Film poster project continues with a poster that draws title from a Blue Öyster Cult song titled “Fire of Unknown Origin” off their 1981 LP of the same name. This time my visual influence led me to use late great Hammer Horror star Peter Cushing and make a tribute poster for him and acknowledge his crucial input to classic horror.
In the first sketch of the poster there were to be three faces: Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. The poster was also meant have a scene depicting masked secret society circled around a massive fire. However, I soon found out that these actors had, in fact, made a film together entitled “House of the Long Shadows” released in 1983. At this point I decided to strip the elements in the poster to minimum; only Cushing and his hand in flame. Use of black and white paint underline the simplicity of composition.
As the painting advanced nicely I found my sketch lacked proper volume and chiaroscuro (=light and dark). The sketch is fine in it’s own right but was no help for me at later stage of painting process. I took several shots of my face in dark and luckily one was exactly right for the painting. The photo reference helped me to finish the painting more quickly than without a reference.
Back in the day when poster artist didn’t receive reference photos in time they had to do some modeling on their own. For example: Tom Chantrell used his likeness when he was painting “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” standing in for Christopher Lee in the late 1960s.* Drew Struzan was his own body model in quilted jacket when he was working on “The Thing” poster in the early 1980s.**
*Sim Branaghan: British Film posters, BFI Publishing, 2006
** Drew Struzan, David J. Schow: The Art of Drew Struzan, Titan Books, 2010