Portfolio: Horror on the Orient Express 2E

The giant juggernaut that is “Horror on the Orient Express, 2nd Edition” involved many MANY people from around the Cthulhu world. Fortunately (in a small way), I was one of them.

I was asked to contribute some concept illustrations for the new Dreamlands side-trek that Penelope Love has written for the revised campaign. It has some weird and wonderful stuff in it — as most Dreamlands scenarios are wont to — so there’s plenty of interesting challenges.

As I complete concept designs, whether simply resurrections of period (out of copyright) paintings or montage pieces, I will put them up here.

NOTE: You can click any of the images to see a larger version


Temples of Zak

The city of Zak is described as being “park-like city with only a scattering of buildings. From the sea, it shows lordly terraces of verdure, and is dotted with the gleaming roofs and colonnades of Grecian-style Temples.” So I took this pretty much at face value, starting with a Victorian era painting of the Acropolis (in ruins) then reconstrucing some of the broken bits and putting a golden glowing roof on top. The pic was finished off by creating a shoreline and some boats (from another source) and putting some colourful avian drop-in features in the foreground.

Once again, presented here with two different finishes

Poster Overlay Finish

Zak's Terraced Temples 2b poster overlay

Oil Painting Finish

Zak's Terraced Temples 2b oil

Wharves of Dylath-Leen by Night

Dylath-Leen is a nifty-sounding place, but not an easy one to find art for … after all there really *aren’t* any cities made entirely of basalt blocks. I thought it might be fun to merge some basalt type structure (best I could find is part of an old quarry) with a painted wharf or dock. Those are the two primary sources for the piece below … and the wooly mammoth is from yet a third source. Just because it’s the Dreamlands, really.

Oil Painting Finish

Wharves of Dylath-Leen 4 vibrant oil

Poster Finish

Wharves of Dylath-Leen 4 poster linear dodge

Cats Rule The Ulthar Streets at Night

The streetscape base for this picture is an old painting of a village in Switzerland. I’ve replaced the sky with something more dramatic, added lots of gloss .. not to mention a few cats (and another beastie for good measure)

Oil Painting Finish

Ulthar at Night 3b oil

Waterpaper Finish

Ulthar at Night 3b waterpaper lighten

Blackjack’s Final Resting Place

During the scenario, there is a shocking murder onboard the Dreamlands Express … Blackjack, one of the Ulthar cats is cruelly killed. Finding the identity of the killer is one of the main plot points in the first part of the scenario. But poor Blackjack’s body is eventually buried by the other cats … at a most remarkable place. Where once stood the dream city of Aira there is now little more than a lone fractured column. Such is the nature of dreams, for when the dreamer who had brought Aira into existence himself fell low, so did his creation.

This painting montages elements from a few sources, but the beautiful background landscape is pretty much taken as a “found piece.” I have added the pillar, a small mount where Blackjack was buried, and the flock of oddly exotic birds. I also added some wierd lighting … which MAY just be odd beams of light coming from the sunset … or they could be an echo of where Aira’s splendid domes and spires once stood. You decide 🙂

Oil Painting Finish

Blackjack's Resting Place D oil

Poster Finish

Blackjack's Resting Place D poster screen

Zsusza’s Moment of Truth (as the Express crosses the Gulf of Nodens)

This montage is made up from three main Victorian-era sources (a very unusual “portrait” of the woman, a postcard of a luxury dining car, and a painting of the night sky). It aims to depict one of many tense scenes that take place when the Express lurches into the Gulf of Nodens. Beautiful dancer Zsusza — full of self-doubts — must decide whether to throw her dream artifact from the train. The idea for this one came when I saw the expression on the woman’s face in the painting and thought it was a good fit for the highly emotional (and highly personal) battle that the Gulf of Nodens seems intended to embody. The dancer figurine BTW is a terracotta statuette from Ancient Greece … seems like the sort of thing that might have a highly symbolic value

Again, this was produced in a multi-layered form and later treated to give it an artistic effect. Again I tried two different “finishes”

Water Paper Finish

hotoe - Zsusza's Moment of Truth 3a water

Oil Painting Finish

hotoe - Zsusza's Moment of Truth 3a oil

Found Pieces

These are out-of-copyright artworks that were published in vintage books (mostly from the 1890s), tidied up and tweaked a little in Photoshop to be a little more vibrant. In a couple of places I have added glow effects … because that somehow makes it seem more dream-like to me.

Domed City of Sona-Nyl

“Beneath their stunning pagoda, the immortal men and women of Sona-Nyl look out across domed temples and exquisite gardens”

Oil Painting Finish

hotoe - Sona-Nyl 3 vibrant oil

Poster Overlay Finish

hotoe - Sona-Nyl 3 vibrant poster overlay

Madame Brujah

“She is a stiff old lady in Elizabethan dress, with a starched ruff … Her severe face is gaunt and skull-like. Her eyes are dark and shadowed.”

hotoe - Madame Brujah older oil

With Train carriage background

hotoe - Madame Brujah older train oil


“a lean figure with pallid skin and dark hair. His eyes have neither pupil nor iris, just a glistening expanse of yellow.”

hotoe - Miromin-Mer train oil

“Mr Mac”

“a stout, genial greyhaired soul clad in travelling cloak and garments of hoary antique cut, which yet bear a suspicious resemblance to Scottish tweed. He has an honest, red face, and mutton chop whiskers.”

hotoe - Mac Train Bcrop oil

Monsieur Karakov

“He is careful of his appearance and clothes – his ring-covered fingers, fur trimmed robes and black Van Dyke beard and moustache.”

Monsieur Karakov B

Marbled City of Aira Serranian

“Departing the city of marble and golden domes, resplendent with its many painted murals, we are witness to an extraordinary rainbow which seems to touch the very buildings themselves”

Oil Painting Finish

hotoe - Aira 5 oil

Poster Overlay Finish

hotoe - Aira 5 poster overlay

Shelved Designs

Ulthar Station

The first scene in Penelope’s scenario has the Dream versions of the Investigators boarding a rather unusual train … in the Dreamlands. I thought it might be nice to try to sketch the station, even if I may not easily be able to draw the tentacle-burdened train itself …

The montage below draws from no less than five sources plus a few items of custom creation (like the Ulthar station sign). The bulk of the source material comes from Victorian era postcards. I created a montage of the basic elements in Photoshop and, once that looked ok flattened it down and tried to apply a “painting style” filter to make all the elements look sort of similar. During experimentation I tried two different finishes:

Poster Finish

hotoe - Ulthar Station 5 poster

Oil Painting Finish

hotoe - Ulthar Station 5 oil

Personally I reckon the Oil painting finish looks more Dreamlands-ish … but they’re both ok.

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