I love watching DVDs with director’s commentary.
You know… the ‘special feature’ where some wiseguy (or gal) talks over the whole movie? Now, not all commentary is of equal merit. Directors are the best. They’ll really get in to the under-the-hood explanations of how a good idea or good script became a really good motion picture. Other movie-folk are generally deficient in their commenting abilities:
Why people who aren’t directors shouldn’t do commentary:
- Writers – all they talk about is where the actors deviated from the script.
- Producers – fine, if you want to hear about them scouting ‘locations’
- Special effects techs – any movie with enough FX to warrant commentary by this guy is probably lacking in just about any of the other qualities that actually make a movie *good*.
- Actors – the worst. Pretty much only talk about pranks people pulled on the set, or how they were feeling the day each scene was shot. They really have no clue about how movies are made.
So think of this post as the behind-the-scenes commentary on the “making of ‘Adrift'” with me as the director.
Wringing as much juice out of this movie analogy as possible: think of the source material as the book that the movie was based on. We all know a lot of things change when the screenwriters, studio bosses, and directors put the novel through the Hollywood blender. The movie is really a different thing from the source material.
“Adrift” was based on a photograph, but took major liberties along the way. Here’s the source material for the painting:
Aside from being blurry, you’ll notice one major difference right away:
The photo is black and white.
This is an intentional choice. I’m afraid if I use color photos, the impulse to ‘copy’ exactly what’s in front of me will be too strong. By colorizing the picture, I’m forced to use a little imagination, and, as you’ll see, add some inspiration from a few other sources.
This particular picture just struck a chord, as I flipped through a photography book. Once the inspiration was selected, it was time to make a sketch.
While sketching, I’m already making some artistic decisions.
- What do I want the picture to focus on?
- What do I want to leave out?
- What do I want to modify?
One of the seafarers didn’t make the cut. The scene was just too crowded with him there. What other changes do you notice?
The aim of this sketch is mainly to establish the main shapes, the figures’ gestures, and where things are placed on the page as well as the overall ‘feel’. After this sketch was completed, it was time to replicate it onto the watercolor paper, essentially.
This time around, I also made a second replica on another piece of watercolor paper. This would serve as my ‘practice’ piece. So, any colors or painting techniques could be tried out on this version, before committing paint to the final piece.
This is as far as things went on the practice sheet. It served its purpose. The flip side of the paper is another failed painting.
As the real painting was nearing completion. I’d used some watercolors in a couple of other books as reference for the water and boat, but the face of the little guy on the right was proving difficult to master. I really wanted the expression to be very close to that of the original. I just couldn’t figure out how to do it.
A large-scale study did the trick.
Obviously, this level of detail was impossible to translate onto the one-inch head in the painting, but the exercise of doing the study equipped my brain and fingers to understand the basic shapes and shadows that go into the expression.
So there you have it. A lot of work went into “Adrift” – if only I’d put more work into the title, since these guys aren’t exactly adrift at all: they have a paddle, after all!