Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2015
Case Study 001: Tony Todd
I recently created a caricature of actor Tony Todd who is probably best known for portraying Candyman (of the horror-film series of the same name). What follows is the step by step process of how I came up with the idea and fully executed it to the finished artwork.
I like niche things and niche people. I’m usually the guy who is always looking deeper for the more obscure, underappreciated, or overlooked. Horror actors play some of the most iconic characters ever put to film. I think even more so because they personify something primal inside of us — fear.
Tony Todd has an impressive resume of films, television and voice work, but I think that if you’ve heard of his name you immediately think of his role as the Candyman. Based off of a short story by Clive Barker, the Candyman is the story of an urban legend; sort of a take on Bloody Mary. You say his name 5 times in front of a mirror and he is supposed to appear, you become his victim and his legend continues to live on.
His character has an interesting backstory and mythology. He was a African-American painter during the slavery-era of America who fell in love with a wealthy daughter of a caucasian slave owner. He was lynched, his painting hand was cut off, and he was doused with honey to which bees stung him to death.
It’s important to know a bit of the story because I play heavily off of it in the rendering of Tony Todd as the Candyman.
I believe that the success of a caricature doesn’t solely rest on the likeness of the subject. If you are effective at telling the story the likeness can be secondary (more on that in a bit). It’s not a hard and fast rule, but I really think the impression of the person you’re trying to render is stronger if you’re telling a compelling and well-known story in your illustration.
That being said, it’s pretty helpful if you’re caricature resembles your subject.
The story obviously has to be around Candyman. My approach and my concept was to play off of the General Mills monster-themed cereals that come out every year for Halloween. They call him the Candyman because of his honeyed origins. Sweet, honey, and cereal are all things I think of when I think of most breakfast cereals.
Although the modern renderings of the General Mills monsters are astounding, I wanted to pay homage to the original line art of the earlier incarnations. The newer ones are definitely more dynamic and have a more updated style, but I felt the older ones were more iconic, recognizable and more in line with what I wanted to portray overall. I wanted to convey the story simply and something that draws from an already established image makes it easier to convey.
I messed around with a few ideas that I thought were okay. I originally wanted it to look like a retro-looking cereal ad with lots of copy and background elements. Those thumbnails used a lot more elements and were reliant on other characters from the films. Ultimately I decided against it because I wanted to focus entirely on the Candyman and telling his story. The best solution was to just use the front of the cereal box and tell the story inside of that.
It’s a bad idea to go right to the final drawing when you come up with your concept. First of all you have to discern your good ideas from your just okay ideas. Thumbnails are good for working through the story, but also good for figuring out the scale and dynamics of the space being used. Thumbnail sketches are your roadmap when creating the tight-pencils.
Originally I wanted to illustrate the type along with the caricature, but ultimately I decided it was unnecessary because I knew that I could do most of it inside the program I use, Adobe Illustrator, to work on type. I am an advocate for being an artisan and rendering everything by hand whenever possible, but I needed to turn this around pretty quickly. I had made sure to account for the type and the space that was going to be used. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t completely rely on drawing everything separately and fixing it in post-production; if your proportions aren’t right it’s not going to look right now matter how you scale it.
I started off using a non-photo blue pencil on top of smooth vellum bristol board to lay the groundwork of the art. Most professional comic book artists and animators use non-photo blue pencil because they can be rough and experiment.
After that I go over that line work with a soft lead pencil to commit to the thickness of line weight and style I envision for the final art.
I normally do a hi-res scan of my artwork, but I didn’t have a scanner available, so I took a picture with my iPhone (it’s like I said in Blogpost 003, you have to be able to work with the tools that you have in front of you sometimes). I sent the picture to my email, downloaded it, and placed it inside of my 24×36 Illustrator document. I planned to make this poster size so I could get it signed by Tony Todd and have it on display in my home.
After placing the scan in the document I turn that layer into a template. Now I begin to render the digital artwork using the bezier pen tool. It is a very tedious process and takes a lot of finesse. The benefit to creating vector art is that the artwork can be scaled up or down to practically an infinite size without losing resolution. It’s a personal preference to use Adobe Illustrator to create vector art. I like the graphic style and the smoothness of it; it fits more naturally with my main artistic style.
I use the bezier pen tool to draw most of the lines as shapes (for that tapered-line look). I am sure to create all of my line work on a separate layer than my colors, as well as a separate layer for type.
I recreated the Candyman logo from a reference because I was unsure of what font it used (thankfully it wasn’t a very complicated one to recreate in vector). The secondary fonts I used for type are CryptKeep and One Two Punch — which I found on Blambot (one of my best go-to sources for fonts).
I color everything in grayscale because it is important to establish different values first before adding color; sometimes different colors can have the same value and it doesn’t give enough visual-weight or contrast. After that I choose colors to use. The first color resolves used colors that looked more like the Candyman as he appears on film, but I decided that the best solution was to mimic the limited palette of the Count Chocula cereal box for maximum effect since I was leaning heavily on that as a reference.
After that everything is just fine tuning with type, arrangement, composition, and size.
I exported the final art into a PDF and uploaded to an online vendor, PosterBrain, to outsource a printed 24×36 poster.
Overall I am very pleased with how this caricature came out. The poster printed very well and I plan to do something pretty interesting with it. I will update this case study once I do that thing. I had a lot of fun creating this piece and I hope that you enjoyed it as well. You can check here weekly for tips on creating caricatures.
Every face has a story to tell and I want to teach you how to tell it.