Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Robin Hood

Greg Manchess

“Robin Hood” will debut in Paris this October 17th, at Galerie Daniel Maghen. The solo show will exhibit my adventure paintings from literature, science fiction, fantasy, and historical subjects, as well as new narratives. I plan to continue working on several of the series started here, including this classic. 

Beginning with an iconic portrait of the hero, I chose to place him in mid-stride, moments before the action begins. That’s Robin Hood to me. Movies turn him into some kind of superhero. Fun, but not the kind of thoughtful outlaw I imagine he was. (If he actually existed.) He thinks a number of moves ahead of his adversaries, but sometimes, just not enough ahead for comfort.

I shot a bunch of reference to get the body language right, but stumbled through the first sketch until I captured it in the second.

I thought I’d have plenty of woodland reference in my collection, but failing that, instead I ended up designing the trees one-at-a-time for the composition.

I started the painting, during this year’s Illustration Master Class, with a couple of palette knives. I even glazed some areas for the sun shafts through the trees. Having shunned glazing for decades, I’m beginning to use it to help me see. I painted over the glazing eventually, but it did assist me in picking apart values. I then went back into those areas with thicker paint.

If you nail the values, no matter the color or the weight of the stroke, the painting will live.

Whether tight, loose, or abstract, the work of my painting is to capture as subtle a moment as possible that every viewer can recognize as believable.


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  2. Fantastic atmosphere and character. I don't like the bow and especially don't like the arrow though, they look delicate and generic, and it may be beside the point but also ahistorical.
    I think a long, thick English/Welsh long/warbow of two-toned yew with no reflex in the tips, with a much thicker arrow shaft with tapering fletchings, would have looked better. To me at least.

  3. Dangit...I'm gonna have to agree with you, Cole. Especially on the arrow shaft thickness....probably on the longbow as well. The shaft was actually thicker, but in the process of painting, it got trimmed to thinner. I disagree on the fletching. They most likely would've been poorer quality examples than the King's archers' equipment.

    But y'know...this is all about impression and suggestion. More about the character. Like looking at him through a blurred lens.

    Even so, I'll keep that longbow in mind for the next one! (I was SO tempted to do that here, but figured the viewer would see it as too plain. Ah, well...) Thanks for the comments!


  4. greg, you can look up so-called "character bows" – bows made from wood that is not perfectly straight, or has many knots. nowadays, they are usually made as a challenge for the bowyer, therefore often from wood completely unlikely to be made into a bow in the middle ages. but you might get an idea on how to make a simple D-shaped bow like the english longbow a little more rustic-looking, or add some visual interest.

    as for arrows, their historicity & practicability: i agree that it looks a bit on the thin side, but wood arrows are/were not super thick. nowadays, commonly available thicknesses are 5/16″ and 11/32″, and even for 100+ lbs warbows, they don’t go beyond 1/2″. i am not exactly sure about diametres of shafts found on the mary rose, but i’d be very surprised if they were any thicker. for your stealthy robin hood, thinner hunting arrows absolutely make more sense than 1/2″ artillery ammo for clout shooting armoured enemies at a few hundred meters distance, too. they also sound more like a common everyman’s item than military issue arrows.
    what really sticks out to me is that it looks damn short.

    you probably can’t not score points with archery fans when you make him appear like his arrows are cared-for items. pretty much every stick with a string will do as a bow in a pinch, but to shoot in a consistent manner, good arrows are everything, and not items you regard as dispensable. therefore, going for a little more refined fletching definitely wouldn’t hurt accuracy, and i doubt it’d hurt the impression much.

    there is still a long way towards what we know from military issue: fletching glued, then further fixed to the shaft with a spirally wound string, then the exposed string covered with a kind of lacquer – and that kind of treatment for items carried along in the many thousands for military use, i.e. shot once and not likely to be retrieved.

    but as you said yourself – impression is key, not historical authenticity. i just figured one can’t know too much about all kinds of stuff. who knows when it comes in handy. so please don’t take this as an armchair painter’s "stupid greg, got it all wrong," but more of a "hey, maybe that’s interesting to you."

    anyway, i love the picture, and especially your idea of robin hood. it’s just me being an archery nerd/hobby bowyer that makes his equipment and tackle stick out like a sore thumb. (how does he even shoot without the string hitting the large cuff of his bow hand glove? why doesn’t he wear a simple leather bracer on his forearm? why would a hunter-looking RH wear a back quiver?)
    but that’s hardly something particular to your painting, it happens everywhere, and usually way worse. ;)


  5. I would have to agree that the bow and arrow do look a bit dainty, but to be absolutely honest I didn't notice until you guys pointed it out, I was more taken with the mood of the painting, the concentration in his face as he waits for his moment

  6. Yikes....thanks, Raphael! You ARE an archery nerd! Much appreciated though. I love archery, and should really get back into it. Well taken, and thanks for the inspiration!

    Nicely said, Michael! The focus is his obscured face. Funny how leaving out so much there can draw a viewer to that very point. Critical technique for painters to learn, but so many in genre miss this. Less is more. Always. (until it's not. But that's a different point.....oh never mind. : )

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  8. awsome work dude. love the painterly look.

  9. whoa, this is next level Greg, damn. the cool temp of the light trickling through the trees is unexpected (to me) and delightful

  10. It seems to me or Does your face appears in the final painting? Subconscious desires?
    Greetings from Spain

  11. Hey Greg - the latest Doctor Who episode features Robin Hood (not your moody, introspective version for sure, but I rather adore the actor playing him. He can be so subtle and emotive), so I thought of you the entire time I watched it. :-) As always, I *adore* your sketches. Yum. Thanks for all the process posting. Having a bit of Manchess-withdrawal. xxx

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