Friday, May 18, 2012

Derby Dazzler vs. The Hellfire Club goons

Just finished up this wicked beast of a private commission for a fellow who loved my derby version of Dazzler so much he wanted to see more. (See her and the rest of my X-Men redesigns here!) This was definitely an instance of having a commission piece that if you give me an open timeframe and let me just do what I want you will get something awesome. It took me a little over a month and a half of off-and-on working with very little guidance from the guy who ordered it- he just wanted an action shot with Dazzler and I kinda took that ball and ran with it, adding in the Hellfire Club goons and various background elements. I'm trying to get away from portraits a bit as customers tend to get overly involved in the process which hinders the creativity of the piece and get more into character pieces where I can just cut loose without worrying about likenesses and waiting to hear back during the process. Once I got the idea for this piece in my head I was all "I'm really gonna hate myself in a month..." but I HAD to do it. There were just way too many things I love coming together. Plus me doing a piece with an actual background? Craziness! That was actually what took me the longest. Check out my progress shots below!

I tend to sketch out the elements separate and then lay them on top of each other digitally in Photoshop to make sure they line up and adjust any wonky anatomy issues. I'll then print it out on a low opacity setting to use as guidelines when I re-draw it and tighten up the linework. 
Tight Pencils!
Drawing over top of my lightened roughs, I start cleaning up all those stray lines and start refining the figures. 

I recently revisited the old technique I learned at Kuberts of inking over vellum and forgot how much I prefer it to lightboxing my tight pencils onto a piece of bristol, as when I lightbox the original I tend to lose the organic feel of the piece and subtle linework tends to get lost in the reproduction.

More inking!!
I love drawing men's leg hair. It's a weird drawing fetish.

I tend to work in with about 20 layers when I color, treating each major element like a big Dagwood-style sandwich- I start with my linework, then add the flat color underneath, then start working up from the flat color with each 'level' of shadows and highlights. I tend to color in flat chunks, almost like an animation cel.
You can also see that I changed the colors on Dazzler's pads halfway through to make her stand out more from the Hellfire Club.

Adding the background and special effects!
When I'm 90% done is my least favorite part of working on something. It just gets so grinding and you spend most of the time looking for all the little details you missed. XP

This was super fun to do, and I got to expand a little on my own make-believe rendition of the X-Men universe. What's funny is in my version of the X-Men, Dazzler is probably one of the tougher, more in-shape characters on the team, which in regular continuity is quite the opposite.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Things I Love Thursday: The Phantom of the Paradise

I think I kinda started a trend with myself a couple weeks ago with my Things I Love Thursday Special Edition entry for Sleep No More, which a lot of people seemed to enjoy (myself included). So I'm gonna talk about something else I love at length this go-around, being my 2nd favorite movie in the whole wide world, The Phantom of the Paradise!

With added reason for this 'TILT' entry, being that the Phantom himself, actor William Finley sadly passed away a few weeks ago, which inspired me to draw a portrait of the titular tragic hero he portrayed.

"My music is for Phoenix. Only she can sing it. Anyone else who tries, dies."

If you've never heard of it, it's Brian De Palma's 1974 Satanic/psychedelic rock opera based on a combination of Phantom of the Opera, Faust and The Picture of Dorian Grey. A scathing satire of the music industry, it's the first of DePalma's movies to use the split-screen method he would use again during the infamous pigs blood scene in Carrie. The entire movie also features an amazing original soundtrack by legendary singer/songwriter Paul Williams (who wrote The Rainbow Connection... so yeah...) who also plays the movie's villain, the nefarious record producer Swan. The late William Finley plays Winslow Leach, an ill-fated singer/songwriter who amazingly terrible circumstances becomes the Phantom and terrorizes Swan's music palace The Paradise. I always love movies about talented musicians (or artists) that are just starting out that get swooped up into the cutthroat world of recording/business, then screwed over only to exact their sweet revenge. Or something to that effect. Mostly I just love movies about the music biz and the crazy egos involved, especially with 70s-80s rock.

Here's the schlocky, grindhouse-esque trailer!

Though Phantom, like all my favorite movies, is a bit of an acquired taste and not for everyone (my parents turned it off before Swan's big reveal), if you're a fan of crazy cult movies I highly suggest checking it out. I first saw Phantom in high school and then subsequently went on to buy it on VHS, then DVD and have been slowly collecting the few various bits of merch that they have had available.  I own a replica of the Phantom helmet that I sat on a waiting list for 3 years to be able to purchase. Even though I no longer cosplay, I reserve a very strong desire to construct a femme version of the Phantom's costume for a *dream* photoshoot. Ugh, those would be the coolest publicity shots ever. What a way to truly capture my nerdy insanity. Haha... One day... I also have the ultra-rare Medicom Real Action Heroes figure of the Phantom as well, which I purchased 5 years ago ago at Toy Tokyo in NYC when I first moved here for $150, which compared to current eBay listings is a steal. My husband also drew me Phantom fanart for my first birthday we spent together as a couple.

My coworker made a quick little video of me when 
I *finally* got the helmet in the mail at work.

What I love about the music in Phantom is how the same songs are played over and over in different genres and by different musicians and it all sounds awesome. They really push that idea in the movie, about the importance of the music, not necessarily who sings/performs it. I really wish there was a full version of the random country guy singing 'Faust' and Beef's over-the-top version of 'Old Souls'. Also, Beef is AMAZING. Though he's only onscreen for the second act, everything he says/does is comedy gold. He's usually everyone's favorite, he's such a great character.

By my husband, Ballsy
See more of his work here!

There's been heresay that the Phantom's costume inspired the look of Darth Vader, what with the gnarly yet awesome voicebox and imposing black leather getup. No word whether this is true, but it's an interesting connection. Phantom is actually the favorite movie of one of my most favorite directors, being Edgar Wright of Shawn of the Dead/Scott Pilgrim fame, which is super cool and makes me love his work even more. Edgar Wright has a very touching tribute to William Finley on his blog, that you can see here. The parallels of Swan to Scott Pilgrim's Gideon Graves are such a sweet Phantom phanservice (see what I did there?) that I couldn't help but nerd out when I saw it. There was also talk of them remaking it back in the day (about 10-12 years ago) with Marilyn Manson as The Phantom, but that fell through. While I think this movie is perfect the way it is- such a product of it's time, I gotta admit seeing Manson dressed as the Phantom during his Mechanical Animals heyday would be kinda awesome. Though I'd hate to see a remake, it'd have been pretty sweet if they had done an homage to it for a video or something. Manson has the perfect face to go under the Phantom helmet. 

If you haven't seen Phantom yet I hope you give it a chance. It's a strange yet beautiful gem of a movie full of great music, iconic characters and some hilarious scenes.

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