Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch

At long last I present you with the third Badass book cover. This one is for the upcoming third book in the series, Badass: Ultimate Deathmatch, and went down without so much as a hint of drama. IT was sweet.

Now, as with the previous two Badass covers, I was asked to paint an image incorporating multiple figures. Whereas the first book had three figures and the second had five, this one required four figures... and an airplane. So I guess it's kinda like five... sorta. Anyway, the initial figures requested were: a samurai, a Roman centurion, a Gulf War era U.S. Marine, and the Mapuche warrior Galvarino. The airplane I'd be depicting was a British Spitfire from World War II.

Just as I'd done on the previous two cover projects, I did my sketch digitally using separate layers for each figure. This is how that first sketch came out:

Sure it's a little rough, but it gets the point across and is consistent with the vibe set up by the previous two pieces. As you can see, I added a second Spitfire in the background and tried my best to flesh out the values. I submitted it and waited.

You may be wondering why I kept the various figures on separate layers. The answer is simple: people are prone to changing their minds. It happened on the previous two books, and this case was no exception. While they liked the overall feel of the sketch, they wanted me to replace Galvarino with Queen Boudica, and replace the Roman with a Greek hoplite. Old layers were turned off. New layers were created and doodled upon.

The resulting changes yielded this revised sketch:

Obviously I stole heavily from the Roman in order to create the Greek, but Boudica needed to be drawn from scratch.

A quick aside about Boudica. I was asked to make her sexy and have her showing some skin — but not too much skin. This is a common request in the industry and it's one I have a difficult time with. I know that kind of thing sells, but I'm personally just not into eye candy. It's not that I can't do it, it's that I don't like to. Reconciling what I want to paint with what I know is code for heaving bosoms can be a treacherous path to negotiate, and my primary focus was making Boudica look and feel more warrior-like than anything else. I did my best to cover all the bases and I'm happy to say that in this case I managed to paint what I wanted to and still please the client. I wish more of my experiences in such matters had gone so smoothly.

Anyway, after the revisions, this sketch is what was eventually approved.

Now, as had happened in the previous books, I was given images of the cover's design. Obviously, it was my job to work out just how the figures would live within the confines of that design. I knew from the start that my image would need to fit in the bottom half of the cover under a very large title. Also, title would be neon green.


Yeah. In some respects this is a blessing. I know what I'm up against visually. I can figure out a color scheme that works with the green and hopefully helps tie things together. On the other hand, it was a really bright shade of green — one that was bound to dominate my painting. Fortunately, a suggestion was made early on that the image perhaps be heavy on the pinks and purples. While this sounds like an insanely bad idea, it actually did seem to work well with the typography. So, with plan in hand, I went to paint.

Here's how it came out.

I was happier with the piece than I expected to be, honestly, and I was especially satisfied with everything that was actually going to be seen on the cover. (For reference that includes pretty much everything from the Greek guy's chest on up.) Still, there were some things that nagged at me that I wanted to fiddle with, so after a while I finally got the chance to go back into the painting and tweak some stuff.

Here's how it came out:

Most of the differences are subtle, but the major ones include a third Spitfire, some brighter highlights here and there, a larger sword in the Greek warrior's hand and a repaint of his legs. I also went ahead and signed it, which I'd forgotten to do on the first go around. The changes are really minor ones, but I felt like they made for a better painting. 'Course that's just my opinion.

The long and the short of it is that the Badass books have treated me well. I've enjoyed working on them, and I'm pretty amazed at just how well the paintings work next to one another. There's a pretty clear through-line and I'm pretty proud of that.

Incidentally, this piece will be making its debut at IlluxCon tomorrow. And while I'm plugging things, if it peaks your interest, you should check out the previous posts on all the various Badass projects (link), and maybe check out the site that's the source of it all, Badass of the Week, where you can read a bunch of cool stuff, find some info on the previous books, and maybe pick up a t-shirt or two.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Personal Piece Update 5

Painting today is going to start later than expected for two reasons. First, I had to do a little trimming of a tree damaged in last week's storm in order to hopefully mitigate any potential damage from the storm that's going to come barreling at us tomorrow. Why is this so important? Well, the tree is the tallest thing on the block and looms precariously over the driveway. Fortunately, given the direction of the upcoming nor'easter's prevailing winds, any branches (or heaven forbid the whole tree) which might fall will fall out into the street. Today's efforts were to minimize this possibility. However, should the tree fall, getting to IlluxCon will be interesting as the tree would block me into my cul-de-sac. Hopefully there won't be any stories about my harrowing escape from River Edge, New Jersey.

The second reason for the delay is due to my sudden realization that I wanted to scan a piece that I'd framed and packed for the trip. So, I had to carefully unpack the thing, pull it apart, grab the scans, carefully put it all back together, then plop it back into its box. As far as I can tell, I've successfully avoided hurting anything and now have a decent scan of the painting (whereas I only had a mediocre scan of it before).

Now that that's all completed, I'm ready to sit down and get a bit of painting done. As you can see from the image below, I have my work cut out for me. Progress has been glacial, to be sure. Each painting session has found me distracted by the face and head. I keep sitting down to get work done only to get pulled into trying to correct one thing or another that just doesn't feel right about it. So I fix it, only to see something new the following day. I feel like that bit is finally getting close to what I want it to be now, so I'm starting to make other decisions like what the molding looks like.

The interior itself is inspired by a series of photos of an old abandoned insane asylum I stumbled upon a while back. These pieces of reference are reinforced by a ton of photos I've taken of decrepit structures found over the course of my travels. Not sure why, but I'm really intrigued the idea of the evolution of an interior space into an exterior one as a building deteriorates. The bits of the painting that explore this to some extent are a little ways down the road, but I'm at least starting to figure out how I want to pain the mold and lichen.

Anyway, next week, I'll be making some of the larger decisions about the foreground values vs. the background values, and with that under my belt I suspect that daily progress should become more obvious. At least I hope it will.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lost In the Storm

Well, I survived the hurricane. Sandy came and went and has put me very far behind where I'd hoped to be at this point. The weekend before the storm found me doing a fair bit of storm prep around the house. Two rain gutters needed repair, all the rain gutters needed cleaning, leaves needed to be raked and bagged to keep from clogging the storm drains, cars needed to be filled with gas, the garage needed to be rearranged to accommodate an actual car, and supplies needed to be procured. You'll note that working on a painting isn't anywhere on that list.

Considering how easy we got off compared to the rest of New Jersey and New York, I'll spare you the details of our week as they're pretty insignificant by comparison. Suffice it to say that trees came down and electricity was knocked out. We don't own a generator and the thick clouds kept my studio pretty dark. While waiting for the power to return, I did a lot of storm clean up and Amy and I walked around a fair bit. She worked from home as much as she could, I finally got around to finishing Chuck Wendig's book, Blackbirds, and we tried to keep huddled together for warmth.

When the juice finally came back on, my IlluxCon prep began in earnest and it's what I've concentrated on ever since. Happily, I should be finished with the vast majority of it by lunch tomorrow. And after finishing my IlluxCon prep, I'll pull my paints out and begin chipping away once again. The day after IlluxCon will also find me hard at work on the piece. And once home from my Thanksgiving break, I'll be putting this lady to rest.

Truth be told, Sandy's biggest impact on my life is that it pretty much killed any chance of getting that big old piece of mine done before IlluxCon. It's frustrating to be sure, as I've been trying to get the piece off the ground for over a year and a half, and now that it's actually progressing I'm faced with additional delays. However, that that is my biggest concern is something I am most grateful for. It's pretty silly compared to the worries of those who lost loved ones or don't have homes to live in anymore.

Before the storm, I was beating myself up about being behind and grumpily grumbling as I did the necessary house work. But in subsequent days I got to see the storm's impact elsewhere, and I gotta confess that I let my frustrations go. Sure, I wish I had that piece done for the show and yeah I think it would have made for a better wall, but I can't bring myself to get too upset about not pulling it off.

I will have the opportunity to make up for the lapse. I should count myself pretty lucky that that is the case. Besides, when this piece is done it'll be followed by another. One personal piece in a year and a half just isn't enough for me, so I suspect the IlluxCon wall next year will be eaten by the things... you know... if I make the cut, that is.

Anyway, I hope all my East-Coast readers were equally as fortunate and are at least on their way back to some degree of normalcy. I should be back tomorrow or the next day with an update on something or other. Until then...