Reimagining the KA symbol that Michael created for THE DARK TOWER (Book 7).

Inspiration came while listening to the original audiobook of the THE GUNSLINGER, read by Stephen King himself. There are several bones around the studio, human and other, which seemed to fit the atmosphere when arranged just the right way.

Notice the Crimson King’s sigil borne by the spider, the bullet holes in the wood, and the hands of the watch.

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At an exhibition some years ago, Jordu Schell and I were comparing notes on work that truly made us shudder. Jordu is a master VFX artist and sculptor who has a long history in the “horror” business. I wondered if there were things that really scared him.

I confessed to him that scenes of Mordred feasting on victims in The Dark Tower were among the most horrific moments I’d ever read. I tried to convey how brilliantly King described the boy when he changed into a spider-creature; that parts of his spider-self would begin to manifest when he had trouble controlling his impulses.

Later that day, Jordu smiled as he handed me a sketch of his interpretation—a lumpy headed spider-boy. As chance would have it, I came across it recently and painted my own version of Mordred based on his drawing just in time for Stephen King’s birthday!

I made a few additions to fit the scene, including a hint of the Red King’s deserted castle and a gathering of rooks and crows. I even gave Mordred a nose, but I had to keep the football-shaped head and his deliciously evil grin.

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Looking back at the photo of the scrap that became PREFLIGHT CHECKLIST, I wonder why I made the bird a vulture. What I see now is the glaring eye of a crow. I couldn’t resist riffing again on the random patterns preserved in that photo, so I went to work with paint mixed for another painting.

It’s funny how differently inspiration can play out. I’ve had The Dark Tower on my mind lately. This month is Stephen King’s birthday as well as the anniversary of the release of volume seven. As Ka would have it, dark wings led me back to Mid-World.

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This mean hombre was originally a smear of paint on a palette pad. To complete my repair of a piece of teak deck furniture, I mixed up this wonderful color to match the stain already on the wood. A brush mark near the top of the palette looked a little like a hat to me, so he became Clay Reynolds, one of the “Big Coffin Hunters” from Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass.

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Painted on the back of a misprinted Dark Tower image that we offer in the website shop. The print is on such a fine grade of heavyweight watercolor paper that I’m loathe to throw it away if there’s any hope of my reusing it for some other purpose. In this case, I was employing the paper as a mixing palette of mostly white, yellow ocher, and raw umber.

The shape suggested by a brush mark made me think of creatures described in Stephen King’s THE WASTE LANDS, long beaked, bird-like things that resemble “walking camera tripods”. The image never left my mind after reading the book.

As I worked on the main painting—which at the time was HARBINGER—I tweaked the shapes here and there, added the legs, and covered some of the splashes that did not fit in with the mental picture in my head.

One day perhaps this sketch will lead to an actual illustration of the scene, which I’m sure should be darker and more hellish than what I indicated in this sketch.

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I had taken a nighttime walk on our street and it was very foggy out. I had a flashlight in hand and when I shone it on a tree this image popped into my head—almost exactly the same way Stephen King describes his inspiration for The Mist.

King was inspired to write The Mist by a trip to his local supermarket following a thunderstorm, during which he imagined prehistoric animals and giant insects besieging the building while he was waiting in the checkout line at their local market.

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In 2009, Michael returned to the world of The Dark Tower in this painting created especially for the amazing coffee table book KNOWING DARKNESS: ARTISTS INSPIRED BY STEPHEN KING.

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Interior illustration for a new collector’s edition of THE DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER by Stephen King which includes his story LITTLE SISTERS OF ELURIA. Overnight camping in the salt flat deserts of Utah provided the inspiration.

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Interior illustration for THE DARK TOWER VII by Stephen King. Patrick the magical artist draws the door into existence. Note the 2 brushes on the doorknob.

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This interior illustration for THE DARK TOWER VII by Stephen King is a scene from a chapter entitled “In the Haze of Green and Gold” which set the tone for the artist’s color scheme. King also described the trees as being like the columns of a cathedral and Michael endeavored to capture this in his painting.

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