The Making of “Sierra and Mercury”

Sierra and Mercury – 18″ by 24″

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

-Michelangelo

My latest painting is a commission of a friend and his roleplaying character. This collaboration actually started about a year and a half ago when his father contacted me regarding a portrait for his son as a birthday present. As is often the case with private commissions, it was some time before I was actually able to meet with the client to determine what sort of portrait would work best.

At first, I planned on doing a simple head shot style portrait of one character, but we ran into a bit of a problem. The father assumed his son would actually look like his roleplaying character – but the character in this case was actually a woman, and totally different in appearance. It would have been a bit awkward to present the final portrait, saying “here’s your son’s portrait – it’s actually a totally different person…”

Hence, a dual portrait was going to be more appropriate – the son, Sierra would be primary and his roleplaying character, Mercury would be secondary. In a way, I had two clients instead of one, so I needed to fit the expectations of both.

Mercury Redwick character study

In a strange way, I ended up focusing a lot more of my attention initially on the female character. She had an entire backstory, with detailed equipment and armor, so I needed to get that right. Sierra’s character, on the other hand wasn’t as well defined, so I invented more of his characteristics.

I actually committed a serious flaw in drawing Sierra’s character in this stage, but didn’t notice it at the time. Looking back, I can see that I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to his forward left leg, and how it foreshortens into space.  I would soon learn the error of my ways…

This drawing error persisted all the way into the final painting stage until I showed this piece to a few people and received feedback about the issue. I took a hard look at my original reference and was horrified to see just how badly things had gone astray. The moral of the story is: get that drawing right before going to painting! A bad drawing never makes a good painting.

In the end, it all came down to that tricky, foreshortened left knee of the front character. I repainted the armor on that knee several times over, trying to get it right. Only after I reshot a reference image with homemade knee armor was I finally able to figure out what was going on there!

The above timelapse video shows it all. At 3:27, the course correction happens – it’s still a bit painful to watch! I shared this on facebook, and after receiving feedback that people were curious about what I fixed, I decided that this post could serve as a useful educational piece on how paintings go wrong, and how they get fixed.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *