By Bernie Gonzalez
When Silvia asked me to put together a cover for Innsmouth Magazine, she was kind enough to give me free rein. For an artist, that freedom is as much welcome as it is overwhelming. A blank page can be intimidating. But when it comes to Lovecraft, I’ve always had one image in my mind.
After being exposed to Lovecraft in high school, I instantly gravitated to “At the Mountains of Madness.” I desperately wanted to be among the brave band of men venturing into the Antarctic on a scientific expedition, hiking through icy caverns in search of the unknown. And while most of Lovecraft’s stories lend themselves to imaginative and alien visuals, the white desolation of the Antarctic is almost as unfamiliar.
I instantly remembered watching the 1957 Hammer film, The Abominable Snowman. Directed by Val Guest and featuring Peter Cushing, the movie features a similar expedition in search of the title’s legendary creature. The documentary filming style, highlighted by amazing panoramic shots of the Himalayas, creates a sense of realism to balance out the fantasy. John Carpenter did something similar in The Thing. While essentially a remake of Howard Hawks’ The Thing from Another World (based on the 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell), Carpenter’s interpretation contains some stark images of the Antarctic that are almost as menacing as the extraterrestrial Thing.
All of those visuals informed my idea for the cover: a solitary figure in the middle of a frozen landscape looking upon a mysterious structure of Lovecraftian origin.
I wanted to showcase the structure, so I positioned the figure in the middle of an unfilled area at the bottom of the cover. Any details were reserved for the mountains and the strange markings. I also wanted to emphasize the structure’s size, so I made the figure small enough to almost come across as an afterthought. With the pencils in place, it was time to begin the inking process.
I ink my own pencils. So, it’s easy to take “shortcuts” in my layouts, since I know what the final image is supposed to be. In this case, with all the details and the emphasis on mood, I tried to get everything on the page. This made inking straightforward, which allowed me to experiment. Originally, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go with tentacles or rays of stylized polar light. But once I filled in the black sky, I realized the tentacles, while very much Lovecraftian, took away from the structure. Too many elements can work against themselves. So, I skipped the tentacles. I’m sure Alex Toth and Mike Mignola were whispering into my ear.
After an hour or so of work, the inks were complete. I scanned the cover into Photoshop and adjusted the blacks to balance out the image. As I fine-tuned the contrast, the layout really began to emerge. I was glad I went for a solid black between the light rays rather than busy linework. This helped to further simplify the image and really focus on the cover’s central element. And while all the mountains feature deliberate designs, the main structure’s markings seem peculiar and subtle enough to engender scrutiny. At least I hope so. Now for the colors.
Adding too much texture to the snow would defeat the purpose. Adding too many colors to the mountains would distract from the central structure and its markings. So, I kept the colors simple. I went with a faded, cold palette to accentuate the landscape. The only real color is in the bleached yellow rays of light. I was going to go with a washed-out orange or red, but those tones seemed out of place. After some final Photoshop massaging, the cover was complete.
I’d like to thank Silvia for the opportunity to work on the cover for issue 11 of Innsmouth Magazine.
Innsmouth Magazine Issue 11 will be out October 15. You can subscribe to it at Weightless Books.
Find more about artist Bernie Gonzalez at his blog and see ten of his black-and-white illustrations in the hardcover edition of Fungi, coming out this December.