Crypt of the Vampire Now in Colour

I have been very tardy with blog posts over the past year, a situation I’m going to try and change, at least until I go back to being tardy again! I just saw that my last post about The Crypt of the Vampire was way back in May last year. It was announcing a Kickstarter to have the black a white illustrations to Dave Morris’ Crypt of the Vampire book coloured and reissued in a deluxe hardcover edition. Crypt of the Vampire was the first book I ever illustrated back in 1984 when I was just 18 and the year before I started my art college degree. It was the first book for Dave too, and the beginning of a friendship that has lasted ever since, most recently culminating in the Mirablis: Year of Wonders comic.

The first Kickstarter by Mikael of Megara Entertainment, the micro publisher, was withdrawn for various reasons, but was set in train again later in the year. I am happy to report that it was fully funded and even exceeded it’s stretch goal to have new chapters and illustrated by me. Mikael paid for my colouring of the original illustrations in advance, so that he had examples to help market the Kickstarter, and I completed the work before Christmas 2015. At first it felt very odd working on drawings I have done over 30 years years ago, but I quickly realised that the quality of that early work had stood the test of test time, and I reveled in a happy nostalgia for the heady days of game book’s high water mark.

I coloured them digitally in Manga Studio on my trusty Microsoft Surface 3. Back then when I was 18 I couldn’t imagine that such technology would exist in my lifetime. Here is a small gallery of some of the coloured finals. btw. The Vampire gallery image. The 2nd portrait to left is my Dad! He wanted to feature in my first illustrated book even though he wasn’t a vampire, I think!

If you missed the Kickstarter the book will be available to buy from Megara Entertainment later in the year.






The first book I illustrated is now a Kickstarter.

Wight - Crypt of the Vampire Gamebooks - Leo Hartas

The Wight

This was one of the first commercial illustrations I did back in 1983 for the book Crypt of the Vampire by Dave Morris. It was for a series of choose your own adventure game books that were very popular back in the day. I’ve coloured the version you see here for the new Kickstarter campaign run by Mergara Entertainment who are looking to re-issue this classic as a full colour deluxe collectors edition. If the project hits it’s target I’ll get to colour up all of my original drawings and paint a brand new cover.

If you love classic game books and/or my work please consider backing it.

Crypt of the Vampire Kickstarter

Detail is the Bane of my Illustration Life

Captain Bilgebell's Treasure Ship WEB - Leo Hartas


Captain Bilgebelly’s Space Pirate Ship

Another example from the children’s book I worked on during Brighton Polytechnic Illustration BA course back in the day. This was supposed to be the end paper design. The idea for a cut away went back to my love for cut aways in various Thunderbird albums I remember as a child. In fact as an 8 year old, or 10, I drew a huge submarine that had mechanical grabs, many floors of living accommodation and even a cinema. I dimly remember that it made it into an exhibition at a gallery near my school and I was photographed next to it for the local paper. If I come across the photo I’ll add it to the post!

The interesting thing about this drawing is that it was the start of the bane of my life as an illustrator. You see, you get paid the same however much or little detail you put into a commission. The problem is that the more detail you include the longer it takes to draw and the further south your earnings go. People love that I add a lot of detail, and I love detail too. As I draw I see more and more that I can add to the illustration, and at the back of my mind I guess I feel I am giving more value to the viewer. A quick sketch feels like I’m selling them short. I have tried many times to simplify my work, but to no avail. Below are a few enlarged details so you can see how crazy I am!

Captain Bilgebell's Treasure Ship Detail 4 WEB- Leo Hartas

Captain Bilgebell's Treasure Ship Detail 3 WEB- Leo Hartas

Captain Bilgebell's Treasure Ship Detail 2 WEB- Leo Hartas

Captain Bilgebell's Treasure Ship Detail 1 WEB- Leo Hartas

Fighting Fantasy. Same Place – Different Maps

Leo Hartas - Fighting Fantasy Isles of  the Dawn Leo Hartas - Fighting Fantasy Isles of  the Dawn

Two maps from the Fighting Fantasy series of game books that I painted in 1989 and 1991 that I found recently in a long forgotten folder. The series was started by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone and went on to become a cult success before computer games took the attention of adolescent boys. In many of the books a colour map was printed on the inside cover which became a regular job for me before I even started art school. These two maps were late on int he series when I was becoming more sophisticated with framing and decorative ideas. I was usually only ever given a very rough map scrawled by the author on the back of an envelope and virtually no other information about the story let alone a chance to read the script. From my point of view, pure heaven! I was left to my own devices, and it shows. The lower map was painted in my usual way with watercolour, but the top map, the one carved on a floating rock was my first attempt at painting with acrylics mixed with a glossy medium. You cannot see it in the scan, but the original has a lovely depth and richness.

Dragon in the Dungeon

Dragon drawing in pencil by Leo Hartas

Wonderful fun doing a detailed pencil drawing of a classic Dungeons & Dragons type scene. It was done on cheap cartridge paper with HB and 4B, (the only ones I could find had leads that kept breaking) I did some finishing in Photoshop mainly because it’s difficult to get dark enough with pencil alone. I’m wondering if I should tackle some actual Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, but I fear my visualisation of stories is so distorted now by the films that it would be difficult to come up with anything original.

Any way, a critique of my own work. It could be a lot better. The biggest problem is in the basic composition and the position of the big arch, I’m not sure it works properly for two reasons. The first is that I have cut off this side of the arch which leaves it hanging in space and the other end lands just behind the dragons tail, not really leaving enough believable space for him. I don’t like his head which is too bent over like a horse. This fault goes right back to the model I’d designed in paper, which was the starting point for the idea in first place. There are many other disappointments, such as the poor drawing in the warrior riding or subduing the dragon, or the too small scale of the adventurer emerging from the tunnel, or the pointless door on the ground level.. I could go on and on.

Instead I’ll say what I like and think is working. The stonework. It’s far from perfect but I love the detail and texture and the arches disappearing into the dark roof. The treasure looks good too, really seems to be glowing. I like too that I just enjoyed doing it, for it’s own sake, for sitting listening to audio books and calming my jangling nerves.

I want to do another one now!

Christmas Dragon



Christmas Dragon - Leo Hartas

Christmas Dragon – Leo Hartas


I’ve just put my Christmas Dragon up on Etsy with a new stand.

It’s a download printable which means that you can download the file, print it out and build it! You can also send it as an unusual Christmas card kit for your recipient to make. Great if you’re running really late with Christmas cards! The best thing is that you will have something fun to do during those long drawn out periods on Christmas day between opening presents and eating.

Christmas Dragon