Given the recent release of the new Undertaker’s Moon cover by horror artist Alex McVey, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the many trial-and-error steps that an illustrator goes through, taking a basic image idea from infancy to completion. In this case, Alex began with black-and-white sketches and progressed to a full-blown oil painting of the savage beast that now graces the upcoming book cover.

I hope you enjoy this look into the creative process of one of the best (if not the best) horror artists working in the industry today.

— Ron


This is the first experimental werewolf sketch that Alex did. Alex says that it seems more demonic than the familiar image of the traditional werewolf that everyone knows and loves (?). Alex went hog-wild with this rendition; notice the bristling mouthful of uneven fangs, overly-long ears, and feverish eyes. A nightmarish image to be sure!


In the second drawing, Alex goes for a more traditional look. The face has a more angular construction, complete with protruding brow and the canine-like snout that werewolf fans are more accustomed to.


Skip ahead several months. Alex has now figured out the type of lycanthropic image that he wishes to tackle. This werewolf is most definitely of the traditional kind… more wolf than man, reminiscent of the creatures in great werewolf movies like The Howling and A Company of Wolves. Alex has refined the rough edges and settled on a canine inner-structure on which to build upon.


Here, Alex decides that a full-face werewolf staring straight at the viewer suits his needs better than a profile rendering. He lays out the basic facial construction in a diamond-shaped pattern, with an open mouth, bristling with fangs, an exposed tongue, and bestial drool dangling from the lower lip. The depth of the eyesockets cloak most of the eyes in shadow, leaving the orbs themselves as little more than reflective circles. Alex has elevated the image toward the top, providing ample room below for the cover text. This is the basic image Alex has chosen on which to build the eventual cover painting upon.


Taking the above image a step further, Alex scans the drawing and employs the computer’s digital paintbrush to add color. He fills the bottom half of the picture with black shadow and chooses eerie tones of blue for the werewolf itself, along with red hues for the inner mouth and tongue.


Alex now shifts into high-gear. Having successfully mapped out the image he wishes to create through preliminary sketches, he now attempts to render the image in an actual painting. Alex prefers oils over acrylic, finding it a more accommodating medium. Here the image of the leering werewolf grows more defined and detailed. Like most great talents, Alex works by instinct, adding the correct amount of off-scene moonlight across the cheekbones and around the fur of the ears, as well as battle scars on the brow and snout. Although Alex originally sought to depict the pupils of the beast’s eyes as merely reflective, like those of a dog, they appear to the viewer as though they are twin images of the full moon, which is just fine with Alex.


Here is the completed cover, complete with the text of the author’s name (yours truly!) and the title, which was masterfully rendered by artist Zach McCain. Looking closely, you can see several changes from the first image of the oil painting. Alex has added more shadow to the contours of the face, as well as lengthened the canine teeth of the upper fangs. Ever conscious of the most minute detail, Alex was concerned that the canine teeth were a bit too long and, had this painting been an actual werewolf, wondered if the points of the fangs would have pierced the beast’s lower jaw when the mouth was closed. In depicting both human and animal subjects in art, the artist must possess a working knowledge of physical anatomy, both inside and out, as well as realistic strengths and limitations.


So there you have it… the finished product. The hirsute image of the perfect werewolf… courtesy of master artist, Alex McVey. And, fortunately for us all, a horrifying nightmare that will haunt us for a long time to come!