2020 is coming to an end (thank Chtulhu!) and overall I gotta say it was a rather productive year for me –maybe too productive, since I barely managed to bingewatch any Netflix series or read books– so I’ll try to post some leftover commissions before January starts.
[By all means it does NOT mean these commissions are lesser in quality or importance for me than the others. It just means I didn’t have the proper time to promote them before, because I was so busy with other commissions!]
So this one was requested by my friend James Mitchell, who had already asked me to design a couple of t-shirts for him. This time instead of him as the main subject he wanted his beautiful baby boy portrayed riding a black billy goat, while wearing the same type of flashy jacket and red boots as his daddy. The goal was to have fun with the “Sinister Minister” brand James has created for his public persona, but without getting too ‘Satanic’, lest people get upset –especially James’s mother in law!
Like all of James’s ideas, this project was both appealing and technically challenging. Ever since I saw the 2015 movie The VVitch, I became obsessed with the archetypal figure of Black Phillip, the black horned goat which in the film is used to represent the Devil, and tempt young Thomasin to ‘live deliciously’ for the price of her immortal soul and her name inscribed in the Book of the Damned.
One of the first things I do with a commission gather as much reference material I can find online. While trying to find imagery of little kids riding goats, I found to my surprise that in Germany porcelain sculptures of naked young boys riding goats were quite popular –perhaps a veiled homage to the pagan theme of young Bacchus frolicking with fauns and nymphs.
Alas, none of these sculptures proved helpful for my purposes. Next up I searched for actual photographs of kids riding goats –something that seemed to be more in vogue decades ago as a rural entertainment– but these images only helped me to understand the proportion of a small child in relation to the size of an adult goat.
The vintage postcard above made me realize that the pose James was asking for –his kid riding the rearing goat by grabbing his long horns like a chopper bike with one hand, while ‘throwing’ the horns with the other one– while aesthetically interesting and dynamic, was ultimately impossible from an anatomical perspective, simply because a young kid’s arms aren’t long enough to reach the goat’s horns while the animal is throwing its head forward.
The only solution left was to fake the pose, and never show the actual arm of the kid, leaving the viewer to imagine the hand either grabbing the horn, or holding the goat by its mane.
Without a doubt the biggest challenge was to draw the goat’s mane in such a way that it would be interesting to look at, still feel realistic enough, yet at the same time simple enough so it wouldn’t take me a whole month to complete it! I tried to use a very limited palette of colors –so the design could translate well on cloth– and used gradual transitions very sparsely –mainly on the kid’s face, the rest of the shading is purposely ‘flat’
When I showed James the end result, his only request was for me to give the goat the same type of white streak his own beard has. A brilliant last-minute idea which proved kind of a pain in the ass, until I found way to blend the layer on top of my original illustration, instead of starting out from scratch. James was so pleased with it, he asked me to send him an image of the goat alone, for a different t-shirt design –that also would have been a major pain in the ass, if I hadn’t had the foresight to keep EVERYTHING on separate layers.
In the end I never did find out if James’s mother-in-law had a fit when she saw her little grandson depicted as a Mini-Me version of his ‘demoniacal’ father, yet I’m sure nonetheless the MINI-ster will get a chuckle out of all this when he grows up.
Remember: Commissions Welcome! (Unless it’s about a last minute Xmas card, which in case the shop is closed until 2021)