Poster in process: Voodoo Night Horror film poster

Influences behind the poster

Before I start sketching a new painting or graphic work, I always try to narrow down my influences to a few illustrations or pictures as possible. With Voodoo Night Horror poster, I had two key influences: a real Voodoo fetish market which is located in Lomé, capital of Togo, a country located in West Africa (see the Wikipedia article about the Akodessawa Fetish Market here).

The other key influence were a couple of low budget horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions in the 1960s: Plague of the Zombies (1966), Stranglers of Bombay (1959) and a Hammer House of Horror TV series episode “Charlie Boy” made in 1980. Plague of the Zombies and TV episode “Charlie Boy” have a clear, voodoo influenced plot and Stranglers of Bombay is a film about evil Thuggee cult worshipping goddess Kali and strangling people during the 1830s in colonial India.

Animal skulls and other voodoo fetishes on sale at
Akodessawa Fetish Market
A still from The Plague of the Zombies, starring John Carson
A still from “Charlie Boy” episode (Hammer House of Horror TV Series) featuring murderous, wooden voodoo fetish statue
Poster for The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)

Transferring the finished line sketch to a gessoed board

After I had finished gessoing the hard cardboard illustration board, I divided the surface carefully into equally sized sections. Then I started to draw skulls with graphite pencil from the biggest skulls on the corners proceeding to smaller ones in the center. This line drawing phase took about one week to complete. Then I erased the straight lines before applying first layers of paint.

Before I started to apply first layers of paint, I masked certain areas with two different tapes (KleenEdge and M3 Removable Magic Tape) to avoid paint blocking details in the drawing. I used Quinacridone Gold paint (part of Windsor & Newton Artists’ Acrylic range) to block white areas away. Then I mixed black with Quinacridone Gold to achieve the proper black level I wanted. The skulls and the witch doctor are lit by a bonfire thus making these areas to appear in more light than the surroundings which are meant to be pitch black.

The line sketch with a grid
Tonal plan for the painting
The line sketch transferred to a gessoed 90 x 64,5 cm (36 x 25,8″) sized board
I used two different masking tapes to prevent paint from smearing details in the skulls
Masking tapes have been removed and the painting took already quantum leap forward!

Modeling skulls

The cloud of skulls needed more structure and definition before I started to paint them in more detail and correct lighting. I added more black in the eye sockets and on top of the skulls as well. Then I added more contrast to the flock of birds right underneath the cloud of skulls.

Added more contrast to the skull cloud and tried to give them more three dimensional appearance
I then added even more contrast/cast shadow to the skulls
and darkened eye sockets as well

Painting the three big skulls

I started to paint the biggest skull located in the middle. I used big tone approached to paint the skull: from darkest cast shadows to highlights. Then I added all the details including the cracked lines and “the glowing” in the eye sockets. When I finished the skull it served as an reference (the direction of light, casting of the shadows, details, colour scheme etc…) to other skulls that followed. I had some trouble to understand the plane changes on the baboon skull (located on the left upper corner). I just couldn’t find any good baboon skull pictures on the net for reference.

At this point the skull lacks almost all the fine details
The gorilla skull was painted with big tone approach
The baboon skull had difficult plane changes

Painting smaller skulls

The horse like skulls in the far left and far right belonged to a pair of Red deers. These two skulls differed remarkably from others skulls in the painting. They were more difficult to paint because of the unusual elongated shape and structure. With some of the ape skulls, I wanted variation and added some hair to make them standout even more from the mass. And to be honest, make them appear more freaky and disjointed. I used swift, fast and sharp brush strokes to achieve “loose” hair effect.

Monkey’s hair
Red deer skull

The Flock of Birds

I didn’t want to paint the birds with much detail. They had to be a secondary mass when compared with the skulls above. This decision was based on the hierarchy of details which is essential when trying to make a successful painting or a drawing. Before I started to paint this poster, I did a tonal plan (a sketch with lighting coming from below) to see in advance how to paint the different objects in it. Only the middle section is properly lit and everything else stays in the shadows.

Flock of birds with thin layers of paint
Birds are starting to take more defined shape

The Bonfire and the witch doctor

These two were the last objects I painted for the project. The bonfire’s first version was way too stiff to be a believable fire. I left a couple of “mistakes” to be seen on the left side of the bonfire to add some transparency to the flames. Witch doctor was pretty straightforward object to paint. First I blocked the shape with darkened Naples Yellow. I wanted the witch doctor’s face to remain in shadows and to add more mystery to his character. I didn’t want to add any significant details to the witch doctor character because he only serves as a balancing object on the right side of the bonfire.

Close-up of the bonfire
The witch doctor

The finished painting

The finished painting with a painted frame. If you want to know more about the process or share your thoughts, just leave a comment below.

Portrait in process: Quint (Jaws)

I really love the monologue delivered by Quint about the mission to deliver the atomic bomb to Hiroshima. It’s a genuinely frightening tale about shipwrecked, desperate men of USS Indianapolis in the midst of shark infested waters in the Philippine Sea. Robert Shaw delivers the speech in really embittered, realistic way: It’s no wonder why his character hates “the doll-eyed sharks” so ferociously. It is truly a character defining speech and written long before Quentin Tarantino became famous of writing similar story driven dialogue to his movies.

The monologue was written by screenwriter/director John Milius (Big Wednesday, Apocalypse Now!, Conan the Barbarian). It was originally 15 pages long but was reduced to about five pages by Shaw.

Above is quite lengthy introduction to my motivation to do the portrait of Quint. This is a self-initiated project so no clients or commission were involved here. The following process is similar to my previous “Portrait in process: Han Solo”blog post. However this time drawing the portrait took about 27 hours and 45 minutes whereas drawing Han Solo took about 12 hours to complete. I want to take you through the whole process and explain various phases and difficulties I met during the process.


Picture  1: Paper; Canson 160 mg2, 490 Bleu Clair (Light Blue)

 Picture 1: Above is the finished line drawing of Quint. I have added the vertical and horizontal lines to check out if facial features are in balance. At this point I use pretty light color because it is easy to erase and leave no undesired markings. Colored pencil I used at this stage was Primerose (242). The line drawing took Me 4,5 hours to complete.

Picture 2: Preliminary light, halftone and shadow.

Picture 2: After the line work was finished, it was time to add preliminary light, halftone and shadow areas. I concentrated mainly on eyes and nose at this point. This phase took Me 2 hours.

Picture 3: Coloring all areas

Picture 3: I started to work on the mouth area at this point. I added the eyebrows and started to work on the eyes more intensively adding more color to the eye-sockets. Mustache was added to give more  form to the upper lip area. This phase took about 3,5 hours to complete.

Picture 4: Giving more shape to the eyes

Picture 4: At this point, the picture is getting really defined on the half of the eyes and forehead. I also added more color to the chin area on the right side. I used three colors this time: Primerose (424) to the light areas, Burnt Ochre (069) to the halftone areas and Burnt Sienna (069) to the shadow areas. Some Slate Grey (495) was used on sideburns. This phase was completed in 2 hours.

Picture 5:”Tightening” the drawing

Picture 5: Now the picture has real “tightened” feel to it. Every major color area is properly worked on at this stage. Eyes and forehead are in the shadow more firmly than in the picture 4. I added some grey color to the eye balls so that they are more rounded and have the proper “form feel” to them. The cast shadow on the right side of the nose is still somewhat hazy and it isn’t understandable e.g. you can’t read the form properly from it. My main concern was to give the eyes the right, angry feeling. The sideburns are developed as well by adding some hair texture to them. The skin is also being colored more at every aspect. This phase took 3,45 hours to complete.

Picture 6: Adding some wrinkles below the eyes

Picture 6: At first glance there seems to be no progress between pictures six and five. I started to concentrate on the nose and it’s cast shadow on the right side. To do a proper shadow, one must analyze the light and form of the object. At first I did not understand what the shapes were and it shows in the picture 5. I tried to analyze carefully the primary light coming from the left upper corner. The bottom of the nose (where nostrils are) is not in full shadow but instead in half-tone. Upper lip illuminates some light to the nose too. Quint’s cap casts shadow to the upper part of the nose and therefore it’s the most darkest area just under the right eye. Shaping of the nose and the cast shadow took 1,5 hours to finish.

Picture 7: The cap

Picture 7: After I had finished with the facial features, it was time to concentrate on the cap. Usually I try to do the clothes as simple as possible but this time I felt that Quint’s cap is really part of his presence and character. The cap looks like it’s been on him since he was born, so it was crucial to do it properly. To color the cap I used green pencils Raw Umber 50% (846) and Olive Brown (039). There’s not much details on the cap apart from few stitches here and there. I had to concentrate on the cap as a  whole because lack of details didn’t allow it otherwise.

Picture 8: The completed nose

Picture 8: In this picture you can see the cap is completely ready. I added some black color to the visor which is facing the forehead. It gave surprising amount of depth to the whole forehead area and also giving the stare more framed, nuanced intensiveness. The making of the cap took Me surprisingly long time to make approx. 5 hours.

Picture 9: The jumper in progress

Picture 9: We are now at the final phase of the portrait and I think this required more creative problem solving than any phase prior this. The jumper really has no structure at all to grab on to. It’s only full of random zig-zag pattern which translates very poorly to a drawing. I took deep breath and started from the neck and advanced from there downwards. After the neck part took some shape I was thinking to leave the rest of the jumper as light grey; Silver Grey (002). But it is too large area to leave without precise form or pattern. Also at this stage the neck area looks too much like a renaissance era neckwarmer and it draws too much attention anyway. The Jumper took about 5,5 hours to complete.

Picture 10: The fully completed portrait of Quint

Picture 10: This is the final, fully completed image with carefully adjusted colors and a little bit of framing. I also added some sharpening to give it more defined look. The portrait took almost 28 hours to complete which is really the maximum time for me to spend on a work like this.


Portrait in process: Han Solo

This article illustrates my creative process of making a Han Solo portrait. The work is done on a Canson toned paper sized A3 (42 x 29,7 cm) with Caran d’Ache’s Luminance color pencils.

First I tape the paper to a illlustration board with Scotch Magic tape and lay top of it  masking tape or painter’s tape. This method is important because otherwise masking tape will teal off the paper when removed. Also Scotch magic tape alone is not capable of holding the paper still while working  the portrait.

Drawing accessories from top left: Masking tape, carpet knife, pencil extender. Left below: Scotch Removable Masking tape and a brush for cleaning rubber eraser dirt.

Corner of the paper showing the wide masking tape. Beneath the masking tape is the Scotch removable magic tape.

I begin the work with sketching thin lines and trying to get the size of the character right. With Han Solo I used black pencil to draw the lines. In most cases I use grey color (Silver Grey 002) or light yellow (Primerose 242) to draw the lines. Line drawing took me about     2 and a half hours.Han_Solo_15_6After drawing the lines I started to underlay the skin tone with light yellow (Naples Ochre 821). Other light yellows I use at this stage are Brown Ochre 832 and Primerose 242. These colors have enough variation to accentuate highlights, half-tones and shadows. This phase took Me about three hours.Han_Solo_19_6In the  next phase I started “tighten” the drawing and adjust Harrison Ford’s trademark facial features. For example the mouth was way too “femine” and needed more width. I wanted to highlight/accentuate cheek bones, jaw and area surrounding the mouth to give the drawing more robust, almost three dimensional  feel to it. Also forehead needed some highlights and shadow to feel fully rounded instead of being flat.  This phase took me about three and a half hours.Han_Solo_22_6 After Han Solo’s face was completed I started working the bust area and the vest Solo is wearing. The vest is somewhat dull if only black pencil is used. I wanted to use complimentary colors to bring some vibrance to the vest. Skin is already yellow(ish) so a little bit of violet (Light Aubergine 095) fits nicely to the overall color scheme complimenting skin tone and adding highlight to the black vest. This phase took me about two and a half hours to complete.

This is the final, fully completed portrait of Han Solo with carefully tuned, accurate colors as possible. The portrait took about  eleven hours to complete.