Sunday, July 6, 2008

Plastic Man Saves Bettie Page - Process

I just finished this today and the person who commissioned it has allowed me to share the process. His ideas are always fun and I enjoy working on them. For those of you who are sensitive to bare breasts or do not approve or enjoy cheesecake artwork, this is not for you. See you tomorrow if you come back. Meanwhile if Tour B will follow me we will proceed. :)

The concept here is a newspaper photo showing Plastic Man saving Bettie Page from a thief who tried to steal her mink stole in a unnamed 1950s New York City nightclub. Below is the initial sketch I did. It was approved so I moved on to doing sketches of Bettie and Plastic Man.

After warm-up sketches, I did a tight pencil drawing of the piece. This is done in pencil on 8.5" x 11" copy paper. At this stage I have everything I need. But we both thought that Plastic Man's face wasn't shown enough with the bulging eyes, so we opted for the big grin look instead.
I then enlarged my pencil drawing in Photoshop to the actual size I would be doing the finished art, 16" x 20". I printed it out the image on two pieces of 11" x 17" paper on my Epson Photo 2200 printer. I taped the two pieces together and light boxed the line work onto a piece of 4-ply Strathmore Bristol Board. Then came the inking. I used a very watered down ink for this. Because it was to be in gray tones, like a newspaper photo, I didn't want the harsh black outlines. (The lines look a lot darker below because I had to adjust the contrast so you can see the pencils and the inks.) The inking was done with a brush.
I didn't outline the band in the background. I felt it would pull them into the foreground too much. Instead I established them with washes of gray. The washes of gray were done using watercolor. I feel I have a better control of the values with watercolor than I would with watered down ink. Below I am getting my darkest darks and my whitest whites (the paper) established. This way I get a clearer vision of the shades in between.
I continue working the grays to add more depth to the piece. The band is right were I want them in terms of value and the people coming down the stairs at the top right worked out too. I continue to build the darks until I am satisfied. With the piece done, I set some type on my iMac to fit the bottom area I left open. I print out the text and transfer it to the board with my light box using a black colored pencil.
I then sign the bottom right with my name and copyright. After it dries, I scan it and send the image in an email. If everything is good, I will put it between two pieces of masonite and ship it out.

Thanks for stopping by.


Royce Thrower said...

I thoroughly, thorougly enjoyed the look at the process behind this commission Gene. I always enjoy these types of posts and this one is no exception. I adore Betty Page and you definitely did her justice in this unusually detailed request. I love the expressions on all the patrons' faces and I think the bulging eyes were better off left for another day. :)
Mine however are bulging even as we speak.

Your post mentions that you have worked with this customer before. Any chance of seeing the previous collaborations?

Gene Gonzales said...

Thanks Royce. I have shared the other pieces I have done with the Pin-Up Board. But if you don't remember them, check your email. :)

Royce Thrower said...

I usually remember seeing your pieces although usually after being gently, but I honestly don't remember seeing these before Gene, so thanks for the "reminder."

Gary M. Peiffer said...


The process sounds easy and straight forward, but then your talent kicks in and makes the magic.

Just curious, what do you do with the 8.5 x 11 initial sketchs? Are these in your sketch book or do you do them on a separate piece of paper so that it is easier to light box?


Gene Gonzales said...

Thanks Gary. The rough sketch to communicate the idea is in my sketchbook. The final pencil version is on a loose piece of 8" x 11" copy paper. That was scanned and printed out to the size I needed. That piece was done just to scan because I didn't want to work at the actual size until I had it all down. I still have the original pencils.