Hello and Welcome aboard a new Blog post, please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle as we travel along today, our eventual destination to talk you through how I made my Solid Snake painting for the No Wave Magazine Video Games special edition.

If you are a creative like myself, you might enjoy this, I can say for a fact one of my favourite things on earth is to read through process guides from other artists and see how they do their thing. It opens the eyes up a little to new ideas and what have you. I’m aware that its not like leaning over the shoulder of some great work with me, but I dunno, I have my own unique way of working, as do we all, so this might be enlightening, or give you an oppertunity to laugh at me for doing everything backwards. Anyway, from the top.

1) To begin, as I do with most things, I did a pencil sketch in my book:


This gives me an opportunity to work out stance, page layout, and generally the tone and scope of the work. It is most definitely a sketch and I rub stuff out as I go along, like I’m shaping a for from the amorphous blobs I scribble down. I looked at a lot of game art and whatchama call it online, as well as getting my own Snake Action figure down to play around with gripping of the rifle and what have you. You can never have too much reference. After I’ve done that I move onto step two which is:

2) Toning.


Notice how I signed it all proud like in the corner, despite the fact its in my sketchbook and therefore is highly likely to be by me.

Anyway, Metal Gear Solid has a very distinct look in my mind. The concept art, comic books, even the cut scenes in Metal Gear Solid Portable Op’s have this sketchy, kinetic feel. Ashley Wood did a lot of the paintings and that for the modern works, so I have a definite feel of what I want to achieve. With that in mind I did a bit of inking with an 8mm fine liner, then went over the top adding heavy blacks with a chisel tip marker.

(Remember kids; Permanent pens and markers, like Sharpies, are not archival mediums, meaning over time, they will degrade, bleed into the paper and actually EAT THE FUCKING DRAWINGS, so if you are working on something you want to keep, and don’t plan on working on digitally, Sharpies are a terrible choice.)

When I’m happy with this, I’ll move onto step three. usually, I’d do a few little sketches like this, but I was so dead chuffed with this one, I thought I’d move along. I’ve been a huge MGS fan for a large part of my life, so drawing Solid Snake seemed really natural.

3) Large Scale Pencils


The previous Image was about A5, this instead is an A3 image on 300 GSM Watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is massively absorbent, and will play hell with inks, so if you want clear cut lines when using brush and ink, this isn’t really my choice. I’m just speaking form experience, feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but using the calligraphy nibs I like the lines bleed a little, which is great for things like this where I want to feel rough and ready, but when I’m inking comics, I use a harder paper. As you can see these pencils are very sparse, firstly because when you water color over them, they sort of stick around, so I keep it simple and add the detail with the inks, and secondly, because if you get jiggy with the inks, it can be more creative and far more spontaneous for a one off piece. If you’ve got continuity like in a comic, then pencils are of the utmost importance. When I’m fine with that I break out;

4) Paint Round 1


For this bit I do a series of really tight, controlled and watery tones over the top. I love watercolor because you can be imprecise with the lines, but also, get a huge range of depth of color just by controlling how much water you have on your brush. I use a Winsor and Newton Lamp Black solid Water Color block for this, with a hair brush. I’m just highlighting areas of shading and tone for future reference, but also building a nice background for the line work. Its a good guide for where to tone when inking if you are drawing onto a solid object rather than just an empty space. So many times I’ve toned the gap between an arm and a side or something like that, so wrapped up in what I’m doing, not paying attention. So this gives depth and also helps me stay on target. For part 5.

5) Inks Round 1 + Collage bit


I meant to take a photo between the inks and the collage stage, but I was all wrapped up in what I was doing. See what I mean?

What a mook!

These inks are done with a calligraphy nib on a dipping ink pen, using India Ink. Faber Castell ink, I believe. These ones are the detail, the nitty gritty, the actual bits that make up an image. Anything I add on top of this now is just showy flashy wazz. I’ve made up the way Solid Snake looks and nothings going to change that. But I like it, so there. I’ve kept tones and cross hatching and the like to a bare minimum so that when I do the next stage of paints, it won’t over egg the pudding so to speak. Its going to be a busy image, but I don’t want to hound the viewers eye.

I have a dislike too many visual styles going on, it can choke up a piece something chronic. If you’re familiar with my work, you’ll surely note that I use a TONNAGE of cross hatching and shader lines. I can’t get enough of them, I copied Bryan Talbot and Geoff Darrow when in high school, as well as Mike Mignola, and that relationship with white space and toned areas on an image is key to how I do comics, but if you put together the Mignola areas of Black with the Talbot hatching, it’d look confused, so its one or the other with me.

The Newspaper bit for the background texture is just ripped up bits of the Metro, which is a free daily newspaper we get in England, I keep a bunch of them around to be informed, and to layer surfaces I don’t want ruined by ART. I just ripped/cut them up and glued them in with a clear glue stick. I was going to digitally add some Zippatone for the hells of it, but I thought real mediums would be more tactile and interesting, and I get a serious enjoyment out of textures in art.

6) Painting; ROUND 2


These lot of paints are a thicker version of the stuff before, more paint, less water, but also a watered down cheap ink thorwn in there, to get the runny blacks. Snake coming out of the soggy newspaper bits, ooooh, tingles. In the picture though, the darkness around his shoulders makes him look hunched, and I don’t like that. Its just on the photo, not on the original picture, and the relationship with the scanner versus the human eye is a bugger for artists I think, or at least for me. Something can work on the page, but not once you’ve scanned it in and its been all flattened. But I’ll get to that later. I wanted to break apart the back ground and the foreground using strong color differences, and I think I achieved it, only one thing left in the real world aspect, and thats

7) Inking ROUND DEUX!


That little bit of black made all the difference for me, sort of cemented the division between the background and the character and stopped Snake from blending in too much. AHAHAHA, Stealth game. I’m very happy with this, so all thats left is Step 8



As you can see, the black really hasn’t picked up well around the shoulders. I always imaging Solid Snake as an upright, solid kind of guy, and this hunched silhouette just… it ain’t the Snake I wanted to do. So, using the wonders of modern computerage, I cut the background from the image, and added some light to the darker bits. I just used the pen tool on GIMP, which is free and what I use for everything because, HEY, ITS CROWD SOURCED GOODNESS! When I’d lassoed the areas I wanted, I cut them, pasted them onto another layer and played around with the levels and the contrast and brightness until I had a depth I wanted. The final image is something I am very proud of. So that’s probably a STEP 9: TWIDDLE WITH SHIT, in there somewhere, but its not really worth noting. Here is the final image:


I hope you enjoyed this little talk on how I do things, as well as enjoying the image itself. If you want to talk some more, please comment below, or email me at nshearon@googlemail.com. I am always interested to hear from other Artists as to how they’d have done it, or how they work and all that, so please, come on in and talk with me.

If you hated it, keep your opinions to yourself, or write to your local governmental official, because this is a house of creativity Yo, keep that negative shit outside.


Nick Gonzo