Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!

This week, 2000 AD Prog 2281 sees the return of 2000 AD’s funniest art droid (well, he used to be a stand-up comic!) – Tom Foster for both cover and art on the new Judge Dredd series An Honest Man.

Tom’s back on the cover on Prog 2281 with the return of ex-Judge Kyle Asher. You first saw him in the Kenneth Niemand written and Foster drawn Judge Dredd: A Penitent Man (Progs 2225-2230), returning to the big Meg after 20 years on Titan for beating a citizen to death. He got through his first brush with Dredd and is now working as an Auxillary – but can he keep his Titan-treated nose to the grindstone or will he find the Judge’s instincts kick in again as he returns in An Honest Man? (Oh come on, what do you reckon?)

Anyway, it’s going to be another great series and it all kicks off with a great cover for the first part of An Honest Man on the front of Prog 2281. So, over to Tom Foster to tell us all about it…

TOM FOSTER: One of the advantages of having used 3D-models so extensively in the past is that I can sort of kit-bash a design together fairly quickly without putting pencil to paper. Don’t get me wrong – I like putting pencil to paper, but when it comes to selling a cover idea, it helps to have something that looks, in some sense, fully-realised. 

3D-modelling – Tom Foster style!
(And you can all add your own big stick gags for this one all the way through!)

In this instance, Tharg had something fairly specific in mind, with Asher in the foreground, looking over his shoulder at Dredd.

I wanted to try and keep the image tied into their encounter in this issue, so I set it against the huge traffic pile-up, with Judge Purcell in attendance.

The rough sketch
Foster describes this one as ‘a bit undercooked’ – madness!

Once Tharg was happy, I went about doing a rough sketch of the cover, using the 3D model for a bit of reference on the composition. Generally, I would spend a few hours on this initial stage – getting the nuts and bolts of the anatomy and major forms locked in as early as possible, but this time, I think I only took around 45 minutes.

This was a bit of a double-edged sword, to be honest. It allowed me to get nearly all the penciling done in one day (which is unusual for me), but it meant that a lot of the elements were a bit undercooked and suffered as a result.

The final pencil stage – or maybe not!
The Foster droid was just not happy with it

Once the initial sketch was finished, I blew it up from A4 to A3, added a few perspective grids for the background and started overlaying what I assumed would be the final pencils, using a lightboard.

I was still in the process of drawing a later chapter of the story at the time and didn’t want to lose too much time to the process, so resolved to work a little rougher than usual and trust that I could clean things up sufficiently at the inking stage.

However, in my foolish haste, I failed to devote the right amount of attention to the background figures, including Dredd himself (a cardinal sin).

The final, final pencil stage.
Is Foster happy? Nope, not yet!

The Dredd figure was looking stiff and flat, and many of the other details were far too indistinct, so I scanned my pencils into photoshop, tinkered with some of the proportions a little and printed them out again. On another sheet of A3, I tightened up some of the problem areas and then scanned these revisions and composited then with the first draft pencils.

Even at this stage, I needed a few little tweaks to be happy enough to move onto inks, but eventually, I managed to get a version I was satisfied with.

The inked stage – and Foster’s happy…
for a little bit

I printed out a blueline version of the pencils and inked it with a sable brush and some Microns. Although most of it turned out okay, there were a few details left over from the poorly constructed initial drawing stages that made it to the final line art. The figures still lack a little dimension and I have some issues with how Dredd’s helmet is drawn – the angle of the visor doesn’t match the angle of the rest of it – and this gives things a bit more of a cartoony look than I’d prefer.

If I’d noticed it while I was working on it, I have fixed it, but I didn’t, so now you’re stuck with it.

The final cover, complete with the mistake he didn’t manage to fix!
They really can be too hard on themselves these art droids, can’t they?

After getting a high-quality scan of the inks done, I started work on the colours – which, in this instance, were all done digitally. Here I was able to add a little more dimension and texture to the image and try to draw attention away from the problem areas.

Ultimately though, there are still a lot of issues. Most of them are peripheral and don’t really draw the eye, so I don’t mind them too much, but there are a few that still really bug me. In general, the figures of Dredd and Purcell, should really just have been started from scratch when it was clear that they weren’t very strong.

Overall though, I think the final piece just about works, and the lively palette keeps things visually appealing enough to forgive some of the drawing problems.

Meh, I dunno. Still in two minds about it. At least it’s got a background. I usually find a way to avoid that.

Tom Foster, one and all, way, way too hard on himself on yet another great cover!

Thanks to Tom for that – we think it’s as magnificent as all his other work and it’s a delight to see him both on the cover and in the Prog, with his amazing art on Judge Dredd: An Honest Man. It all happens in 2000 AD Prog 2281, out wherever Thrill Power is sold, including the 2000 AD web shop, from 11 May.

For more from Tom, check out the interviews we’ve done with him – on winning the 2000 AD/Thought Bubble art comp in 2013 and the interview for the last Asher series, A Penitent Man. Plus, there’s his last Covers Uncovered for us, with the cover to Prog 2225, introducing Asher in A Penitent Man.

And then there’s his ‘From the Drawing Board’ video – the one where he was so entertaining and funny that it put way too much pressure on other art droids!