Work in Progress: The Brigand

After finally getting caught up on client work, I had some time to get back to my latest personal piece, “The Brigand.” Sometimes, I feel a bit of frustration when I’m working on an exciting painting for myself and I have to pull away. But in this case, I feel the time spent away from my painting was beneficial. It gave me the necessary space to take another look at this character and make some important revisions.

Here’s where things were at with Brigand in early December. I had shot reference for my other supporting characters and things were shaping up. But my main orc bandit character was leaving something to be desired. I wanted a sense of braggadocio and swagger with her. Some of that was coming across, but it just wasn’t quite strong enough.

In the early days of silent film, it was really important for actors to telegraph their emotions as clearly as possible so the audience understood what was going on. This is where we get the physical comedy of Charlie Chaplin and others who understood this aspect. I think illustration can be very similar to silent films in that we don’t have an audio track to tell a story – everything has to be communicated visually, sometimes to an extreme extent.

I actually did some research with music videos to try to figure out how I could make this character’s personality “louder” for lack of a better word. It was then that I came across “Money Machine” by Gucci Mane, featuring Rick Ross. This video is patently ridiculous, but it does get across the point that the lead rapper is so wealthy that he literally bathes in cash. His butler even carries a tray of cash.

Here we see guest rapper Rick Ross proudly displaying a block of hundred dollar bills. “How does this relate?” you might ask. Well, I want my bandit character to have the same sense of hyper inflated ego. I want to show that she’s got so much money that she can afford to let it fall to the ground!

I realized that by having her hold that hand up and clutch a bag of gold coins, it tells a lot more about this character. The second big change was altering where the bandit is looking. By changing her head position to be directed at the bag of coins, it also changes the focus of the picture. The idea that she’s gloating over her ill gotten gains is much more evident and now her hand crossbow plays a secondary note, telling the story of how she got her treasure.

I’m much happier with the direction this painting is now heading in! I think the time I spent away from it was definitely a good thing and I’ve become reoriented to the piece with a new sense of narrative. Hopefully I’ll get some more time to work on in during the holidays 🙂