“The artwork for Oceano’s Ascendants was definitely me stepping outside of my comfort zone,” comments American illustrator Dusty Peterson (Six Feet Under, Bloodbath). “I normally do not work with such a wide color color palette and am not used to balancing so many colors at once, so this was absolutely a learning experience for me. The concept was fairly deep and unfortunately I can’t dig into the subject matter very much as the album is not out yet.”

Below, Dusty (who also illustrated the band’s 2010 album “Contagion,”) recounts, step by step, exclusively for MetalBandArt and the art community And Justice For Art how he created such ambitious visual behemoth.

1) I always start out with a basic sketch of where I want to go. Taking everything that Oceano had told me over the phone (which was a lot, btw!) and getting it all into one piece was a huge challenge. At this stage, though, I was only trying to design and figure out how I wanted my main figure to be composed.

2) Lately, I have been very interested in traditional watercolor with my work, but not really so much for the finishing of the piece. I like to use it very early on so I can get a lot of fun texture and sometimes even some happy accidents that I didn’t think about when I was drawing. When I am painting this portion, it is very freestyle and no real direction. I just keep the sketch in mind while I paint it. Then I bring that into photoshop, desaturate it, and size it so it matches up as best as possible to the sketch. I place it underneath it on it’s own layer.

3) This stage is mostly about me figuring out the values of the piece, but also some re-sizing and course corrections to ensure I don’t get too far down the line before discovering that he has a pinhead. Depending on the work, I will sometimes just paint all on one layer and deal with mistakes as they happen. But this was a piece that I really wanted to break down into a million parts and then build back up because it was very complicated in my head and I wanted to make sure that I could correct myself at each stage if I needed to.

4) It was very important that the left side of the piece was “light” and the right side of the piece communicated “dark”. So in this phase I am still adjusting values and making certain that things are not too flat. I wanted this to be a very high-contrast piece that really popped to the viewer.

5) Now I started to sloppily add color. At this stage, most of the other layers are still in play, they are just hidden and I hide/unhide depending on what I need. Sometimes I will flatten something down when I am feeling good about it. I should mention that this is one of about 15 different attempts to figure out the color palette. I had less color, more color, and every different configuration of the color wheel being attempted at this phase. This was a VERY long phase because I had some colors that the band was very interested in seeing on the piece and I had to make those prominent while also balancing them with my own interests.

6) This is simply more of the refining process as I start to work out details. As you can see, a lot of the sketch gets changed a little or sometimes obliterated entirely. Creating artwork, to me, is not about holding to my own rules. It’s an evolution and a process and I will change my mind many times from start to finish. In my head, I can see a blurry version of the end product as if I was squinting my eyes. But I have to discover the details with the actual creation of the piece. So because of this the face totally changed and new details and story elements happened organically on their own.



About rmartos

Verteran journalist, Ramon Oscuro Martos, has been writing for several Rock/Metal publications for almost 20 years. He currently writes for Metal,,,, etc. He also runs the facebook community about album covers, And Justice for Art (book coming soon) and the independent record label, Dark Canvas Records (