This illustration which I cobbled together in my absolute favorite vector art program Affinity Designer is sort of a response to my last illustration which featured former television icon Bonnie Franklin. Whereas Ms Franklin’s televised efforts in the situation comedy One Day at a Time represented the depths of what the networks had to offer in the grim, shit-brown, Ford Pinto, lower-your-expectations, Earth Shoe era of the 1970s, Qarlo Clobregnny who was the soldier of The Outer Limits episode Soldier represents an era where writers and directors were taking chances and sowing their wild oats. It was the 1960s and it was the world to which I was being introduced by my older, wiser brother Johnnie via a black and white television. It was sublime.
I was too young for the original run of The Outer Limits, but it seemed to go into eternal reruns in syndication after the initial network broadcasts. It was probably during these repeats that my brother introduced me to this particular brand of nightmare fuel. The show scared the hell out of me and stuck with me throughout the years. Along with The Outer Limits, my brother also fed me a steady supply of action, adventure and science fiction of which poured plentifully from that cathode cornucopia. The television was surely a magical device.
A few years later, we got a color TV set, but it felt as if all that was on were tedious variety shows and unfunny situation comedies. I watched them because they were on. They were all that was on. There were only three broadcast networks and a few UHF channels in my market back then, but it felt like a desert broken by the occasional oasis of an edited-for-TV movie of the week. The mundane adventures of an obnoxious divorced mother of two could hardly stand up against the memory of a soldier from 1,800 years in the future lost in time.
Honestly, that’s why I think so many fandoms grew out of the 1970s such as the fervent ardor of Star Trek fans. Well-worn but well written reruns of old television shows were much preferred over laugh track laden fodder crapped out in the 1970s by cynical producers who saw no reason to put in an honest effort.
I’ve posted these illustrations on various social media groups, and I’ve been asked if I’ll provide a tutorial. I would if I could, but I tend to make these things up as I go along. I have an image in my head, but I don’t make a sketch. I used to do a drawing; digitize the doodle on a scanner, and slavishly trace out each line with the pen tool. I was seldom happy with the results. With these vector illustrations, I put together the existing shapes that come with Affinity Designer. Essentially, that’s all illustrations are — cobbled together shapes.
The Soldier illustration became pretty complicated so I would open separate documents to work on details such as the weapon or the collar of the character’s armor tunic pictured above. I’d work on these elements until I was satisfied and then paste them into the main illustration. From there I would engage Boolean Operations or use the Pathfinder tools as they are more commonly known machining my pieces into shape. I assemble the pieces and see if I liked what I did.
A lot of what I do is experimentation and the happy accidents that result. If I’m lucky, I’ll remember how I tripped over an effect I like. For instance, the amber variation of the illustration was the result of placing a big yellow layer on top of everything and playing with the blending modes of that layer. The color mode or in their case the colour mode made a quick duotone effect that reminded me of the old Outer Limits trading cards I’ve seen floating around science fiction conventions and comic shops.
The important thing is to play and have fun. There are also a ton of tutorials at Affinity’s site and all over Youtube. They’re worth a look.
As far as the Soldier episode of The Outer Limits, I watched it for free on the Roku Channel which is available on the Roku streaming device. As I write this, it’s also available on Amazon’s Prime Video, but a paid Prime membership is required. It’s the first episode of the second season and stars the late great Michael Ansara who was terrific as the warrior from the far flung future. It’s well worth a look, and you may recognize it as the basis for The Terminator which borrowed/stole elements from the show for which they were successfully sued by author Harlan Ellison. We are still suffering from sequels and reboots of The Terminator which was a simple story of what if one of the unkillable killers from Halloween or Friday the 13th was a robot. The screenwriter dressed up the idea with purloined science fiction trappings he somehow assumed were within the public domain, and it cost the production a lawsuit. It felt fresh in 1984, but it’s been milked dry by sequels and reboots. Watch the original source material instead!