digital painting of Carl Palmer: work in progress

Recently Tony Ortiz, (Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Archivist and multi-talented man behind-the-scenes ) approached me with a visual idea for Carl Palmer’s upcoming tour poster. He wanted Carl behind his silver drum kit with tornado vortexes pouring out from each of the bass drums, sparks flying, rock ‘n roll style, full  of fire and energy. It is also an ELP legacy tour, so I took the opportunity to add some of the old Brain Salad surgery image of the skull by HP Giger, via an old scan of the album cover.

In Photoshop, I painted Carl and the lightning effects off his drumsticks, with plenty of  fire and smoke behind him, using some inspiration from tornadoes spawned by volcanic eruptions. Certainly new ground for me, to paint explosions and tornadoes!

The process of painting on layers is a huge help, since changes to the design are inevitable. I think Tony and I went through at least 5 different iterations of this idea, adding and removing elements.  My main objective was to stay true to Tony’s concept and still create a sense of believability while tying in so many elements to the stage.

What took the longest? Drawing in his drum set with accuracy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while creating musician portraits it’s that their instruments must be rendered with total accuracy… for this I usually must research photos of vintage guitars and the like, because a reference  concert photo (notoriously low in detail) will rarely show all the little details I want to put in the illustration.

Be sure to catch Carl Palmer on tour in January 2014 and visit his original “Twist of the Wrist” limited edition artworks at He’s still as fast as lightning- that’s where I got the idea from.

2016 update: Carl Palmer speaking during his tribute concert for Keith Emerson. Love the video screen image behind him!

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