Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Christmas Carol

So for the past four years or so, I have been intermittently asked to create the posters for our school shows.  The high school runs a drama production every fall, and a musical in the spring.  And I typically use these as an opportunity to get back into some pen and ink work.  The shows have not always been ones that I have been personally interested in, but I usually find interesting solutions that are fun to draw - one of the benefits of being the art teacher at the school is I tend to get a lot of freedom.

But this year was different, this year's Fall production is Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." It's a story that is near and dear to me, even though I cannot honestly remember the last time I saw it (either on stage or screen).  But I do remember two versions that really stuck with me - Disney's "Mickey's Christmas Carol" from 1983 (the year I was born...holy moly) and "The Muppet Christmas Carol" from 1992.  I also remember seeing a pretty good version on one of the local college's stages back when I was in grade school, but the two mentioned earlier are the ones that really hit home.  So there was a lot of nostalgia attached to this poster, and it was quite fun to pull from while I worked.  So, on to the thumbnails...

...which were pretty bad.  But, some of the best advice I have ever received regarding sketches came from Jeremy Jarvis (the AD for Magic: The Gathering) about four years ago.  It was simply that a sketchbook should be the place to get the bad drawings out of the way.  That's stuck with me ever since I heard it, and it's really helped me free up my thumb nailing.  Regardless, I knew that I wanted to focus on the initial meeting between Scrooge and Marley, and incorporate the other Ghosts of Christmas as well, and I knew I needed it to be a montage.  So I looked back to some of these awesome Manchess sketches for "The Mongolian Wizard" for some inspiration, and the idea started to gel in the bottom right.

Still playing with the overall layout, but a flow between the figures is starting to come together.  I knew I wanted to keep the massive scale of Christmas Present framing the left side of the image, and I figured that Christmas future could frame the top right with his pointing arm, and then I could use his cloak to frame the right side and bottom.  Scrooge and Marley are going to be central-ish, and I tossed Christmas past in on the right, below Future.  Seemed like a plan.  I also took a little stab at Marley - really wanted to have some fun with those eyebrows and that nose.  Also, played with the idea of the village occupying the bottom center and an open doorway framing Cratchet and Tiny Tim.

And here's where everything seemed to click together.  CR Thespians splash would go at the top, credits and title in Oldish English font underneath, Christmas future framing top-right, Christmas Present framing center-left, Scrooge recoiling from Marley into Present's massive hand, Christmas Past sitting on Present's other hand looking across, and the village/town occupying the rest of the composition with that little open door framing Cratchet and Tim.  This also left a nice negative space on the right side for me to throw in the show times/dates.  Was feeling good at this point, so I took to a larger scale to lock it in.

 More of the same, just a little more clarity with how the lettering would fit in and some compositional noodling with the placement of Scrooge and Marley.  Now for the fun stuff.  Reference!

Knew right from the start that I wanted up-lighting on the Ghost of Christmas present, never got a decent sketch of it though, so you'll just have to live with the final inks.


And Marley.  Man, love that nose and brows.  Also, we were testing for PSATs this day, so I had a good chunk of time in the classroom alone to take care of these shots...except for one of my Advanced students who came in to get some extra work done and got to witness this nonsense.

From this point it was just layout on the bristol and a whole lot of brushwork.  And that was the one big change that I made to my process from earlier posters - the switch from a pen to brush.  I used a synthetic liner for most of the poster, but then just attacked it with black before calling it a day.  I had a lot of fun, feel like I learned a lot, and our Drama teacher was very happy with the results.  I'll call that a good day.

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