Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Horror

A couple of months ago, I was asked if I would be willing to take on a new commission for the holidays. I assumed it would be a standard portrait or caricature, but it ended up being a little more complicated and a lot more fun.

The subjects are the Meza brothers, who direct short horror films. I was asked to draw the brothers (one carrying a movie slate and the other carrying an old camera), running from the monster in "The Ring". And that is all sorts of awesome.

Here's the sketch:

The layout took a little more time than usual for a couple of reasons. I had to re-draw the first guy a couple of times because I wasn't satisfied with the way the sketch looked. It's also my habit to draw people's heads fairly large. Faces are fun to draw, they tend to be the locus of attention, and it's also partially habit because of the comics. But that's not the style this client wanted and I really had to fight the urge to make them bobble-headed cartoons.

Fitting three characters in action poses into a single illustration (8.5" x 11") took a little maneuvering, but it worked eventually. I considered using a more dynamic layout (one where the "camera" is in front of the brothers instead of to the side), but I chose this approach for clarity of the action and the fact that it showed 3/4 of each character.

Finally, I also used the background elements (moon, trees, clouds) to pull attention toward the primary characters while (hopefully) adding to the tone and not distracting too much from the foreground.

Next, the outline:

Not a lot of new ground there. This is the same process (sketch, outline, flat color, shading) that I used in college when I was drawing political cartoons. The outline always lends itself to a more cartoony feel. That works perfectly on this one, but may be a liability on other illustrations where the tone is different. I suppose I could get rid of the outline and change the coloring process to more of a painterly one (more like the way I used to layer oil paints), but that's an experiment for another project.

Here's the final, color, shading and all:

One of the many things I love about illustration is that it's not bound by physical reality. Yes, you can have two real people being chased by a monster that doesn't actually exist. But I'm talking about more subtle details than that. The lighting here is a complete fiction. If the moon were actually the only light source and it was located behind their heads, the shadow would be darkest on their faces. But that's not exactly a great idea when the whole point is to show their faces, right?

In a way, this is more like movie lighting. Ever notice how, when a character lights a candle or turns on a flashlight in a movie, the whole room lights up along with their faces? It's important for us as an audience to be able to see the characters' faces so that we know how to react emotionally. Our empathy for the characters on screen drags us into whatever situation they're experiencing. As much as a music cue or a line of dialogue, the look on someone's face tells us just about everything we need to know.

Fortunately, in illustration I don't need a Teamster with a klieg light to do the job. I can just paint the light in. Makes me feel a little bit like a tiny director. I think I'll order myself a chair with my name written on the back and grow a director's mustache.

In summation, this was a super fun job. It was fun to think about and fun to draw. I think the craft turned out well (I had plenty of time and I took plenty of time, which are invaluable).


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