I like this image. I want you not to like it...in a way.
I want you to feel uneasy looking at it. I'd love if you felt the grime and grit oozing off your screen, onto your hand and that new trackball wireless mouse with which you are hopefully using to scroll and read more.
Warm and welcoming are two words I'm hoping are absent from your thoughts as you look over this illustration.
Aside from a slight tone, there is no color, no warmth. The charcoal I used to draw him echos the dirt and ash smeared across his cheek. The vantage point is chilling. The gun points and his unfeeling eyes are meant to knife through you, as they pierce the shadow of his helmet with the look of someone who's done this before.
What an awful last sight to see, as you -- the viewer, the target -- prepare for the anticlimactic pop of the pistol, and try to find something human about him to latch onto.
Theatrics aside, this was done as a sample for a project proposal. The client provided some photographic reference, on which this image is based.
The dirty texture was important. There needed to be a layer obscuring the viewer's eyes from any niceness of the charcoal on paper drawing. There had to be that splash of movement in the background, setting an active mood and defining the mess that exists in his world. The illustration ached to look as if it had been drug through the gray muck of some foreign shore to echo the distant and gritty mood of the wartime encounter and help further tell this man's story.
This is one of the series of samples I created for this proposal. Two of the others can be seen here and here.
Working on them allowed me to experiment with very expressive content and very dramatic and unique points of view -- which are 2 aspects of the magic of illustration.
Technically speaking, after completing the charcoal drawing, the tone and texture was added in Photoshop. I did much experimenting with various texture treatments in order to attain the right combination of splatter, movement, and filth.
His piercing eyes and steely, chilling expression were very important. There is a fine line between an emotionless expression and a chilling expression. I believe his tells, arguably, the bulk of the story.
Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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