Annotated Artwork for “Engines of Liberty: REBEL HEART”

For a while now it’s been necessary for me to put my illustrations online so it’s easier for me to share drawings from past books. Recently I had a chance to share all of my published art with some old friends from Spain and they commented on how much it had changed in just a few short years.

Many artists and writers–especially younger ones than I–can benefit from things I learned throughout the illustration process for the Engines of Liberty novels. I’m sharing this in the hopes that they’ll get farther ahead than I did, and in less time.

For reference, I was illustrating this book from January of 2014 through March of 2014, generally after work, or if I had time off. For this first book I used mechanical pencils with .07 and .05 lead, then shaded with a standard no.2. This was not a great way of doing it, and that’s something that became very obvious when it came time to digitize the art. I eventually switched to ink and charcoal, which will be more noticeable once the art for PATRIOT’S GAME rolls around.

Until then, here is the entire slate of art for REBEL HEART, with some notes after each piece. Please note that they are not displayed here in the order in which they appeared in the book. Enjoy!


The eponymous “mimic brigade” needed a flag, and since the crossed stars and bars of the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia (ahem) was readily recognizable, I repurposed elements of it for the brigade flag. Things being what they are these days, I would likely not go this route again. The origins of the design are never discussed in the story, as it never becomes relevant. The Rebel Hearts themselves are a pretty diverse group, comprising brigade leader Hank Duncan, a black American; brigade mechanic Adam Paige, also a black American; tail gunner Ingvar Prebensen, a Dane; pilot Emma Crosby, an Anglo girl from the Carolinas; and of course, Calvin Adler, of Anglo-German descent.



She’s the officer in command at Camp Liberty in Ohio. I wanted her physicality to come in direct contrast with her personal demeanor. She’s stone cold and rock hard, and while these qualities can be virtues in a military leader, they have their own built-in flaws.



One of my favorite elements of this world is the machines that the rebels build to “mimic” magical creatures. A unique challenge of this one was the fact that it takes place at night, there are headlights cutting through the dark, and the engines from the machines kick up a lot of dust. Were I to draw it again, I spend more time on the lighting and the dust. Those were the hardest parts.


You’re really not supposed to like Captain Hamilton, so making him ugly was an obvious move.



Surprisingly enough, some Brits have read these books and given me feedback! As much as I avoid profanity in English, apparently I don’t do such a good job of it in…other English. 🙂 If I changed anything on this drawing, I would work on getting the angles of Godfrey’s face right.



Godfrey was as fun to write as Calvin was (villain and hero, respectively.) I used my brother-in-law Joseph as a model for Godfrey. I don’t think I got the light angles right for the shading.


Biggest issue on this one: Winston Fitznottingham (the mage) has an awkward stance, and his robes flutter in an unconvincing manner. I got better at this later on.


I’m still pretty proud of this one. I’d spend more time on the grass and leaves on the forest floor, annoying as they were. I’d also use models for the mages as they get blown off their brooms by the grenade blast; they look unrealistic in their poses.



I’d shade the wings on the dragonling mimic a little better, detail the grass island in front of Mount Vernon, try to sharpen up the details on the tree leaves, and re-shadow the mountains (and the reflection) with ink instead of so many pencil strokes.



Calvin’s proportions are a little off, even for an awkward teenager. One problem I struggled with consistently was drawing the boots too big.



The angles on Edsel’s face and hands look weird to me.



I’d pay closer attention to the lighting direction on the peripheral machinery. Other than that I was really proud of how I came up with this, and how it ended up.



Another one where boot size wasn’t done right. Other than that, I’m pleased. My friend Zach, a lawyer, volunteered to be the model for Edsel.


Eh…I’m not thrilled with the shading. I could have made the inside darker, and the light direction clearer from the outside.



Okay, here’s a good one: I didn’t zoom in enough on the action (Calvin wrestling the panther, Edsel coming to the rescue.) As a result, the most exciting part of the drawing was too small, and I spent the rest of the time drawing fricking foliage.


Another instance of bad zoom control. The barn looks HUGE and empty, even though in this scene there are more than four people. Still the important part is that Calvin and Edsel are fighting.



In future, I would just add this text digitally instead of trying to draw the font by hand.



Given how this was a small piece, I don’t mind the pencil strokes for the ground, but Jack’s left hand looks puffy, and the “stench lines” from his curse look…low-energy?  Cartoonish? It brings down the rest of it.



This came together well, even the boots. I think Brian’s face looks a little too flat, too. Angles got tricky with fight scenes.


Another tricky face angle, this time for Calvin. I should have practiced a few light pencil lines on a separate sheet of paper.


Biggest issue here is character proportions, and shading/light direction. A recurring problem.



I started each chapter with a drawing of a character, but this one got three of them. I needed to control the sharpness and detail, as well as light values/direction. Normal stuff. The crispness wouldn’t change until I changed my materials.



Most of my time here went into the background, what was on the pantry shelves and all that. Also I think I was inconsistent with Calvin’s height here, but then I don’t really do another drawing of him next to Commodore McCracken. Calvin’s left arm seems a touch too long, and the typical light values are an issue.



Crispness and light value. Other than that, this came out well. Brian’s supposed to be a tough-guy type.



Needed to detail the grass more, or cover it up with more relevant stuff. Also, trying to draw muzzle flare in the dark plays haywire with the light values. This was an early attempt, and not my best one.


Originally, my friend Megan Hibbert was the model for Amelia, but she always had the same expression in every one of her pictures (a very bright smile.) I eventually swapped her out for a celebrity whose Google Images yielded a higher variety. Also, crispness and body proportions.



I retconned this later to make her a little taller. Crispness, etc.



I spent all of my time drawing Mount Vernon in the background, and not enough time on the people in the pigpen. Also needed more boars from more angles. Calvin’s eyes look weird too.



Boots and light values, normal stuff.



Now, obviously I play with the architecture at Mount Vernon, but there’s no way it’s large enough for all of the stuff in this story, and that includes this gigantic theater inside. That said, the reader will generally not be aware of this, and any number of behind-the-scenes explanations could give it credence. I’m pleased with it otherwise. I think I’d use better light values, and try to curve the projected image on the screen below. Also…the podium has no shadow on the screen.


This one worked as-is because it’s meant to be hyperbolic propaganda. King Charles is not actually an ogre in these stories.



Proportions and poses. I didn’t get their feet lined up right. This was the first drawing I tried like this, with them all lined up horizontally, and the only one I did like this.


Psh. This one’s perfect, fight me.


More propaganda-style art. I’d only do the text digitally, like with Jack Badgett’s saddle above.


Shading and light values. This was only the second or third piece I did overall, so I will cut myself slightly more slack.



Proportions, light angles, and I think I smashed Calvin’s mom’s face a little.


Calvin was modeled after my other brother-in-law, Patrick, who’s mildly autistic. I don’t think I did justice to Patrick’s/Calvin’s facial expression here. This piece was the very first one I did for REBEL HEART, or the Engines series at large. It took 3 days, and generally I’m still pleased with it. Outside of Calvin, the only thing that really bugs me is the roof tiles on the Tanners’ place. Grass, lighting, the ground, normal stuff after that.


A better version of Calvin, but again, disproportionate legs and feet and so forth.



This was one of four drawings that had to be re-shot before I could include it in the book, as they’d been scanned poorly. Leg proportions and the shading on the clothes are off.



Legs, shading.



Just a little touch-up work on the shading, the rest of him is fine, I think.



After illustrating this book, I specifically  bought a book on how to draw and shade folds in clothing, because this one was pretty glaring. Also, fun fact, I modeled these guys after James A. Owen and J. Scott Savage.


Whew. That was a lot. I’ll post the SUICIDE RUN art next week, and you can see how that improved over this book, and what still needed work even after all that art. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks, all.

Author: grahambradley

Writer, illustrator, reader, truck driver.

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