Commission: A Time Lord Tea Party

Time Lords Tea Party
Well, I assume they had a tea party inside the TARDIS…

I finished this piece a while back, but I was too busy with other commissions to post it here (NOT COMPLAINING, KEEP IT COMING).

This is another illustration requested by the one and only Paul Kimball, a.k.a ‘the Greatest Canadian in all of History’ (sorry, Michael J. Fox) who requested himself and his pal Aaron Gulyas –a great author and the host of The Saucer Life, one of the best UFOlogical podcasts out there– to be portrayed as their favorite iteration of the iconic Doctor Who: Paul as the 5th Doctor who was played by Peter Davison, and Aaron as the First Doctor, played by William Hartnell.

Paul Kimball, and behind him his trophy from back when he was an ‘alien hunter’
(who knew aliens had transparent skulls!)
Peter Davison, who makes me think cricket might actually be a fun game to play.
A very judgmental-looking William Hartnell
Aaron Gulyas, not so judgmental as his hero

As always, Paul asked for a few special elements added to the illustration: Both he and Aaron were to be standing next to the famous TARDIS, and the setting would have to be some alien planet.

One of the reference images I used.

Unfortunately for me, I was never a ‘Whovian’ only because –for reasons that escape my comprehension– the show was never broadcast in Mexico when I was growing up –I did watch my fair share of Batman and Robin, Land of the Lost and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea instead– so I had to do some previous studying so I could better portray what Paul wanted. For example, one thing I discovered is that the TARDIS has changed its appearance over the years, and back in the time of Peter Davison’s tenure its colors were a bit brighter. The image above had the perspective I needed and the ambient light was also of great, help, but I used the pic below for color reference.

Second reference image I used for my TARDIS, to capture the colors portrayed during the time of the 5th Doctor. Notice also the ‘worn down’ texture of the wood, which I also tried to capture to add realism to the piece.

Another thing I needed to decide is WHICH alien planet, of the dozens or hundreds of worlds portrayed in such a long-lived TV show as Doctor Who, should be used as background. Using Google I found that Gallifrey had a really cool citadel encased on a sort of fishbowl dome, which gave it a very recognizable appearance, so I decided to go with that.

Gallifrey (“how hard could it be?” was my thought when I found this image. When o when will I learn?…

Of course, I didn’t realize at the beginning how INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT Gallifrey’s citadel would be (I mean look at it! Count how many freaking spires there are!!) and that’s not even counting the rest of the mountains and the desert around it! As many artists, I became a victim of my own ambition —The Agony and the Ecstasy is BTW one of my favorite movies– and it took me quite a while to just complete the background. Adding to the difficulty of the process was the fact that I was in the middle of transitioning from the familiarity of my Samsung tablet interface, to a newer and more powerful setup: Thanks to the generosity of The Daily Grail, I was able to acquire new equipment this year which not only included a faster laptop but also a proper graphic tablet, something I’d been dreaming of acquiring for some time now because, as great a service as my Samsung tablet has given me and how great Autodesk Sketchbook runs in it, it does have its limitations like the size of the canvas you can work with and how many layers you can get into the file before it crashes on you.

Instead of a Wacom which is the #1 brand in the market for professional digital artists, I opted for a 13″ Kamvas by Huion, a Chinese company, which allows me to paint directly into the image just like I was used to with the Samsung tablet. Since this is my first professional tablet I have no point of reference to compare it with, but to this noobie it does feel like a HUGE improvement compared to working with Sketchbook under the Android environment of the Samsung tablet. HOWEVER painting with Huion’s stylus and customizable buttons got some getting used to, which slowed me down tremendously while working on Paul’s commission –the stylus feels good in my hand but sometimes the buttons get in the way, and I became too accustomed to zooming in and out just by using my thumb and forefinger, like I do with a normal tablet. I’m also not a huge fan of its plastic tip which is actually thicker and harder than the tip of my Samsung stylus, and even though I’ve only been using it for a couple of months, I’ve already started to wear it down (fortunately the package came with several replacements). Another thing I dislike is how every time I open my computer and start a new session with Sketchbook I need to re-calibrate the tablet, otherwise the stroke will appear several millimetres away from where I’m placing my line.

My initial pencil sketch of Paul’s face. Notice the sloppy asymmetry which it’s easily corrected once you place your image on Autodesk Sketchbook and trace on top of it using the symmetry tool. This is actually the fourth time I’ve done a portrait of Paul (first time was for Greg Bishop’s It Defies Language! book) and it NEVER gets any easier, because Paul has some very peculiar facial features that are something of a caricaturist’s nightmare –if you exaggerate them juuust a bit too much, you don’t recognize him anymore.
Pencil sketch of Aaron Gulyas. Thankfully for me, Aaron has some very easily to recognize features (eyeglasses, a beard and a bald head) but nevertheless I restrained from over-exaggerating them. I guess my current style is ‘slightly-caricaturized’ but not too much. Besides, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that with caricature you need to keep in mind the drawing’s INTENTION: are you aiming to mock or to compliment? This is especially tricky if the subject happens to be a woman…

So, it was because of the ‘learning curve’ with the Huion tablet, the unusual complexity of the composition –I lost count on how many layers I used just on the TARDIS alone– and my usual procrastination, that I ended up taking my sweet time finishing the piece. Fortunately for me Paul was willing to wait for me, and after he saw the final result (and asked for a few slight corrections) he and Aaron were very happy with it. I’m equally proud of it myself, especially because I compare it with what my artwork used to look just a few years ago, and I notice I marked improvement which would have not happened had I not forced to push my abilities with very difficult commissions such as these. And when all your long hours and effort is welcomed with praise and a fair compensation, well that’s all an artist could ever ask for isn’t it?

And remember, all you Doctor Who fans out there: COMMISSIONERATE!!

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