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.

Artist Overview: Reynold Brown


Reynold Brown is truly one of the greatest unknown film poster artist and illustrators of his time. Brown created some of the most well known film poster of 1950s and 1960s; Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), This Island Earth (1955), Attack of the 50ft Woman (1958), Black Sabbath (1963) to name a few.


William Reynold Brown was born in Los Angeles, Califonia on  October 18th 1917. Before he began his career illustrating film posters, he drew Tailspin Tommy comic strip with cartoonist Hal Forrest. At one point of his early career Brown met illustrator/artist Norman Rockwell who advised Brown to leave cartooning if he wanted to be an illustrator. Before his career in film industry, Brown was serving as an technical illustrator at North American Aviation.


Reynold Brown worked in Hollywood in the 1950s throughout 1960s. At some point in the 1960s, probably lattter half of the decade, Brown decided to withdraw from film poster and commercial illustration altogether. Back in the day commercial illustrators or film poster artists remained largely anonymous. Often times they couldn’t sign their illustrations or take/make visible credit for what they had done. Film posters were only created for marketing the picture not to promote the artist who made it. Also film posters were printed on cheap paper and colours appear in printed form more brighter than in the original painting (see comparison below).

Left: Reynold Brown’s original painting for the film “The Creature Walks Among Us” (1956). Right: Printed film poster with “tuned” colors.



After working two decades in film business, Brown became disillusioned with commercial illustration and moved to Chadron, Nebraska leaving the bright lights of Hollywood behind. While in Nebraska, Brown painted landscapes and themes of Old wild west. Reynold Brown died on 24th of August 1991. He was 73 years old.


Interesting note:

Reynold Brown worked also as an art teacher at college where young Drew Struzan was studying. (page 82, The Art of Drew Struzan by Drew Struzan & David J. Schow)




YouTube: The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters (1994) (Parts 1-4)


Book recommendation: The Art of Hammer

This book displays plenty of Hammer’s film posters around the world. It is written by Marcus Hearn, co-writer of The Hammer Story in 1997.  This is mainly a picture book and it contains short written introduction about Hammer and it’s advertising activities. The posters are in chronological order and sorted by year they were released.

Featured posters are from various countries and represent naturally wildly different styles for same films. For example Polish posters are radically different from their British counterparts. Whereas British posters are traditional the Polish posters are surprisingly modern and features often distorted photographs instead of hand drawn illustrations.

The book has 191 pages and the last featured year is 1979 when Hammer’s fame was already starting to wane. This book is in no means the definite collection of Hammer film poster but offers great overlook to the company’s film advertising. I certainly think this collection is enough for many people interested in all things Hammer. A highly recommended!



Book recommendation: The Peter Cushing Scrapbook

This is a very special and lovely book for all serious Peter Cushing fans. Wayne Kinsey has made the book in collaboration with Cushing’s private secretary Joyce Broughton with Tom Johnson. The book is filled with wealthy collection of behind-the-scenes photos from film sets, Cushing’s artwork, scripts, posters, advertisements, you name it. Each page has also an insightful information/commentary written by the author. The book begins from Cushing’s childhood and continues chronologically as the career advances highlighting his work in numerous films. There are many little known films in which Cushing appeared and the book is great for discovering Cushing’s many roles.

This book is exhaustive with over 1800 pictures and I mean it in totally positive way. This book was released in 2013 to celebrate Peter Cushing 100th birthday on 26 May, 2013.

The book has 328 pages in landscape format. It is limited printing of 2000 units. You can order the book directly from the author at Peveril Publishing.













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.