20 February 2013

'My Father, the Old Horse', Official Movie Poster

This has been in the works for some time, waiting for completion in all its various forms, and then the ever important green light to be released publicly. Hence, those I've told of the project may have come to question if there actually was a movie poster on my painting board!

Back in early December of 2012, a happy confluence of social networks led me to an introduction with producer and writer Cara Trabucco, who had seen a graphite portrait I recently put online. Somehow discovering my little piece, which she wonderfully complimented, was an opportunity for the both of us; I then met director and writer Max Einhorn on the heels of an intriguing e-mail discussion, and shortly thereafter found myself in the middle of a movie poster commission.

What they had been looking for - so they told me - was an artist who could meet their vision for a classic, hand-painted poster. Something of a throw-back to the days of Tom Jung (artwork for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, the animated Lord of the Rings, etc), and the like. I was surprised and uplifted, to say the least, that they felt I could handle the job.

So, as first times go, I was treated to watching the entire film with the director, still in it's post production state, a lengthy discussion of ideas and important key notes, scheduling, all the rest, and then went ahead to rough in a few thumbs.

Rough thumb one, 2012.
Rough thumb two/ thumb two with corrections, 2012.
Rough thumb three, 2013.

You may be able to see in the pictures I snapped just how small I start my roughs. I got into the habit in school, and quickly came to love the value of initially capturing a concept in small scale configuration. I think the importance of the design of space is more forcefully before you this way, and getting it down without the concern for large-scale detail or the tendency to get lost in indulgent doodles is a good stepping stone for finding the strong foundation necessary at the drawing stage.

The final image above is the loose solution we went with for the poster.

In terms of the aesthetic direction, one of the interests the director Max wished to discuss was aiming for a high-contrast, stark black and white approach for the character Mack's portrait. He alluded to Richard Avedon's 'In the American West' photography series as an appropriate inspiration, not only for the poster, but for the film at large. *I did not use Avedon's work for reference in any way, only a brief associative inspiration.
As Mack's part of the composition was the top, it meant  - for me - working my way down from strictly value, through limited palette, to full color. I tried to be conscious of this transition throughout the painting process, making technical decision I thought would best reflect that shift.

I then delved into collecting, sorting, and compiling reference material from the movie footage and actors' head-shots, not to mention some of my own photography. It is a long process, but quite important to be handled carefully.
From enlargements of my rough sketch and drawings from reference, I drew out the full poster in tight graphite, keeping primarily to linework, as suits my process.
Then the painting! A ceaseless bombardment of creative demands on all senses, for days.

...me in the studio, trying to accommodate those demands. Yes, that is a pencil in my mouth. 2013.
Beginning wash layers, 2013.
'Lee' character portrait - roughly three hours, small layers - 2013.

'Don - old horse' character portrait, graphite rough lay in, 2013.
'Don' character portrait - roughly four hours in - loose watercolor layers, 2013.
'Young Don' character portrait development with surrounding elements layering, 2013.
Half--way through the process with lots of orange water, loads of music, and frequent stretching! Endless chair-sitting gets to be a pain...And you can see my line drawing on the wall there. 2013.
Late addition tree elements with following wash layers, 2013.
'Young Don' character portrait progress with surrounding bleed-work, 2013.
Truck, keys, and tree-line with town elements, eventually layered in...2013.
Smoke-stacks and tree-line brush work cleaned and tightened up a bit more...2013.
'Young Don' character portrait final stage with finished surrounding fade-ins, 2013.
'Mack' character portrait final stage - roughly eight hours total time for him - 2013
And with all of that out of my system, I started the arduous journey of turning the physical work into an acceptable series of files.
Including un-planned-for graphic work!

Scanned, edited, combined, and correctly formatted, 2013.
...with graphic work in, as prescribed. *Finishing touches yet to be prepped for printing. 2013.

Now, finally able to show other eyes and minds the work that has been - primarily, but not singularly! - demanding my own visual and mental focus for a few months, I am eager to attend the premiere of the film and see the finished work with a full audience!

For more information on the film's progress, premiere plans, distribution, cast, crew, and to watch the trailer, please visit the official website here.
*Also! I have been informed that the website will be re-finished with the new poster work - thanks! - as well as new information, so please keep that in mind when visiting over the next few weeks.

Even more information - for up-to-date news:

My Father, the Old Horse Official FB Business Page


  1. Absolutely mesmerizing to look through each step of your work, and to read the narrative of your production processes. Thank you for sharing these inside photos!

  2. Fantastic movie poster! I can't wait to see them posted, advertising an opening show in my area.