This Painting was Murder

Updated: Dec 12, 2019

He stands before you brandishing his professional name card.

You've just been a witness to a crime and will likely be in need of his keen services.

This painting was murder: A lot of Photoshop/SketchbookPro layers killing my RAM, slaying a lot of hours in the dark after midnight, and one tablet PC that bit the dust in the making of this illustration.

And yes, I confess! I was watching an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot starring David Suchet when I initially sketched this character portrait late one evening on my (now dead) Fujitsu tablet - one of my last paintings I started on that old PC tablet before upgrading to the Wacom Cintiq Companion 2.

This painting migrated to the Wacom tablet and most of the heavy work was done there. I wanted to see iconic items in this painting that described Poirot's world of mystery such as Capt. Hasting's automobile, Poirot's swan walking stick, the Elizabeth Tower (Old Ben), Poirot's neat bow tie, sharp eyes and trimmed moustache amid the leering dark arches of the moonlit night.

Angle looks very similar to how I drew him!

Huh? You haven't been formally introduced? For those not-in-the-know, Hercule Poirot is an intriguing sleuthing character of Agatha Christie's crime/mystery novels, the most famous perhaps is the Murder on the Orient Express. No, he's not French, he's from Belgium - but his mysteries take place in 19th-20th turn of the century London, England. (There is an aspect to Poirot that I particularly resonate with: That he is a highly gifted immigrant coping in a foreign culture, and thereby, often misunderstood. In some manner, I can personally relate to this having lived abroad in a very alien culture(s) as a Western foreigner in Far East Asia).

I'm often surprised how many folks don't seem to know about Poirot despite the excellent televised series by BBC that has just completed its 20 years journey visually retelling each novel ever published spanning the entire career of the fictional Poirot. And then I'm surprised sometimes by someone who I didn't expect to know is a fan of the show or has read the novels.

Even though I first saw a version of Poirot portrayed in the film Murder By Death, a detective parody, I was truly introduced to Poirot a long while ago by an old college classmate who preferred Poirot to Sherlock Holmes, while at the time I had been a Holmesian since my boyhood watching Mystery Theater on Public Television with my dad and reading volumes of collected works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his study.

Ah! London's Big Ben clocktower used here, too! Yes, I forgot I wanted to put a street lantern in my painting - well, perhaps I will do that sometime later.

When I started this illustration, I had also been reading some scanned 90's style comic books on that ol' Fujitsu tablet PC in digital format, and was (and still am) impressed by the contour lined imagery in those little boxed narratives. I decided that I wanted to make this illustration in a similar manner but with more time put into details than a typical single comic frame would contain. I hope I succeeded. I also hope this work has created something pleasant for your eyes, as well as, something intriguing and stimulating to your mind that is worthy of a Hercule Poirot mystery.

Update edit: Notes on the making

For the most part, I started and finished this painting in Sketchbook Pro 6 (by Autodesk) with some touches and enhancements in Adobe Photoshop. I didn't draw this out on paper first as a method I often undertake for my illustrations but rather digitally sketched on an obsolete (and now defunct) PC tablet. By the time I started painting, however, I was using a far more advanced Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 PC tablet - which is a good thing because the former would not have been able to deal with all the layers this painting had.

Big Ben, aka Elizabeth Tower, was not painted but was in fact created as a vector-based image in Photoshop over the top of an accurate illustration I had found online. The clock face is actually an image manipulation based on an actual HD image of Big Ben - I had to do some clever cut and paste of various elements...but the detail is mostly lost due to the very small scale Ben Ben became in the illustration. It was imported into Sketchbook Pro, scaled and placed. However, if you see below at the progressional animation you'll see that a more generic tower inhabited the backdrop earlier on in the process.

This Poirot illustration was not planned 100% from the beginning. I just randomly started drawing Hercule in the middle of the screen while in a drawing mood as I watched an episode from the Poirot television series on Netflix. So, many of the elements like the arches, the tree foliage, the tower, and car came bit by bit. I knew, however, that a 90's-ish comic illustration styled contour line was desired.

Captain Hasting's car was an element that I knew early on that I wanted to accompany Poirot, and I'm very pleased with the result. For the most part, I freely sketched this antique period automobile but I did use two small low resolution web images for reference - but they were photographs of the actual vehicle(s) used on film for the sake of authenticity.

Finally, I wanted to balance the illustration and simultaneously draw attention to the main subject (because there is a lot of geometric detail filling up around him) with Poirot's iconic swan cane. The detailed metal swan is a visual anchor that helps push the viewer's eye toward the center where Hercule's calculating gaze is cast upon the audience.

Honestly, I hope this looks like it was a lot of hard work - because it really was! And it was done for free. In my free time. But it was also fun. (And, like many of my works, called to me to finish it until it was done).

Until next we meet...

Cheers, mon amies...


#illustration #comic #digitalpaint #characterart #sketchbookpro

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