Serge Birault paints pin-up art for halloween

Serge Birault's halloween painting

Serge Birault puts a grisly spin on the traditional crowd-pleasing element of American Football

I'm a real sucker for those low-budget horror films and from the 70s and early 80s. They're a huge influence on my personal work.

My regular clients don't usually ask me for this kind of stuff, so I was really pleased to be commissioned by ImagineFX to come up with the cover art for its horror issue.

The brief: to paint a zombie cheerleader - all the blood, gore, rotting flesh but keep her sexy looks!

I try to do expressive pin-ups and so I'm used to drawing grimaces, but I've never painted a woman in a state of bodily decay. Tricky...

The last problem I encountered was the American Football element. It's not my culture, I'm French and I hate sport. Thankfully, I managed to find the correct references online. Let's hear it for the internet!


Serge Birault
Serge Birault
Serge is a freelance illustrator well known in the digital art world as PapaNinja. He’s well versed in Actionscript development, 3D modelling and animation software.
Sun block

01 Apply sun block
A sun that's either rising or setting complicates matters. A strong backlight means your characters appear darker than usual. You have to work carefully with the silhouettes. In addition, all your tones will turn to orange or yellow. Using different layers for your adjustments is the best approach to take.


02 Hair today...
Painting hair is my new hobby. I like complex haircuts. There are many different and effective techniques, but I only know one that utilises the three-pixel Round Hard brush. It's a lengthy process that can sometimes be boring, but if you're well organised then a character's hair can be fun to do.

Poster girl

03 Poster girl
My painting is inspired by the zombie visual references that most people are aware of. For the sky and background figures I draw heavily on the design of the well-known poster for the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. I think of my image as a kind of tribute or parody.


04 Face the facts
The face becomes more creepy and rotten looking. I constantly change my mind and I create a lot of different layers for all the wrinkles and the blood. I also add some dirty colours, such as green or purple.


Step 1 image

01 Heads up
My first thought is to replace both her pompoms with heads, but there's a danger the joke would become lost in the imagery. It wouldn't have been easy to paint heads that look like pompoms. Furthermore, this pose would have to fit around the text on the cover, and so the zombie would end up looking awkward.

Step 2 image

02 Killer looks
Painting the zombie holding a bloody pompom and a single head initially looks tobe a workable solution. I'm keen to depict an expressive decapitated head and in this composition it would become an important part of the image. Unfortunately, once again the pose just isn't suitable for the cover. Time for a rethink.

Step 3 image

03 Go team!
I eventually click that the classic cheerleader pose is the best possible choice here. When I later add the goal post, the character's tight-fitting outfit, the head of the rival cheerleader and the horde in the background, all these references to American Football and high-school life make the image work - finally!

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ImagineFX, issue 113


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