-By Greg Ruth
So I was recently asked to take on a last minute rush job for Criterion for a forthcoming DVD/Blu Ray release of the Michael Curtiz film, BREAKING POINT. Last minute rush pants-on-fire gigs are pretty common in my orbit. True for most of us I suspect. Typically Eric Skillman will get in touch about taking on a film, (I've done a few to date). The usual rub is I'll get a dvd of the pre-attended-to film if it hasn't already been made beautiful through the Criterionomatron (Their film restoration process is not called this but it should be, just saying), and I'll sit down and watch it with a sketchpad at the ready to mark time notes for particular scenes or imagery through which to find a cover and or interior illustrations that might be needed. I work up some proposed thumbnail ideas, we pick and choose and hone down things, execute the drawing and go through another round of approvals, go to finish and repeat and repeat until we're done.
Now for those of you, like me who have a particular thing in doing cover work where the publisher often chooses a much cheaper stock footage photo comp for their cover instead of hiring an artist to execute one themselves, this came as a particularly sweet moment of vindication. While I get that sometimes the budget for a book or film lacks the funds to pay an artist a going rate, this use of photo comps is often just used for simplicity and saving bucks on their end. There are times when this makes perfect sense, and in the case of Criterion in general, it does given what magicks they display by using screen grabs of the films they cover. However, for one plagues by this occasionally in other areas, this was a mighty opportunity to put on display exactly why having an artist on hand is a superior and worthwhile choice.He showed me the cover they had, pointed out what they were bothered by and requested i essentially duplicate it in graphite and use that opportunity to compose and draw the thing to make it clearer and more effective as a cover for the dvd/blu ray release. The not so cool was that at this stage, having only a handful of days before the announcement, and having already gone through the approvals... this cover was locked as an image. There would be none of the usual seeking the image in the film, or composing/inventing I particularly like to do for these. It was a straight shot, copy job and left only the technical needs as a place of invention. Cool because an interesting puzzle to solve for me personally, AND getting the opportunity to use my "depth of field" drawing technique in the field by blur-drawing the foreground info.
Because detail was so important here, I went ahead with a large 13" x 19" scale drawing of the image. (Sorry I didn't have a chance to stop and take progress pics- that would have been ideal, but this deadline was simply too insane for that business). But as you can see by the photo here, I've taken to reversing the trigger hand so we get a defined sense of the gun and man's grip. Left much of the bottom as balck as I could since happily I had a finished title treatment I could respond to, and tackled the rest of the necessities in the drawing. The blurring thing is always wacky on the eyes and usually I come and go with a piece to save myself from the headache and trippy eye-kimbo that happens, but again... terrible unforgiving deadline said no. But this section of the drawing is where all the action is, so it needed to be perfect: look as close to the original screen grab so as not to require further approvals, and change what needed changing without also triggering said new approvals. Even so... you can see the arm is a bit goofy with relation to his body- essentially requiring him to have his should be just above his butt. I also needed to add some clouds or indication of beyond the windshield... tricky because too much would make it bust- so seagulls and the moon say, were out. Time again was the enemy so I had to commit to the rest of the drawing and look to fixing that arm/shoulder thing in photoshop. Some lighting changes, depth of field enhancements and dragged in spot drawinsg to make it work came into the play and in the end we had what we needed to go: