Cabbages & Keepers: Drawing The Master for Doctor Who Magazine

Doctor Who Magazine 433. Click this image to read the entry.

[Possible spoiler warning: This post refers to events in the 1981 Doctor Who story The Keeper of Traken]

It was a big deal for me, getting to draw something for Doctor Who Magazine. I remember the excitement of reading the first issue of Doctor Who Weekly, as it was called in 1980, and over the years some of its artwork has had a huge influence on me, including Mick McMahon’s astonishing Junkyard Demon cyberman (below right).

Doctor Who Weekly number 1 cover and Junkyard Demon art

So it was quite exciting to pick up this month’s edition (#433, in your local newsagent now) and see one of my illustrations inside.

Doctor Who Magazine 433 covers

I have two people in particular to thank for this happy event, Rob Davis and Tom Spilsbury. I’ve known Rob for a year or two thanks to Twitter, and it’s fair to say I have something of an art-crush on him. Rob’s work on Doctor Who has been exceptional. We talked about his Christmas strip (below) and other DWM things at Cardiff Comic Expo recently.

Christmas Doctor Who strip drawn by Rob Davis

Shortly after, Rob was kind enough to show some examples of my work to Tom, DWM’s editor, and before I knew it I was being asked to draw the Doctor’s greatest adversary as he appeared opposite my all-time favourite Doctor (Tom Baker)! The Master’s ghastly, decaying appearance at that time (having used up all his regenerations) was so memorable that even after 30 years I was able to jot it down without looking at reference.

The Master from memory

For me what made this crumbling shambles of a Time Lord so horrible were the textures of his clothes and skin; the raw, glistening face leering with golfball eyes from beneath a cloak of coarse, rotten rags. I told Tom this was the way I wanted to approach the illustration and sent him a ‘texture sample’ of some recent work made with texture-making techniques that could be useful here.

texture sample

Tom sent me some screen grabs from the Keeper of Traken DVD and a layout for the spread, so I had enough information to produce roughs. I decided a 3/4 view of the Master would best fit the space allowed. I also wanted to somehow include The Melkur, a creature in the story which resembles a statue from the Futurist movement, because of its distinctive appearance and its relationship with the Master. I sent Tom two roughs, one where the Melkur is depicted at the size of one of the Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator victims, and another where the Melkur is much more subtly referenced through the negative space created by the master’s cowl.

Rough 1
Rough 2

In this second version the Melkur’s eye overlaps with the Master’s and its robotic red light creates a menacing glint in the evil Time Lord’s gaze. I was pleased that Tom chose the second one.

Working on textured watercolour paper I began drawing up the final artwork. At this stage I was using portraits of actor Geoffrey Beevers as reference for the Master. The article I was illustrating was an interview with Geoffrey, so I wanted to be sure there was a good likeness of him beneath the make-up.

Final art step 1

I then began working with a soft pencil to pick up the texture of the paper. I started with the dark hood which frames The Master’s face and creates the outline of the Melkur’s head.

Final art step 2

When the pencil drawing was complete I scanned it for clean-up and colouring.

Final art step 3

To enhance the textures present in the pencil drawing, I overlaid scans of dishcloths and cabbage leaves in Photoshop.

Textures final

Still in Photoshop, I painted the colours and spent a long time fiddling with layer blend modes to create the right balance of textural elements. I was really pleased with the way the artwork was reproduced in the magazine and was chuffed that the red glint had been picked up and used in the text, making a nice, cohesive spread.

2 thoughts on “Cabbages & Keepers: Drawing The Master for Doctor Who Magazine

    • Thanks, he’s one of the all-time greats – as memorable in his own way as the versions that came before and after.

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