Project:GHOST [blog #3] - The Detective.

General / 09 December 2020

Peter Roberts: a middle-aged private detective who swore he would continue to solve Flynn’s bizarre death that disturbed and scarred itself into his memory. The case was framed by Flynn’s father as a suicide, but there was evidence that the case was a homicide. However, Peter did not know that his estranged father was the Chief of the Rivenbrook Police Department, and being a young policeman himself 20 years ago in 1998, he was unfortunately naïve to his malicious scheme.

(Figure 1.)

Peter's father, Michael, was David’s (Flynn’s father) brother, making Flynn and Peter cousins, which is only discovered later on. The two had a poor relationship in their day, to say the least, and David’s occupation was dwindling. He was losing money, and could hardly afford for his new family, and so Michael would not allow him to see Flynn and his brother out of spite. This lead to David’s eventual downfall, becoming desperate and obsessed with his youngest son. The idea of; “if I can’t have you, no one can.”

(Figure 2. Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in the Noir film ‘The Maltese Falcon’ [1941])

Michael did not want to be associated with a murderer for a brother and his dead nephew, but knew his son Peter was part of the police force – everyone knew what happened but him. At the scene, Peter was fooled as he was told a crew needed to get more equipment, but they were actually going to David’s cabin in the woods where he went to die as their suspicions were raised. Michael tried to save his own hind, and did not want Peter involved. Therefore, Peter was kicked from the investigation after he was gathering evidence of the homicide, the case having quickly and aloofly been ruled as a suicide. Peter spent the next 20 years solving investigations, but Flynn’s case stuck with him. He becomes severely depressed and an alcoholic after the death of his only child, Samuel (a reference to fictional detective Sam Spade from ‘The Maltese Falcon’ 1941), who was killed by the police force in a freak accident as ‘collateral damage’. His wife, Dahlia (a reference to the murder case of the Black Dahlia) could not handle the loss of her son and lost herself, committing suicide in the bathtub in their apartment. This happened during the 20 years leading up from 1998 to approximately 2018, where the game would have taken place (the event occurred several years earlier).

This information will be relevant for Peter’s design choices and why he is the way he is, having been through so much experience in his time as a policeman and detective. His 45 year old design is inspired by the classic hard-boiled noir detective. The variation of his younger self as a former police officer is inspired by an English Constable with multiple inspirations from different cities/counties uniform versions including London Metropolitan Police and tactical clothing.

(Figure 3. Using Bradley Cooper's face as inspiration. Screenshots taken from ‘Limitless’ [2011] and Joy [2016])

I had struggled a lot with Peter’s face design wise at the beginning, as I needed a photographic reference much like what I had done for Flynn. At the time, my friends and I joked about Peter being that one circulating meme of Ben Affleck smoking a cigarette and looking absolutely drained and depressed with life. I was also watching more films around this time, where I had found James McAvoy in ‘Filth’ (2013) and ‘It: Chapter 2’ (2019). It still wasn’t quite what I was aiming for, the ‘right’ face - only having had the reference of my sketch page for the detective. I decided I was going to blend features initially, but I managed to soon find Bradley Cooper as a face model (as seen in Figure 3). I thought this suited Peter’s physique, air of professionalism and appearance best, even for his younger version. I wanted some features similar to Flynn’s, so not too indifferent as the two are cousins, but I wanted him to also look very different at the same time when comparing the two. I made Peter look older, more tired, and dishevelled – Cooper is exactly the same age (around 45), yet he still looks rather young by comparison! I also painted Peter's physique as more portly because he smokes and drinks (hence the whiskey and cigarette). I felt my practice painting him as inspiration was an improvement since Flynn’s model sheet and my rendering skill in clothing had also improved.


I researched holsters and harnesses and exactly how they would work on the body so I could understand how they would fit, which is relevant to the callouts of the guns. As a police officer, standard issue would have been a Glock 17 9x19mm Parabellum rounds - the original model. As a Detective, I considered a Taurus, Smith & Wesson, Colt, Magnum and Webley, but after further research I felt Peter would have a 3-inch Charter Arms Bulldog .44 Calibre Special. It's a small, lightweight revolver that conceals easily, but the .44 calibre means that it packs a punch and has quite a bit of kickback/recoil. The only real downside is the capacity - it's a 5-shot before Peter has to reload, but that’s fine since it's more suitable for self defence and has very good stopping force with its big bore, though less than a Magnum gun. It's also for shooting more close and dirty, but it can still shoot quite a distance if aim is good enough despite not being a gun specifically designed for that. It is a solid performance gun that was popular in the 80s especially as back up guns for police officers, but the revolvers are still in production today. They were a fairly cheap gun at the time too, and today it goes for around 300-400 US dollars.

They are made often with stainless steel and rubber grips, but Peter would go for the classic style with blued steel with wood as painted above. The wood on the revolver handle means it might be less comfortable than a rubber grip with the recoil, unless he shaves it down or rounds off the edges of the grip near the barrel. However, the wood is also decent with handling because it slides smoother against clothing and the leather holster than the rubber version does. The wood still has hatching for some grip too but it isn’t over the top. I also did research into how warrant cards and wallets are designed in the UK police force. I tried to contact the Norwich Police Department but got no response – however, I managed to dig into the internet a while and found references of fake vs real warrant cards and a photo from a police officer’s last day collecting his warrant card, so this matched up. I took some creative liberty for the fictional town of Rivenbrook and was also inspired by the Norfolk Constabulary emblem for the metallic emblem – the braille also reads ‘police’, which is also on the warrant cards. I also weathered the wallet to show how grimy and used up it’s been since Peter got it over 20 years ago (having changed to private investigator status, but with the same wallet) – if only it could talk, the stories it would tell… 


The next blog will focus on Flynn and David (his father)'s ghost forms and their design choices! 

- Thank you for reading!

Project:GHOST [blog #2] - Flynn Reed.

Making Of / 20 November 2020

Flynn Reed: a young, shy 17 year old boy who was bullied, hence the injuries in the variations seen below in 'Figure 1' - Flynn had suffered severely from anxiety and depression in the 1990s, having taken medication for it (the pill bottle is labelled Lorazepam). He attended Rivenbrook High, a boarding school in the middle of a cursed forest. Many tragedies have befell the area over decades since the school campus was built around the late 1800s to early 1900s over possible ancient burial sites and ruins, and Flynn’s case was one of the last sacrificed to the woods, having been murdered by his own estranged father David out of obsession.

(Figure 1.)

Onto the design choices! Firstly, his clothing design and callouts. Some boarding schools in the UK retain students until they are 18, and Flynn was 17, so it still makes sense. Flynn’s original design was supposed to be a vest over a white shirt by default, and while I explored different designs with sketches in blog #1, his design was originally this quick doodle I made below.

(Figure 2.)

However, I decided to play around with blazer designs. I was inspired by seeing students walking around Norwich – I used to live nearby Notre Dame High school back in university, and have visited the Cathedral often enough to see Norwich School students walking around. The school uniform from Notre Dame comprises of plain blazers with a sewn on badge, plain black trousers with a black belt (Flynn is skinny so this is needed), black polished shoes such as Oxford shoes, and a plain white shirt – “must be worn tucked into trousers or skirt. Top button to be fastened at all times.” They also have a bottle green V-neck jumper with the logo that is optional. The style of the striped tie also depends on what year you are. However, the uniform style is not limited to Notre Dame, of course, as many UK schools have similar wear. I was in one of the few secondary schools who did not have a uniform, meaning I had to look into more research! What I do notice is that the shirts/blazers tend to fit poorly, and so I purposefully made it too large/long on Flynn’s skinny, malnutritioned physique. Perhaps it was a hand-me-down from his older brother Ryan? I also saw a video from 1994 for inspiration for the school uniform from Norwich School:

(Figure 3. One of Norwich School’s uniform designs.)

The callouts on all characters are items of importance such as possessions or close-ups. I decided to give Flynn an old-fashioned leather messenger bag/ satchel, since for formal wear at schools they used to be popular, and continue to be considered timeless and sophisticated – the messenger bag started becoming fashionable in the 1980s despite their practical uses. They are also lightweight and the Rivenbrook school will have had lockers across the campus except for boarding houses, meaning that Flynn would not have had to walk far to collect books. 

Being at boarding school is expensive, and Flynn’s mother would likely have been able to afford technology and equipment for him as he was heavily interested in media, including photography and old films. One of these possessions was a phone – which he uses to communicate to the Detective after his death. I was considering a Nokia 9000i communicator (1996), but they were extremely expensive (approximately £1000 when they hit the market at the time), so decided to go with a phone that looks similar to the original Nokia model 3110 (1997). Other items not pictured include a Polaroid SLR 680, a dictaphone and a diary – these would have provided clues in game. The school logo (Fleur-de-lis) is a reference to Flynn’s French heritage, and the symbol signifies “perfection, light, and life” – a rather ironic reference to such a dark story of death and decay.

(Figure 4. Alex Lawther as depicted in a BAFTA interview and ‘The End of the F**king World’ [2017])

Secondly, the face. I decided to try have a go at using photography reference again for this project, since in my Wendigo project in this portfolio, it worked really well and was a successful experiment. I decided to use the actor Alex Lawther for inspiration as a face model. My reasons are because Lawther has played roles of awkward, timid teenagers extremely well, including in the movie ‘Ghost Stories’(2017), showing his experience in horror films. He has also played students, such as in ‘The Imitation Game’(2014), ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’(2017), ‘Old Boys’(2018) and the short film ‘Yussef is Complicated’(2015). His personality is rather soft-spoken and he could be described as an ‘old soul’ – all traits that fit the character, including the physical traits. This made him a great fit for Flynn overall. Flynn’s hairstyle is a low-fade bowl-cut with a side parting. Curtained haircuts and bowlcuts were popular during the 1990s, and so it would not be uncommon to see such a hairstyle. During his time in school, he would have originally had more medium length hair all the way round at the same length, but an incident occurred where a bully stuck chewing gum in his hair during class meant that his older brother had to shave it into an undercut as he could not fix it.

(Figure 5. Using Lawther's face as inspiration. Screenshot taken from Departure[2015])

UPDATE (December 2020):

In my own time after graduation, I have continued to work on this project and will be updating these journal entries over time - whether these pieces are self-indulgent sketches or concept art. I have decided to practice working also for a 3D artist, should the need for one ever arise, or for my own practice for my future career. I have created a simple sketchy grayscale model sheet with both 'alive'(1998) and 'dead'(ghost) variations. It had been a while since I have created a model sheet, but it was fun! Flynn's height would be around 5'8". I decided eventually that giving Flynn the blazer jacket as a default design was better and more recognizable rather than the earlier callout sheet, where the 'default' design is without it - akin to the original sketch.

(Figure 5. Top sheet 'Dead'[Ghost])

(Figure 6. Bottom sheet 'Alive'[1998])

The top sheet shows Flynn's details as a ghost, where in death he retains his wounds and dirt from when he was kidnapped by his own father and beaten. The other 'clean' version served as a base model sheet, for Flynn before his death in 1998. 


The next blog will focus on the Detective's design choices! 

- Thank you for reading!

Project:GHOST [blog #1] - Introduction and Moodboard/Initial sketches.

Making Of / 18 November 2020

Warning: The following project contains paranormal elements, gore and dark, mature/sensitive themes.

Hello! This is my first blog of a series of blogs, which will cover my artistic thought process of an ongoing personal passion project for a potential horror game, which I also submitted as part of my final year 3 university project. Some of the artwork is also relatively new and completed in my own time - in which case, these will be updated as the project goes on.

The narrative centers around hardboiled 45 year old Detective Peter Roberts, who explores a now abandoned high school in the forest of an old historical town called Rivenbrook twenty years after 1998 (the setting is inspired by Norwich as well as various villages in the Cotswolds, such as Ilmington, which takes place in a fictional England). Peter tries to uncover what truly happened to Flynn Reed, a 17 year old student who was found dead by hanging two weeks into the search that dark November winter, which Peter had taken part in when in the police force himself. The case was ruled as a suicide, but was in fact a homicide, much to Peter’s disbelief. What were they hiding from him? 

(Figure 1. Moodboard.)

The first thing I did was search for photos, to gather inspiration and visual aesthetics for the project. I have a huge passion for the horror genre and storytelling, and have written essays on my interest for them as well as on the struggles of coming of age. I also love researching about ghost stories, such as the Amityville murders and haunting. My uncle was also a policeman who investigated the Enfield Poltergeist in the late 1970s.

The initial rough sketches/thumbnails below were for design/clothing options and character exploration. I created some quick thumbnails to begin with character designs, as they were important to nail down. I had a very basic idea for how I wanted them to look judging by their personalities and backstories. I will explain them later with the relevant characters, my design choices and why they have been used. I am very inspired by films and games such as the ‘Silent Hill’ franchise and ‘The Blair Witch Project’(1999). The 'Silent Hill' inspiration certainly feels more grounded because I have analysed and studied 'SH2's(2001) symbolism and uncanniness in-depth for my dissertation, so I can put my knowledge into practice.

(Figure 2. Flynn Reed sketches.)

(Figure 3. Peter Roberts sketches.)


The next blog will focus on my thoughts and research of my main character designs, based on the narrative and backstories they share. 

- Thank you for reading!