‘The Arrival’ illustration

The Arrival illustration

The Arrival illustration

The Arrival illustration

I’ve been creating illustrations in this style for about a month now, a kind of ongoing experiment of forcing myself into a new process. I was hanging out with some friends last week and one of the bits of feedback I got on the new work was “create some original material”. As in, not something attached to a franchise. Good point there, so I got at it.

Here’s an illustration titled ‘The Arrival’, depicting an adventuring kid out in the woods who witnesses a big meteor falling to earth. Simple little idea. Maybe the start of a story? Who knows.

I’ve been getting a lot of people asking what software I’m using to make these things, so seen above are 3 versions of the illustration. The original concept from my sketchbook, the straight vectors in Illustrator, then my final in Photoshop. Should give you a rough idea of how I build up the illustrations.


  1. James I love it. so good. the Arrival… what’s on that meteor? an alien?

    Love your work James always have, but mostly love that you’re such a cool dude.

  2. I love your new style, but this piece doesn’t work for me for some reason. I can’t pinpoint it though. On a glance it has everything it needs, and yet it seems there’s something missing.

  3. I really love finishing stuff off with a good texture, like you’ve done here. It adds a certain vintage and personal touch :)

  4. Corie

    I think your friends gave you some solid advice. I am a huge fan of the re-inventions you do, but I also missed many of the original pieces you had created in the past. I know your a busy guy so you probably don’t always get a chance to spend the amount of time on personal art as you would like but this idea and design is well worth the time and effort you put in!

  5. Ciaran

    Hey James,
    Loving the new stuff, man! I know you don’t wanna give away your techniques but you got any pointers of how you get that grungey texture in the finished piece? Is it just a brush in photoshop?
    Keep up the awesome work, man!


  6. Super Happy that you made an original piece of work! 1 step forward to something awesome! How was doing the perspective slightly off kilter with something that you came up with on your own??

  7. Loving the lighting. Very nice atmosphere.

  8. James (Author)

    Ciaran, it’s a combination of brushes, effects, overlays, masks and pre-made elements. There’s no easy way to do it, just a lot of messing around in the layers palette to see what works and what doesn’t. Every illustration has a different tone, colour combination and lighting so they all need to be handled a bit differently.

  9. Ryan

    My reaction to this piece is different because (since it is an original concept) nostalgia doesn’t cloud my objectivity.

    Where did the dog go? He was a nice add.

    I think you could product a kick-ass kids book in this style with the right writer! Perhaps a giant robot is involved?

  10. Hi James, very nice effects! The illustration, the textures… its a perfect combination. Maybe you can make a basic tuto for us?

  11. John

    Nice, James! This can definitely be a cover for children’s book or even children’s story. Love the atmosphere and colour style. Definitely a whole new change in your work.

  12. Hey James,
    I agree with Leukocyt – there’s something missing here. I’ve looked at the process images quite a bit and for me there is one point of difference between the initial sketch and the final product, and that is the stance of the boy. In the final piece the boy is symmetrical and looks quite static whereas in the original he is slightly less balanced and he looks like he’s actually taken aback by what he is seeing. The final image doesn’t quite convey that feeling of surprise and awe – he just looks like he’s standing there frozen in place.

  13. Ciaran

    Thanks for the response, James. Great to get a bit of insight into the process. I’m seeing this grungey, painterly effect everywhere lately but I’ve had limited success creating the same style myself. I guess I gotta keep experimenting and working at it. Thanks again, man

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