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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Detailed Drawing

I took a couple of days over this detailed pencil drawing, getting everything as right as I could and trying, for once, to delineate everthing that could be described in line, not excluding some interior contours.  I mentioned with regard to my crazy animator painting that I tended to be sketchy and vague about background and architectural detail at this stage, but I recognize that that can ruin an otherwise impressive piece.

I had almost no reference material that I could work with.  For example, a Google search for vaulted stone chambers got me nothing that I could use.  The walkway, however, is patterned after the structure of Roman aquaducts; I just reduced the scale. The entry archway at the back is the only architectural feature that ended up changed in the final painting.

As we will see, there were very few major deviations of any kind from the drawing.  Besides the arch, the other significant example is the face of the fellow third in line.  I will talk about that when we get to it.

Of the faces, all but one are imaginary, including the guy in front  who turned out looking like Lex Luthor as drawn by Wayne Boring, a major DC Superman artist of the '50's.  (Boring's characters were drawn rather stiffly and with a narrow range of expression, and his Lex was allowed to be chunky and a little sweaty, as compared to the sleek and stylish creature which has now evolved.)

The exception is the face of the young woman second in line.  Though imaginary also, she is, as nearly as I could make her, an H.J. Ward girl, which is almost to say she is to pulp art what the Gibson Girl was to Edwardian illustration.   Here are a couple of H.J. Ward cover details to illustrate:

Disclaimer needed here?  As these examples illustrate,  pulp magazine covers of many genres, including weird, detective, adventure, western and science fiction, involved the depiction of people threatened, people in fear, especially women.  It was seldom that the stories fulfilled the titillating promise of the covers, but  the covers sold the magazines, and that was what mattered.  By today's politically correct standards they were outrageous, but I do not apologize for them; they are what they were.

Next: Adding Color

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Real Faux Pulp Magazine Cover!

If you have been paying attention, you already know how fond I am of pulp fiction cover art.  So when I saw a chance to do one as an invitation for an annual chili party that my wife and I throw, I couldn't resist. 

For an authentic look, there are a number of known parameters.  I will comment on these as we come to them.  First, on your illustration you leave the top quarter of the page clear of any important detail, and also preferably very dark, because that is where you know the magazine title and other publishing information will go.  Seeing original pulp cover paintings is sometimes startling because without the masthead logo they look out of balance, but of course they were not meant to ever be seen in this way.  And if you design your composition without bearing this typographic component in mind, you will come to grief.

For inspiration I referred to the very fine book Pulp Culture: the Art of Fiction Magazines, by Frank M. Robinson and Lawrence Davidson.   The internet also offers a number of good dedicated websites with hundreds of cover scans among them.

I thought it would be fun to show a cult of people fatally enslaved to the chili I make, so my cover ostensibly illustrates a story called "Slaves of the Cauldron."  Chains, people in hooded robes, a cavernous stone chamber, the cliché of the sinister green hand, and a look of mad ecstasy on the face of the man receiving his chili.

Here is the first rough sketch:

This includes a blocking in of the title logo, Chili Detective Magazine, (in faint blue line) and also a blocking of the mock story titles that always have to be included, because I want the final illustration to have the look of a cover as it might actually appear on a newsstand.

And since I will be having this printed by a copy service on standard letter size paper, I proportion it to just fit inside the printable area, with the idea of hand trimming the white border off with a paper cutter, giving the result its appropriate full-bleed effect. [That is, the printing would extend clear to the cut edge of the paper.]

To further prove the composition, now in Photoshop I paint in the full value range in black and white.
This step can be quite helpful for anyone tending to be timid about high contrast.  Also, going straight into color, one can fail to realize that two vividly contrasting colors juxtaposed with one another might still be very close in value. You put black where there is no light and bright highlights wherever that is appropriate, plus a good range of grays inbetween.

There is no need to get overly detailed at this stage, however.

Next, I add some color on a new layer to establish my palette, and I lay in placeholders for most of the typographic elements:

This typography was done in Photoshop, but the final will be done in Illustrator, where I have greater control and more options for effects.

Next:  The Detailed Pencil Drawing