Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rocky Jordan Is Finished!


Part 3: I'm set to wrap this project up. Now that I have the background and foreground colors in place, I start finishing the painting.

The dark's are placed first; Rocky's hair, her 1940's hairstyle, folds in their clothes, shadows, the green fern on the left, and work on the details in the buildings. I finish up with adding first the warm highlights and then finally the cool highlights first in the figures and followed by the background.

I step back and decided to darken up the figures in the foreground first and add more blue over the flesh tones. Then I decided to fine tune the background adding cool Greens, Blues, Purple, and Payne's Gray. Approximate time for the overall painting was 25 hours.

I immediately set to scan Rocky Jordan and make a few notes to myself on what I should touch up. I will do a few fine tuning and clean up in Photoshop before I save and send the file. Images of black and white spot illustrations start developing in my my mind. I'm still so immersed into the project, I'm thinking of what else I can do.... but it's onto the next one!

Painting Rocky Jordan: Process

Continued from yesterday's post on the pencil process, here we are in the paint. Part 2:

I transferred my drawing to a heavy weight illustration board prepared with gesso using a graphite pencil and sharpened up the drawing using Prismacolor pencils: Burnt Ochre, Light Umber, Terra Cotta, and Black.


I also tinted the overall board with a light coat of Raw Umber acrylic paint and blocked in the dark's with Payne's Grey or Raw Umber.

I cut some masks using a clear acetate and started on the background colors, keeping the two main figures covered up. I glazed acrylic color with the airbrush into the overall background, working light to dark, and enjoying the process of the colors working together; warm and cool. At this point I was creating a dance between the blue sky at dusk (Cobalt Blue) and the warm glow and shadows of the buildings (Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green, and Dioxazine Purple).


Examining the hue of the sky against the buildings:

After I've laid down the background colors, I remove the masks to take a look at what's going on. Total time is approximately 5 hours. Background is not complete but it's time to move onto the figures before I work on the background anymore. I'll complete the background and figures pretty much together as the painting starts to fall into place.

I start with the flesh tone of both figures (Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Light Portrait Pink) and shadows in the face and hands (Viridian Hue Perm., Cerulean Blue).


A short break and call to my friend Anthony Schiavino. He and I collaborated on my Knuckles, Tough Guy for Hire painting for his publication, "Episodes From The Zero Hour". Anthony knows pulp and I've trusted him for many years. I'd been tossing around ideas for both Rocky's coat and the femme fatale's dress but I wanted Anthony's opinion. Even though I knew which way I was leaning - I wanted to be absolutely sure. White coat and deep blue dress. Got it, thanks Anthony.

I bit of Dioxazine Purple and Raw Umber next to some Cadmium Yellow Medium areas, then Ultramarine Blue glazed over the dress.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sketching Rocky Jordan

I had another wonderful pulp opportunity of illustrating the cover collection for the old time radio show “Rocky Jordan” available from Radio Archives this year. A  quick introduction for anyone who isn’t familiar with the show can be found on RA’s website; "Rocky Jordan" is very reminiscent of the classic movie "Casablanca." You'll remember that, at the end of the 1942 movie, nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and Police Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) walk off into the night, leaving Casablanca to join the Free French garrison across the desert. The settings of both stories are nearly identical: the desert sands, the fez, the turbans, the robes, the underworld lowlifes who visit the cafe. In "Casablanca," 'everyone comes to Rick's'. Not so in "Rocky Jordan;" the Cafe Tambourine is a lower-class establishment (in Cairo). It's more a waterfront dive, filled with forgotten men. And, unlike "Casablanca," the war is over -- but not the mystery or the intrigue. I really like the characters and stories - and enjoy working while listening to the shows.
The project presented some interesting ideas, but I felt I had a rough start pin pointing something special for the client. So I started diving into my sketchbook.
I originally was creating thumbnail sketches that were inspired by paperback covers by David Grove and/or Kazu Sano. I was interested in more of a montage of characters and setting with mood lighting and colors. I thought it would fit the right emotion that I got out of listening to the programs.

But, after looking at the quick thumbnails, I realized it just wasn’t going to work for the OTR audience and packaging. At least I crossed off one option and time to keep moving forward. So, I decided on a doing a scene reminiscent of noir film, or vintage pulp imagery with a femme fatale confronting Rocky. In the background I’d want the policeman Sam Sabaaya to be seen coming out of, perhaps, the Cafe Tambourine, just in time to help the situation and solve the case. That’s what I was thinking here and it was enough to get me going.

I sketched out a tense scene in the Cafe Tambourine and liked what was going on with the action and composition. Good story illustration but I felt it wasn't working yet. It would be a nice sequential panel but with Rocky's back to us wasn't good for a cover. The best solution was to turn him around and get the viewer involved, and I did a quick rough sketch to see what I thought. 

The more I left this idea alone, the more it kept growing on me. I decided to move forward with this for the moment and see what I can do with it. Once I shot my model for Rocky Jordan and collected my other references, I pulled together a tight drawing - and I ended up really being pleased with the results. I pulled back on the composition to see more of the figures, especially Rocky in front. Tom Brown at Radio Archives agreed and approved the drawing right away and I was thrilled to begin painting this one.



Monday, June 10, 2013

Universal's 1931 Spanish Dracula

Earlier this year my friends at Reel Art commissioned me to design and paint a poster for a screening of the Spanish version of Universal's Dracula in support of the Northwest Chicago Film Society. I enthusiastically took this opportunity to pay homage to the Warren magazine covers and Castle Films 8mm / Super 8 box art from my childhood. I've posted a process image while working on the face to show the Famous Monsters of Filmland influence and the final poster illustration with design by Bob Garcia. The Dracula logo is painted in acrylics on a separate board and finished in Photoshop.

Sketchbook 3

Long over due for a post here, so I'm getting right to it. My new Sketchbook is available at all upcoming conventions and signings. Sketchbook 3 is heavy on the pulp this time around and is printed on glossy paper. It nicely displays the black and white painted spots that I created for a variety of pulp oriented projects. Collected are pencil sketches for covers for Radio Archives, American Fantasy Press, and others but most of the art is finished illustrations. Plus I've featured some of my favorite characters including: detectives, femme fatales, John Carter, Tarzan, Green Hornet, The Shadow, and others!
Upcoming is Wizard World Chicago, August 8-11 and a late July signing (to be announced) at Reel Art in Berwyn, Illinois.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Warmest wishes for the holidays. Thank you for visiting my blog and your interest in my artwork. I am grateful to all who have commissioned artwork, purchased a print, my sketchbooks or have sent a message saying how much they enjoy my paintings during the past year. I am proud to present a recent painting of mine that was commissioned for the promotional calendar for the Joffrey Ballet's 25th Anniversary production of The Nutcracker, published by Munro Campagna Artist Representatives in Chicago. My painting of the Joffrey's principal dancers can be found gracing the month of September 2013.
From New Album 1/21/08 10:23 PM

Saturday, November 17, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft Visits Sam Spade

I was visiting a friends gallery awhile ago and was asked about some of the projects I was currently working on. After offering some top secret information about various assignments, I mentioned a very interesting commission that was sitting before me. I said, "There's this really interesting piece that I've been sketching and about to start painting. It's H.P. Lovecraft visiting Sam Spade (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart) and Lovecraft is presenting a cthulhu statue, while Sam is displaying his Maltese Falcon." The explosion of laughter and enthusiasm from my friends at the gallery was exciting and it actually took me off guard!
I had known that I was fortunate to receive this commission but I didn't think anyone else would understand it or find it as exciting for me or for the patron who approached me. After all it was a personal request that the collector had been thinking about for sometime - and was waiting patiently for me to paint. In fact, when he first explained his idea to me, I immediately thought how awesome of a concept it was, but he didn't think it would be something that I'd be interested in or that I'd find it as cool of an idea that he'd been keeping to himself!
So, we discussed his idea in depth and did some rough thumbnails to capture his idea all while the "Maltese Falcon" played in the background. I wanted the complete back story so I could do his concept a deserved service and something that he can feel pride in. All I will say is that my friend, John is a big time detective, Maltese Falcon, film noir, pulp loving, fedora and trench coat wearing fan- who just happens to be a huge H.P. Lovecraft fan!
The BIG challenge here was a side view of Lovecraft to fit the rough we decided on. I had to get a good likeness to work from and all photo references that I could find were front view portraits and most were in shadow. The lighting for the painting was to be similar if not identical to the Sam Spade office set of the classic film. I also looked at paintings by illustrator, Harry Anderson for an overall emotional tone, and some composition inspiration. I wanted the painting to basically be that quiet moment when H.P holds up the artifact and the moment before Sam responds. Almost a pause or a reflection.
I had my model come in and do a photo shoot. My friend Dave doesn't look like Lovecraft but I knew I could work with him and I'd be able to get a solid foundation down. It took awhile and I almost lost heart but the pencil studies eventually "clicked" and I felt very confident that I had gotten a great likeness that people would respond correctly with.
Once I finished a rough drawing for presentation I waited for a response from John. I was mighty anxious to start painting but I'll admit that I was a bit nervous that John would have some comments. Fortunately he gave a call right away and it was all praise. I immediately began and finished the painting in about a weeks time in between a variety of other deadlines and obstacles. "The stuff that dreams are made of."- Sam Spade.