Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Badass Black and White

In the fall of '08, I was contacted to do some interior pieces for a book called, Badass.  The weird thing was that I was asked to do some black and white work.  To that point I hadn't really done any black and white work, but it was a fun project so I went for it.  The strange thing in retrospect was that I decided to do the work in oils rather than pen and ink.  I've always loved black and white oil paintings and it seemed to me to be the natural way to go.  I also looked upon the job as an opportunity to practice digital painting, which I did for my sketches.

Originally, I was told that the 6 pieces I had done would be spot images at the beginning of each chapter and should fit into a 6" x 6" square (the book has a 6" x 9" proportion).  Thus, I painted all but two of the six pieces square, deviating on the remaining two thinking that they would be cropped to fit the space.  This is where a second strange decision came in: I made the paintings 100% of their reproduction size.  They were tiny, 6" wide oil paintings.

When the book was finally released, my heart sank upon discovering that the design team decided to turn the illustrations into full-bleed images on the pages opposite the chapter starts, resulting in all of the images being severely cropped.  This wouldn't normally be a problem for me, but I had made the paintings so small that the cropped images had to be blown up in order to fill the taller space.  The printed versions were at least 50% larger than the original paintings.  The bad news is that the compositions weren't designed for the taller proportions on most of the pieces.  The good news is that the designers who'd made the decisions on where to crop had a good eye and did pretty much what I would have done.  All in all, the end result could have been worse, and I didn't complain — they offered me the cover after all!

Anyway, here is one of the interiors.  It depicts Eliot Ness and is one of the two that wasn't square.  I believe this piece suffered the least cropping.  Digital sketch first, then painting.  In case you're wondering, I did print out the digital sketch and paint on top of it, but the sketch was completely covered by the oils.

Eliot Ness sketch, full of 1's and 0's.
Eliot Ness painting, full of Titanium White and Ivory Black.


  1. Ever since hitting the Brandywine a year ago and standing in front of full-sized b/w oil paintings by Pyle and NC Wyeth, I've been very interested in doing some too. Cool you got the chance to.

  2. Yeah, I'm lucky to have gotten the chance. Even if it's an exercise, I recommend folks try it out. It's fascinating to paint without having to worry about color. At least it is to me.


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