Tuesday, September 29, 2009

M Squad

Last year a friend spoke with me about commissioning a portrait of Lee Marvin (1924-1987). This request fit right in with what is becoming an ongoing series of interpretations of famous tough guys. I've done portraits of Robert Mitchum, James Coburn, William Bendix, and a triple portrait of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach as they appeared in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

I gathered about a dozen photos of the hard-boiled actor, and roughed out a first attempt in a little sketchbook:

At this point I'm just figuring out the overall shapes, and what I want to emphasize as distinguishing features. I posted this version without identifying the subject, to see if it was recognizable as Marvin. I thought it looked more like Tommy Lee Jones, but a few people pegged it.

I use a scanner and Photoshop to make additional sketches. I'll scan the art, then lighten it until it's very faint, print it, and sketch in pencil on top of the printout. I continue this process until I'm happy with the sketch.

Here's the second version, penciled over a lightened-up scan of the drawing from the sketchbook:

Now we're getting closer. I added a cigarette, because what's a tough guy without tobacco? After it was done, I compared it to the reference photos and made some editorial notes on changes I thought were needed.

I repeated the scanning/lightening/printing/pencilling steps, and came up with the latest version:

At this point, I'm pretty satisfied with the likeness, and figure that messing with it any more is a bad idea.

When I'm ready to lay out the painting, I'll scan this, adjust the size, and maybe reposition the eyeballs just a little.

Once again, when looking at a finished caricature, I see a huge Mort Drucker