Friday, June 19, 2009

Dick Cheney's Melted Mirror Smile

“I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. "It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

The above quote came from CIA Chief Leon Panetta, in an interview with The New Yorker. In this interview, Panetta responds to Dick Cheney's speech at the American Enterprise Institute, during which Cheney slams the Obama administration for their (in his eyes) less-than-aggressive stance on national security.

Cheney out for blood. I thought this whole story seemed ripe for illustrating.

I also thought the bulk of the story could be told by utilizing his own features.

After doing a search for photos, I landed a few that just said...him. If you've watched him over the years, you know he has some very distinctive features and mannerisms. One of which is his occasionally snarling mouth.

As I continued studying his mug, I began to see the other idiosyncrasies defining his face -- such as how his right eye seems more open than his left, and how his lower teeth seem to form an angular pyramid-like shape.

I enhanced the snarl, and gave him a bit of a canine tooth -- jutting out for all to see, to let you know he means business.

The eyes -- windows to the soul.

The fact that one eye seems larger than the other is somehow perfect. He's looking at you with the left and elsewhere with the right. Both have rocket-shaped highlights.

Lighting became a tool as the spotlight was placed on the tusk-baring mouth.

Saturation also became a tool, to help focus the viewer's attention.

As I settled in to add color, my only direction was the agitating crimsons in the underpainting were must-keeps.

"Painters are dramatists. Every painting needs protagonists and antagonists." ~ landscape artist, Robert Sweeney.

I realized red was the star, here. It was both helping to carry the story and very symbolic -- blood, anger, aggression.

But, there needed to be balance.

A simple spot of blue -- the cool, peaceful antagonist tasked with taming the Dracula-esque former Vice President.


Out for blood?

At least, politically.

Many thanks to my very talented intern, Becca Johnson, whose assistance and artistic input helped bring this piece to fruition.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day

"Say your prayers and light a fire." ~ from 21st Century Breakdown

It would have been easy to illustrate Billie Joe Armstrong, of Green Day, in a very animated pose with mouth a-twistin' to "¡Viva La Gloria!." That's how one expects to see him, right? However, in such a pose, the image starts to become all about the photo. I wanted to bring to life something more contemplative.

Round about 6:56 am, one fine day, I was in my car listening to the song, "Warning," on Lithium (54 on your Sirius-XM dial for XM subscribers). I thought to myself, Billie Joe Armstrong would make an interesting subject for an illustration. This is appropriate timing, too, since his band's latest effort is fresh on our minds.

This summer, I'm fortunate to be working with an amazing young illustrator named Becca Johnson. What better time to jump on Billie Joe, than as a demo?

With bold strokes, I engaged in a process, very cleverly coined by Becca, as "unpainting." It's very proprietary. In fact, I may have already said too much.

After knocking out phase one, we brought the piece into Photoshop, where the process shifted to value and then color.

With repetition, and as I become more comfortable with my process, or style, if you will, I'm always looking to strip away the unnecessary and distill paintings to the essence of what may (or may not) make them work. Glancing through the blog, one thing I notice is Billie's brush strokes are more prominent, and evidence of the human touch is on display with greater note than in some of my prior works.

With color, the obvious would have been to lather this piece in green. It turns out, Billie Joe's eyes are, indeed, green. So, look as you might, the only two spots of the aforementioned color are peering, contemplatively, in your direction.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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