“Ambushed,” is the latest image in my Hybrid series. This painting is unique in that I fleshed it out in a grayscale digital study before committing the image to canvas,in a manner that is much tighter than my usual preliminary study.
Recently, I’ve found that establishing a very tight drawing actually helps the painting process feel looser- I’m able to paint with more confidence and energy when I’m not constantly searching for the correct line. Drawing digitally allows me to move compositional elements around with much more freedom than a physical drawing. One aspect that did undergo major change from the digital sketch was the female protagonist’s attire and expression. I realized that I was drawing far too much from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” look with the leather vest, hat and low cut blouse. Her character had no real story with this outfit- it looks much more like a sexy pirate girl you might run into on Halloween rather than anyone who might be found on a ship in the 18th century. I went back to the drawing board and did some more research on costumes of the period.
This book is an incredible resource for costuming! It’s a goldmine of information and reference images for pretty much any outfit since the dawn of time (although it leans heavily towards Western cultures). I’ve found it to be 10 times more useful than the ubiquitous Google Image Search. Google, although powerful, favors search results that result in online sales… which is why when you google “female pirate” you get a hundred variations of sexy pirate girl. The problem is, sexy pirate girls never actually existed. Any woman masquerading as a pirate in those days probably would have tried her best to look like a man and blend in. That would have been the only way to survive in the brutal conditions that were the norm on ships of the period.
I wasn’t interested in depicting a gender ambiguous pirate, however. So, I came up with a more interesting plot line- what if the main protagonist was actually a rich Victorian city girl who was kidnapped by pirates? And just when she escapes her captors, the ship is overrun with zombies? Ah, now it’s getting interesting. Now we have a character worthy of emotional investment! I changed her expression as well from one of gritty confidence to fear and apprehension. The end result is a painting that I feel has a lot more punch. I’m glad I made the change!