Back at the end of last year, just when I was decided to put my drawing tablets away and enjoy a much needed holiday break after completing the Tarot deck —technically, only the Major Arcana, but you get the point— I received an email from an old patron, Andrew.
Some years ago (Jesus, how does time fly) Andrew asked a commission for his wife shown as the 13th. Doctor and wanted to know if I was available for a last-minute commission. Now I gotta admit when I opened his email and read the request I groaned and wanted to say No, immediately; burnout is a very real and serious thing creative people have to deal with, especially when you are trying to make a living as a freelance artist/designer and the concepts of “free time” or even “weekends” become unattainable abstractions.
…Alas, the other real and serious thing creative people have to deal with is poverty (part of the burnout vicious cycle: you overpush yourself in order to gain a little bit of financial security). Given how I had already enjoyed a few days of idleness, and also add to the fact Andrew was an old client and I didn’t want to fail him, I took a deep breath and answered Yes —once more into the breach, dear friends…
Fortunately, Andrew’s request was a fun one: He wanted a caricature of one of his friends dressed as Linda Carter’s Wonder Woman, to give her as a Xmas present. No elaborate and overcomplicated backgrounds (Pheeew!), just something that captured the emotional flavor and vitality of the character. So after receiving a few reference photos and images, I began to work.
Regular visitors to this site will probably know this is not the first Wonder Woman commission I’ve done: Another one of my regular patrons, Andrew Mark Sewell, had already asked me to draw his lovely wife as the Amazon princess. That particular illustration was done in the usual, painstaking style I’ve used many times in the past, but for this new one I wanted to do something more in line with traditional comics, and also apply some of the things I learned when I worked on my Tarot cards.
Hence I chose to stick with a clearly defined lineart that would also be pure black, and instead of my usual “painterly” shading, I just used an extra layer with halftone grid of dots, in addition to the hand-drawn hatching I included here and there to give the impression of volume —comic book artists, you might notice, don’t usually try to be too photorealistic with their lineart hatching, especially if it compromises the areas of the face; they assume an economy of detailing I should probably learn how to apply more, in order to save a lot of needless time and effort.
The value in this approach is that it allows the eye of the viewer to focus in the important things of the composition —the face, the suit, lasso, etc— without being overwhelmed by a gazillion details. I also think the simple background composed on concentric halftone “rays” and a yellow circle with a halo was quite effective in centering the figure. I’ve struggled with using simple backgrounds in the past, and I know it is something I need to improve upon in the future —trying to render a whole freaking jungle just because you’re painting Tarzan is NOT the right approach.
And so, I managed to finish the piece with time to spare, and according to Andrew his friend was very happy with it —which is really the main point of it all.