Fire of Unknown Origin

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.FoUO_collection3_AleksiHaaristo3

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.FoUO_collection3_AleksiHaaristo2 copy

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



About the film poster project

I am currently doing series of vintage looking film posters and I’d like to share some insight to the creative process behind them. This also marks my very first blog post on the subject.

Inspiration for “Iron Man” poster came from a Black Sabbath song. Lyrics of the song were basis for the elements you see in the painting. After all, the song is a true Hammer Horror tale of an vengeful astronaut trapped inside space suit.

Here you can see development stages of “Iron Man” character. I did not want to have that traditional hi-tech NASA or Transformers look but rather very clumsy, barrel chested, kind of a like deep sea diver from the 1940s. Lack of any facial features on the mask was intentional to achieve inhuman, sort of a ghost like presence.

This collage shows main influences for the poster. From left: Astronaut suit with painted hockey gloves from “Alien” (1979), promotional picture from “The Reptile” (1966) and “Nosferatu” (1922).
The defining look for the Iron Man’s helmet is shown in the middle sketch. Sketch on the far left is a bit too much reptilian and not enough bulky.
On the left is the final sketch for the poster. It has just the right mood for a horror picture. The woman was clumsily left out of the sketch and I was just concerned to get Iron Man right.