The illustration job for “Feature Development,” an upcoming Benjamin Rosenbaum story on Tor.com was a tough one. I was surprised that Irene, the Tor.com creative director, thought of my work for this story. I took it on, but was sort of wishy-washy about the idea for a long time. The story is about a disease that turns people into zombies, but it’s written as if you’re reading an email thread and Facebook entries. It’s pretty amusing and it took me out of my comfort zone a bit—which creatively, at the time, I desperately needed.
I eventually had this vision in my head of a dark figure or face that seemed to be pushed back into shadow. I was worried because I thought it may be too simplistic, but the image never left my head.
By illustrating it, I wanted to recreate an image that had haunted me when I was young. I would go to bed in my dark room and start freaking myself out by seeing figures and shapes within the blackness. Is it a figure? Is it my imagination? The typical “monster in the closet” sort of thing. Only with the illustration for the story I wanted one shadowy figure that stood out by having teeth. (In the story, you become a zombie by being bit by another zombie.)
Irene immediately went for the head-shot image because it reminded her of a profile picture. Originally, I was envisioning a gray background but as soon as I thought I “finished” it, I saw it wouldn’t work. Since there was a psuedo-Facebook thread to the story, a rich blue would not only be appropriate, but would help the piece immensely.
In the end, my fears about this piece were unfounded—it turned out to be one of my favorite paintings this year and probably the most creepiest I’ve ever done.
“Feature Devleopment” will be available on Tor.com this November.