Character Building Exercise for "The Blue Max"
It is a daunting task to take someone else's words and draw pictures of the people they describe.
Jack Hunter describes the character's appearance, but the more interesting part of his description is the details about the characters. Kettering collects erotica and has a wooden leg. Hiedemann is an Ace Pilot but is forlorn over his relationship with his depressed wife Elfi. Stachel would do anything to earn the Blue Max and was nicknamed "The Cobra" by Von Klugermann.
Hard to catch all that in a sketch (I'm not that good)!
I started musing about how to bring in some of the storytelling into the portrait sketches. I settled on the idea of creating a gridded backdrop, a moody wall paper behind the portraits that tell some of the character's story. Typically I used a pair of images and I tried to have them "talk to each other" a bit. I started digging through google images to find some inspiration and created mock-ups in Powerpoint. I built a light lined grid and composed a sheet for each character. In some cases I traced parts of the google image, but tried hard to let the cartoon muses take over, using the image more as a guide. You can see the progression in the last image of Elfi in the page below. All of these are drawn with an ink pen in the actual size they will end up as in the sketchbook. With only about a 1 1/2" square to work with they had to be very simple.
Here are all six of the final mock-ups.
The next step was to create the background drawing that these small images would be placed over. I wanted to do an ink wash and tried using watercolor paper for the first time. I drew the grid, taped off the edges and did a dozen or so brush downs with a diluted version of the walnut colored ink I use in the ink pens. At first it was too dark, but found I could go back over the wash with more diluted ink and lighten it up. I actually used coffee for the second wash so the edges would go sepia instead of pink (The walnut colored ink has strong red colors that come through when diluted). I went back over the edges to add bleeding and staining and make the paper look old.
In Photoshop I made the background colors more saturated and than started working on all the small sketch images. I scanned the sketch images, made the background transparent and then pasted them over the ink wash image. I made the sketch overlay slightly transparent and gave it a little bit of a shadow to make it appear more like it was on the paper instead of floating over the top. Here is the result.
That's it! I am pretty pleased with the result. The funny thing is when I add the portrait sketches on top, most of this will be covered by their face; you will only get glimpses of this work around the edges.
But for now this is all you will get to see ahead of time....need to leave some surprises for when "Rupp's Skizzenbuch" is published in 2018!
Click thru below to see the hi-res version of the image.