Thumbnail compositions for Professor Plum
David VanWagoner as Professor Plum
The photo "Frankenstein"
"It wasn't the Rope in the Conservatory that Killed Him"
Acrylic on Illustration Board- 12"x13"
As I mentioned in my last post, before I ever take photographs, I do many small studies to work out my composition and get a good idea of things like angle, cropping, overlap, scale, positive and negative shapes, value masses, etc. In short, I use these small sketches to give me a road map of sorts so I know where I am going. I can then engineer my photo shoot and pose my models to match my sketches. By working this way, I prevent my work from being held hostage to "whatever was in the photo" syndrome. Students and sadly even some professionals fall victim to this and end up settling for what was "in the photo" instead of taking the photos to match the vision they established in their sketch. It can take more time to work this way since one needs to gather props, costuming, scout locations and coordinate models beforehand, but it is always worth the effort when working realistically.
The third painting in the Truth Against Tobacco campaign was to depict Professor Plum with the smoke from his pipe forming a noose around his neck. I had the perfect model in mind- my Uncle Dave. He is a total character and his energy sometimes wears me out. He agreed to pose as a smoker only because it was for an anti-smoking campaign. I ended up flopping the composition and took several poses though I ultimately went with the one shown in the lower right corner. I shot several dozen frames and picked my favorites for what I call a "Frankenstein". I often take my photographs into Photoshop and fit them over my thumbnail sketch. I then cut and paste parts from several photos to get a photo composition that matches my original drawing. I don't worry about the quality of the seams too much since this version is only for my reference as I create the final drawing and painting. The "Frankenstein" for this painting consists of about five different pictures pasted together, many of which are also manipulated before compositing to change things like angles of joints, etc. It's not always pretty but I end up getting what I need for the painting.