native to try and better understand their biology: a six limbed species with one set being tentacles and the other two ending in some type of claws is not similar to anything we have here on Earth. You can see from the sketchbook pages I initally envisioned those claws as crab-like, but later realized they were described more a kin to dog or bear paws.

As I began to work on the painting in earnest, the inevitable happened: every other commitment I ever had made showed up to be handled right then and there! Isn't that always the way? All the hours I had booked for doing this, image evaporated over the space of two days time! I knew this painting was too complex to finish in just a few days, so I ended up squeezing in an hour here and an hour there to work on it. In truth these were the happiest hours of my week and I contrived ways to free up my schedule to give me more time to spend on the


undefinedpainting. This was for StarShipSofa, and after all the efforts and sacrifices on the part of its members during the fund raiser for Jeannie Robinson, the release of the first volume of StarshipSofa Stories paperback collection, Larry Santoros Lord Dickensen's Declaration, not to mention the overall outstanding weekly quality of the podcast....well the bar was set high...and it kept getting higher. I was determined to jump as high as was necessary - I gave up some sleep and enjoyed every minute of it!

For those interested in endings and beginnings: the painting was both started and finished on the computer using Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended on a Wacom Cintiq (a screen you can use a stylus on) and when sneaking in an hour at work, i used a Wacom Intous 3. I have variety of digital brushes that allow me to have more traditional artistic effects plus I take pains to make my paintings look a little less 'digital' then they really are.

I have to say in closing that I've met some really fanatastic people on the Sofa. I can honestly say that if Tony were to ask me to paint for the show again, I would be up for losing a little more sleep - in a heartbeat. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...and I know there would be an army of like minded friends charging in behind me. Bleary-eyed from finding time, and each listening to the lastest Aural Delights as they painted, wrote, researched and recorded magic for the world to discover.undefined



To see the Finished Painting (Click Here)


Cheers All!









It's gorgeous, evocative.....

I wanted to let you know how wonderful I find your artwork for the upcoming aural delights show. It's gorgeous, evocative and has just the right amount of detail. It makes me curious about the story. But an hour and 3/4! Wow! At any rate, well done and I'm sure Tony will be glad to let you stay up late again sometime.

Diane Severson - via the contact page