The Making of “Two Hunters”

Two Hunters

“Two Hunters,” 24″ by 18″, oils on canvas.

“Two Hunters,” could have gone wrong in any number of ways. I think I steered it clear of most of the pitfalls because I spent A LOT of time planning this one. It started out with a fairly simple idea – that of Comanche warriors riding velociraptors in the desert – and quickly became quite complicated.

Raptor Maquette
Raptor Maquette

The first problem was reference. Where was I going to get reference imagery of velociraptors? As usual, I decided to build a small maquette out of super sculpey wrapped around a wire frame. This turned out to be invaluable- it allowed me to position the creature just so, and I also was able to control the lighting for a nice back lit sunset feeling. This little fella’ helped quite a bit!

Raptor Sketch
Comanche Sketch

I proceeded to make studies of all the figures and tested out the poses. Initially, the angle of the spears were my biggest design challenge. No matter how I positioned them, they ended up making funny tangents with the crossing tails of the raptors. In the end, I positioned each warrior holding his spear vertically- it made for a nice contrast to all the horizontals in the scene with the desert background, and also acts as a subtle framing element. In the sketch of the left warrior, his hand was in a different position at first, but I’m so glad I changed it. Its so critical to eliminate these problems in the drawing phase.

Landscape Reference
Landscape Reference

The last piece was the background. A teacher of mine from art school, Mark Eanes, used to say that he really preferred the term, “ground,” rather than “background.” Background, he argued, was too much of a inferior term, because that part of the picture is very important and often takes up more actual space than the figures. With this particular image, the background really carries the weight of the picture. I wanted it to emanate the calm, cool feeling of a desert evening. My reference was from a recent backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon, and I ended up combining the above two photos for the setting. While the left photo is heavily darkened, it actually captured a really great sense of drama in the sky and the saturated colors. The right photo gave me much more detail for the rocks and dirt in the foreground. Each one had their merits.

Two Hunters

And… then I painted it! Alas, I have no progress photos to show of this one. I was completely in the zone by the time this baby got transferred to canvas and I was halfway through when I realized I hadn’t snapped any photos. That part remains a mystery – can’t reveal all my tricks, can I?

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