-By Dan dos Santos
Well, if I wasn't in trouble before for painting sexist covers that objectify women, I am pretty sure I will be after this one.
A few years ago, I painted the cover to Diana Rowland's 'My Life as White Trash Zombie'. None of my usual models actually fit the description of the heroine, Angel. So, in order to achieve the kind of look I wanted, I actually used photographs of three different women. I took features from each of their faces, and homogenized them into a single face that I felt accurately portrayed the character in my imagination.
Little did I know, that the girl I made up actually existed. This past Summer, I met 'Comic Book Girl 19'. She came up to my table at Dragon Con, and proceeded to tell me how people have repeatedly brought to her attention the similarity between her appearance and that of my character. She stood in front of my painting, and sure enough, she was a dead ringer!
CGB19 and I stayed in touch after that. She is a talented artist herself, and the host of an absolutely brilliant show called 'The Comic Book Girl 19 Show', in which she reviews all things comic book and pop-culture. (If you're into comics, I highly recommend it!)
So when I got the call to do the third book in the White Trash Zombie series, guess who I immediately thought of using for a model?
Just one problem... CBG lives in California, and I live in Connecticut. There is no way the book's budget is going to allot for a trip across the country. So I did something I've never asked someone to do before... I asked CBG to do a photoshoot on my behalf, and email the photos to me.
Now normally, I would never ask someone else to take my photo reference for me. Because I paint so realistically, I feel a lot of the picture making actually happens through the camera lens. Cropping, eye level, lighting, pose, costuming... there is a LOT to account for. And quite honestly... I am VERY picky.
There are two reasons I felt confident in asking CBG to help me. Firstly, I watch her show all the time. So I know she is an avid cosplayer, and I know she can definitely sass it up in front of the camera. Secondly, the show is REALLY well filmed! The videographer, Tyson Wheeler, does all the lighting, filming and editing himself. It'd be an understatement to say he knows a thing or two about taking nice photos.
So I emailed CBG and Tyson the approved sketch. I also sent along a few photographic examples of the kind of lighting I was looking for, and ultimately, left the rest in their capable hands.
What I was expecting was some simple snapshots in a leather jacket. What I got back, was amazing. CBG and Tyson did a full blown photoshoot, with complete costume and make up! Suffice it to say, the two of them made my job VERY easy.
Once I had the photos in hand, I proceeded as usual with my piece. I used the photos to revise my sketch, and then project the image to the board.
I knew I was going to be painting quite thinly on this piece, so I actually spent a lot more time than usual on the drawing. With a highly rendered drawing like this, you can just glaze a bit of color, and the image starts to come together very quickly.
Initially I was going for a grey/black/pink color scheme in order to compliment the first cover in the series. But half-way through the painting, I decided the background would look better as a blueish-green instead of grey. Fortunately, I was able to just glaze that new color right over the already dry background. This ability to work very transparently is one of the great benefits of oil paint.
A few more coats on the figure, and the painting is pretty much done.
The image was originally supposed to have Angel standing in flood waters. But because of my indecisiveness about the background, I decided to leave the water out of the original. I didn't want to change my mind about something, and then have to completely redo all the water too. Instead, I added it digitally at the end, and let the client choose between the two versions.
And finally, here is the completed image with type treatment.