I’ve gotten back into traditional media lately. I love the versatility and speed of digital painting, but even with a super sensitive tablet and a high-resolution monitor several things are still missing. I don’t have that feel of an actual brush on textured media. The print colors never exactly match what you see on the monitor. Pixel resolution will never match real-life resolution, at least not in my lifetime. Real brushes have way more than 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. You are always dependent on a highly complex machine that requires electricity. You’re dependent on proprietary software (sometimes I feel like I owe my entire career to Adobe). I could go on. Also, even if you password-protect your original working file, you can (and should) make copies of it. There’s no true original.
I could also go on about the advantages of digital media, but that’s a point-counterpoint article for another time. So… inspired by the work and techniques of Terese Nielsen and Drew Struzan I decided to make an honest effort to producing 100% traditional works again. I do use Photoshop to edit my pencil drawings before printing it on art paper, so you could argue that this isn’t 100% traditional, but whatever.
I love George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire. The story is about different factions competing for control of the realm while a sinister threat emerges from the far north. I thought it would be fun to create propaganda posters for some of the major players. This one was inspired by old Soviet Propaganda posters, since Joffrey is a detestable little tyrant.
I started with some character sketches. I didn’t want to get trapped in the design plate from the TV show, so I started fresh. I wanted him to look like the little weasel he is – scrawny, with malicious eyes and an arrogant demeanor. I like the Baratheon crown with antlers, so I pushed that concept.
I tried some different compositions by doing thumbnails, but in the end I came back to the Stalin layout. I wanted him standing tall and reaching out to the left, pointing with his sword, towering over a row of Lannister cavalry with King’s Landing in the background. Rather than draw a ton of cavalry horses I drew just one and scanned it in at high-resolution, with the intention of having seven copies of the same cavalry soldier. It comes back to the story’s theme of the Faith of the Seven, right? Then, using the Puppet Warp tool in Photoshop, I was able to vary the poses slightly so they didn’t look like they were just copy/pasted.
Then it’s on to the detailed pencil drawing of Joffrey. I just did this on 17″ x 14″ Strathmore 500 drawing paper and scanned it in at 600 dpi for maximum detail. You can always scale an image down later. I had to stitch 2 separate scans; I don’t have a large-format scanner.
Once those elements are in Photoshop I can position and fine-tune them to fit into the comp exactly how I like it. I also scan in a drawing of King’s Landing I did on tracing paper and fit that into the background.After everything is composed and I’ve given it a nice margin for printing, I add the text from Adobe Illustrator.
Now I have all the line art ready to paint over. I print this out on a piece of Epson velvet fine art paper on my Epson R1900 large-format printer. Then I soak the printed drawing in water. This stretches the paper before painting. The nice thing about this is that it’s archival ink on acid-free paper, so the ink won’t run when you submerge it in water. Then I staple it around the edges to a piece of sheetrock. You can pick up a 2′ x 2′ piece at any home improvement store. Once it’s on the board I start laying down watercolor & acrylic washes.
Then I just start slopping loose acrylic washes onto Joffrey and fill in my darkest darks with FW acrylic ink. Then with a mix of acrylic, FW ink, and colored pencil I do a tighter rendering of the character.
I then fill in the shadows of King’s Landing with a light wash of FW acrylic ink. I really don’t add much detail here; it’s kind of a paint-by-numbers approach but for the background it works. I don’t want the detail of the city to compete with my main character.
Now I work on the cavalry line. Again, FW acrylic ink, acrylic paint, and colored pencil for finer details. I try to make sure the helmets and upper surfaces have medium to light values so that they stand out against the darker values in Joffrey and the lighter background values. One valuable tip I learned lately is to just put dark shapes in front of light shapes, and vice versa. This makes your illustration “read” more clearly.
After I’ve filled in my details and hit that magical point of avoiding overworking the piece, I add the finishing touches of hand-painted text. This is straight up acrylic paint, red with a white border to make it stand out. Done!Tagged: GRRM, asoiaf, castle, fantasy, knight, cavalry, lannister, baratheon, game of thrones, joffrey