A Hell(boy) of a Commission! (Plus, How to Get in Touch with Me)

This piece is really special for me, and not just because it actually ended up pretty close to how I envisioned it in my head, but because it was dedicated to one of my best pals on this side of the Multiverse: Joshua Cutchin.

If you’re a paranormal aficionado (and if you aren’t, I’m surprised you found this blog!) then you’ve probably heard of him already. He’s the author of 3 highly acclaimed books —A Trojan Feast, The Brimstone Deceit and Thieves in the Night— and is currently co-writing a new book with Timothy Renner which will surely cause a lot of ripples among the more orthodox cryptozoological circles. On top of that, the Cutch is a professional tuba player, and I have had the pleasure of watching him play Dixieland Jazz onboard the famous Natchez steamboat, on a lovely April night just after Mardi Gras; an experience I will always treasure.

Josh is abig fan of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, so it gave me the perfect opportunity to play rendition to one of the most interesting characters portrayed in a Hollywood movie, thanks to the incomparable Guillermo Del Toro. I wanted the piece to tell a story of sorts, despite being a static figure, and that’s why I chose to portray Hellcutch all beat up, and bleeding from the nose, but still smiling after what surely was an epic fight with the forces of evil. Because that’s the kind of hero I find more relatable in the movies, and I think we need to thank Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard for that.

As always, the project proved to be far more tricky than I thought before I started –aren’t they always??– and although the background was deceptively easy to do using fairly easy techniques (watercolor brushes using ‘glowing filters’, finished with a few touches of a ‘splatter’ brush) I knew that I needed to keep the contrast high in order to make the main figure really ‘pop’ in the foreground. As usual I used the commission as an excuse to try out new things, in this case new brushes for the face and the clothes, which are labeled as ‘conceptual’ brushes, possibly because they are primarily intended to make very quick and fast sketches with very little detail, with the colors blending in like thin watercolor or gouache, and yet keeping each stroke lightly defined.

But the most difficult part was to solve the ‘lighting’ of the scene, as clearly the Hellcutch is surrounded by brimstone and fire, making all the hues warm and shifting toward orange. Under this conditions –and also because of the skin color– the blood turned out to be quite tricky; in fact I started to get a sense of why blood has always been difficult to portray in Cinema: if you look at old movies, blood used to have a very bright tonality –like ketchup– that to our modern sensibilities looks very fake and artificial. Nowadays blood is shown in a very dark hue, especially if it’s a large puddle of it, but if it’s just a few drops it should still look brightly red. I would like to know how other artists solve the issue of blood, whether they choose to render it at the very last of the piece, and whether they consider the lighting conditions of their composition, as I tried to do on mine.

Like wine, blood is a BITCH to capture right on an illustration

I’m delighted to inform Josh was *very* pleased with the end result, and he’s still using the image as an icon on both Facebook and Twitter 🙂

Oh, one last thing before I go: I set up a new email account so people can reach me in case they are interested in commissioning art pieces or discussing other kinds of design projects. You can reach me at:

absurdbydesign[at]gmail[dot]com

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