Saturday, 14 June 2014

Illustrations for Exquisite Terror - Buffalo Bill


Pencil
June 2014


Naila from Exquisite Terror asked for one more picture for the Silence of the Lambs piece, this time one of Buffalo Bill (who I think had ended up featuring in the essay I was to illustrate a little more than originally anticipated). I chose this one over the "tuck" or similar, just because I think it's a great image. It was hard to find a decent resolution of the photo from which to work, but actually this wasn't a bad thing overall. You don't draw every single tiny detail in minute detail, after all, but an impression of what's there - much like a photograph with not-so-great resolution.

Drawing this did make me reappreciate all over again what a great villain he is and what a particularly excellent combination of qualities Ted Levine brought to his portrayal of Jame Gumb. His face is at once flabby, loose-skinned and almost skeletal; he has this overall look that shifts between being dangerous, sexual and stupidly goofy.It's a powerful portrayal and I hope the image goes even a tiny way toward illustrating some of it.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Illustrations for Exquisite Terror - Hannibal and Precious


Pencil
May 2014


I have a very dear friend who writes about horror movies, and one of the outlets through which he distributes these writings is a rather neat publication called Exquisite Terror, an academic exploration of aspects of horror film. Having heard that editor Naila was looking for more illustrators, James put my name forward and Naila got in touch to ask if I'd be interested in doing illustrations for a piece on The Silence of the Lambs.

My emailed reply contained more capital letters and exclamation marks than is usually seemly in a first-contact communication, but it couldn't be helped. I have been fascinated by that film since I was perhaps eleven years old (though I wasn't allowed to see it until much later), have seen it dozens of times and know it inside out. I know all the quotes and all the parodies. The merged personalities of Clarice Starling and Jodie Foster loomed large in my pre-adolescent psyche as one major heroine; Lecter, with his manners and his Katharine Hepburn voice and his ostensible invulnerability, as a perfect villain. My reply, therefore was a great big YES, yes, most definitely yes, I would indeed be interested in doing illustrations for a piece on The Silence of the Lambs, thank you very much for asking.

Naila requested one of Hannibal Lecter's face, citing it as "delightfully creepy", and one other image. I had hoped to provide more, actually, but a third piece I began fell victim to a poor choice I made quite near the start and couldn't be salvaged in the execution - the rest, typically, fell victim to a lack of time. I toyed with the idea of doing the famous "Nice-chianti-FF-FF-FF-FF" face for the Hannibal picture, but when I browsed stills of it I realised that it sort of lacks tension. The brilliance of that moment is the startling suddenness of what he does; the image of him actually doing it has already bypassed that moment and wasn't as effective. I browsed some more and settled on the big close up of his face as he drinks in Starling's story about the lambs - much creepier, and featuring quite hypnotic eyes that allowed me to let the edges ofthe picture fade into the background a little to try and get the focus on his gaze.

For the other image, I toyed with a few ideas - including, a little shamefully, a kind of wry still life collage of Lecter's own drawing of Clarice next to a glass of chianti and a plate of fava-beans-and-you-know-what. Yes, I know - it would have been bad; I moved on. I always relished the moment when the head-in-a-jar of Benjamin Raspail is unveiled, but it was genuinely difficult to find a good image of it from which to work and I gave it up as not to be. Likewise the skin suit itself was hard to frame well, and like the snarling Lecter, it lacked tension because it's somewhat less than the sum of its parts (forgive the allusion) - not a Maguffin exactly, but certainly not as representive of the horror involved as it should be considering its creation is the motivation for all that killing. No skin suit.

There were good images of Starling herself and I very much wanted to include her, but the image I settled on was the one I made a mess of and there wasn't sufficient time to correct it. Had there been the possibility of a colour reproduction I would have loved to create a green-tinted monochrome of Starling groping terrified in the dark from the night-vision-goggle-framed point of view of Buffalo Bill... but grayscale only on this occasion, so that wouldn't have worked. Thinking of black and white and its restrictions led me to the perfect shot - Catherine Martin's low angle POV, looking up out of the pit at the odious little Precious gazing down at her. That was the one I wanted.

Little else to tell really. Pencils varying from 2B to 6B - a lot of time (but never enough) spent trying to get back into the mindset, remembering less is more; remembering you're not drawing everything that's there but an impression of what's there; remembering you're drawing light and shadow, not lines. Once I'm 'into' a drawing, I remember how much I love it and once it's done I see all the mistakes I made in it. It doesn't feel like other mistakes feel - there's no fear or regret with them because that picture can only ever be what it is; instead you feel calm and even-minded, because you know next time it will be better.

Or maybe that's all just the psychological effect of hours spent gazing deep into the eyes of Hannibal Lecter - who knows.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Client 101 - painting for Worthing Churches Homeless Project


Acrylic on paper
Apr 2014


It's that time of year again - time to contribute something to the extremely worthwhile and deserving Worthing Churches Homeless Projects Art Event, in which artists are recruited to make and donate a piece of art along a theme; it's displayed along with the others and auctioned in aid of the charity. I did it last year, when we were assigned the 'profile' of a homeless person and asked to produce a portrait of them based on the few lines they had written about their situation. This year was slightly different, but no less poignant - the 'Hopes and Dreams' project:
"What did you want to be when you were growing up? Is it the same now or have things in your life changed the things that you want, the things you dream about? A ten year old boy might not dream of owning his own home and raising a happy family but twenty years down the line that might be his greatest ambition. Worthing Churches Homeless Projects are running a project on Hopes and Dreams which will culminate in an exhibition as part of the Worthing ArtsTrail June 2014. The project calls for 100 members of the public and 100 people who have used the services of Worthing Churches Homeless Projects to write down their hopes and dreams. These will then be depicted by local artists."
It is of course one of my defining characteristics that I am grossly short of time, espcially lately, and so I couldn't do an oil painting like last time - there wasn't long enough to let one dry in time for posting (since I now live in a different landmass to this time last year), and so I sat down on a Sunday morning with an A3 sheet of good paper stiffened with gesso and a set of acrylic paints a friend bought me, and determined I would get the piece finished that day.

It's sad to relate but based on this and one other recent project (a handmade book I illustrated for my friend's daughter), I'm ready to admit that acrylic is seriously NOT my medium. I look at these pictures and feel quite frustrated actually - the way I paint, building over layers of things, just doesn't work in acrylic like it does in oil and I'm annoyed I wasn't able to do a better job. But at least I know now that it's best to keep the acrylics for flat colours and next time, just start earlier with my oils. I suppose that's progress in self-taught land.

Anyway, the 'Hopes and Dreams' profile sent to me was preceded by this statement from the very lovely project co-ordinator, Rachel: "This is one people keep sending back to me as it is so tricky so I totally understand if you don’t want it either and I will send you another one but thought it worth a try!" It's this one:

Client 101 - Marc, 55
I did not have any aspirations as a child as I did not go to school until I was 16.
I still don’t have any now.
I had a few initial, pathetic ideas involving some photos I took of my friend posing dejectedly in a stairwell, but they were far too trite for what this man was telling us about his life. I wanted to be able to see his face. Initially his eyes were light blue, and they looked up, but that felt trite too. They're still not right - I see so many things in this painting that I want to fix even now that it has been framed, posted and received in Worthing - but at least the proper mood of the piece is there. It's always tricky with this - you want to create a piece that will attract people and make them want to own it so they'll bid on the piece and get more money for the charity, but you also want to represent the experience that created the profile in the first place. Those experiences are sad ones, and deserve to be contemplated by those of us who often forget how lucky we are.

In short - not a painting I am particularly pleased with technically, but an experience I am glad to have had again and a piece that I hope will help raise some money for the project, even if it isn't much.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Programme Cover image - Peter and the Wolf

Hand drawn/traced from sketch in ink; coloured in Photoshop
March 2014


As part of my current dayjob I help put together event programmes. Usually I'm only responsible for the copy, but in this case the opportunity arose to do some artwork for the cover and I jumped at it. I had wanted to do an actual painting but there wasn't time, so it's another sketch-ink-scan-Photoshop job which I had to complete in one night. It's not my favourite thing I've ever done, but it'll definitely do the job. In truth, the main things I wanted to put across were to make sure the silhouettes of Peter and the main characters were easily recognisable and that the wolf... well, that the wolf looked threatening but not overtly sinister. I really like wolves and they get a bad press in general, especially among little kids who will be forming the majority of the audience at this concert, so I tried to go for something less cartoony. Again, it isn't perfect, but I like the pose and the eyes - it goes some way to conveying that it's a powerful animal but not the salivating hell-hound of fairy tales.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Gig poster - Hollywood Assassins, Red Raucous and Les Stoogers

Hand drawn/traced from sketch in ink; coloured in Photoshop
February/March 2014


Yes: a previous sketch reappropriated for the poster, just because I'm working on two other projects and didn't have time to design it from scratch. It's a bit of a last minute engagement and the promoter said he'd get some posters printed if I cobbled something together. The poster is not in any way remarkable, but it's included here for the sake of completeness and because of course I quite enjoyed the fonts.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Swan Boat - artwork for Adam Boucher and the Dead Set

Hand drawn/traced from sketch in ink; coloured in Photoshop
February 2014


Remember the 'Beginners' EP artwork I did for Adam Boucher? And the swan done as a potential sketch for it? Adam got back in touch wanting another CD cover at relatively short notice and asked if I'd simply do him a coloured version of the swan sketch because he'd liked it. So I redrew the main part in ink, scanned it in, and intergated it into a photo I had taken about six years ago when my friend and I spent a day dicking around on pirate boats and eating ice lollies when we should have been doing something useful. Easy enough - well, in the timeframe given, anyway. With a bit more time I'd put some highlights under the boat so it doesn't just look like it's hovering in a pool of black shadow. Actually now that I'm looking at that it's very annoying... but I'll know for the second version.

Incidentally, I know it's been a long time! Things have been a bit hectic, moving house twice (once to a different country) and finding a new job and realising that the worst thing about moving house is that it's 90% cleaning. Anyway, hopefully there will be more time for artworking very soon. I have a few bits in mind, mostly painting, and I'm twitching to get started...

Monday, 19 August 2013

Ink sketched by hand
Aug 2013


The other main contender for the EP cover was this sketch... but yeah - the other one's more fun, innit.