Friday, December 2, 2011

Conan commission

by Petar Meseldzija

For many years I wanted to do a Conan painting, but never got the chance to realize this dream. As a young adult I passionately read the Conan comics, especially those that were done by John Buscema, a master draftsman. I was also very much impressed by Frazetta’s Conan, but I also regarded a few of the Conan paintings by Boris Vallejo as one of the best.
A few months ago a private collector asked me whether I would be willing to do a Conan painting for his collection. I said YES, of course, and soon after that I did a little rough sketch of the scene that had to depict a moment from the story of “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”. Well, as you probably already know, “to depict” a scene from a story, means in my case “to interpret it”, in one or another way.
I decided to present you with a series of posts about the development of this commission. I intend to lead you through all the stages of the process, as the work on the painting progresses. But, I have to ask you to be a little patient because this project might take some time, for I have to do three different projects at the same time.

So, let’s get started.

This is the rough sketch of the composition. After I became sure about the general positioning of the characters, I went in search of the reference material. The appropriate reference photos and props will play a very important role in this commission, for one of my main objectives this time will be the “naturalism”. This task of using the naturalistic approach within a painting that deals with fantastic, is a tricky thing. Although not the only way of depicting the world of Fantasy and Mythology, the appropriate stylization of form and atmosphere seems to be the most often chosen path by the artists. Anyway, in the coming weeks (if not months), we shall see how far this painting will let me go in my pursuit of this aim of naturalism. But I have to say that, although an important aspect, the naturalism is not the final station of my Conan journey. The right atmosphere of the painting as a whole, is (should be) the ultimate goal.

The study of the Snow Giants done after I made a several photos of the Vikings from Germany, during a Viking Festival that was held in Archeon, a fascinating theme park here in the Netherlands.

The final preliminary study of the scene, or better said the characters, because the background has not yet been defined. In order to collect the appropriate reference material for the background, I will have to travel to the North Pole…(just joking, a library around the corner would be a perfect solution).
The Conan figure was done more or less from memory, because I had no reference photos. Unfortunately I have some problems with finding a nicely shaped male model for my Conan. Any volunteers…? I pay 20 Euro per hour if you are an amateur model, and I pay nothing if you are a friend, except for the unforgettable cup of Turkish coffee and a glass of Serbian Sljivovitsa, or a bottle of good Belgian beer (we do this after the photo session), and a delicious diner.

The same preliminary study with the Conan's leg slightly shifted to the right to achieve a better balance of the negative space.

A detail from the final preliminary drawing.

The final tracing of the drawing. This is going to be transferred onto the wooden board. The next step is underpainting.

End of part 1


  1. So cool! It will be nice to be able to follow a Conan painting. Please share lots of pics of the painting process. One thing maybe ... if you shift the pupils of the Giant (whose eyes we can see) down to be almost partly eclipsed by his lower eye-lids, then his height would be amplified and indicate an 'exchange / interaction' with Conan. Its 'just' the sketch for now, but he seems to be looking right at us. Just a thought ;-)

    Man, that full sketch is an artwork all by itself!

  2. I love your work Petar, especially the way you paint, shifting from one colour into the next (you make it look so effortless) The one thing I'm alway's drawn to when you show these preliminary sketch's, is just how much power and movement you seem to catch in your very first sketch. As the sketching continues (it get's more realistic) but I feel it then loses some of it's rawness and power. Like Nico above say's "that full sketch is an artwork all by itself) and I think it's awesome, but I alway's have a thing for your initial sketch's.

  3. Great post! Looking forward to this journey. Your work is a constant source of inspiration.

  4. Thanks Petar for letting us follow your process on this commission. Ahhh if only Conan was an out of shape, middle aged, desk Jockey... I'd sign up for being your Model, and surely would enjoy the food and drink.



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  6. Petar thank you! Your works for me is source of inspiration.
    Из России с любовью!

  7. Great start, Petar, looking forward to the final!

  8. Petar, I can't model for this, but if you ever need an overweight(larger then life) middle-aged man with Nordic facial features then I sit in Antwerp. I'd do it for just the possibility to exchange knowledge on painting (very interesting since you paint with traditional means and I mainly work in digital for my professional works.

  9. Hi! I have just started following your blog! And this was a trully engaging insight to your project start, to my mind :] Good luck with it and will be very interesting to see it reach the resolution :]

  10. So cool. Can't wait for the end result!

  11. Nico – Don’t worry, everything will be just fine when the painting is finished, although it might not be to your liking.

    Lee - “ Power, movement and rawness” are not the only qualities that make up a good piece of art. But, I understand your point, and it is a good one.

    Mike and my neighbor from Antwerp - When I need a middle-aged, out of shape model, I just shoot photos of myself. .. sorry guys ;-)(Thanks!)

    Artmayskii - спасибо

    Thanks, guys!

  12. Very nice step by step documentation. I was wandering, do you already have an idea of the colored version in mind or do you start with that only when the lineart and composition is done?

  13. Markus – Most of the time, I start planning the color arrangements as soon as the first rough sketch has defined the overall of the future painting.