Step 3 … and I’m done!

So, here it is finally. It took me a while  -10 years before I got the courage to pick up my pencil again, and then some more after that (another 5 months) to complete the piece. Uninterrupted drawing for 2 hours a day doesn’t really get you far in terms of building momentum but I had my day job to think about, so that was the best I could do.

For those of you just ‘tuning in’, I chose this for my first piece for one simple reason –it’s a great film, period.

The story about a unit of black soldiers during the American Civil War and the young colonel from a patrician, abolitionist family who was  given the job of training and leading them into battle.  It’s one of the best war films ever made, and one whose perfect ensemble cast is matched only by its resounding film score.

Matthew Broderick – Col. Robert Gould Shaw
Denzel Washington – Private Silas Trip
Morgan Freeman – Sergeant Major John Rawlins
Andre Braugher – Corporal Thomas Searles
Jihmi Kennedy – Private Jupiter Sharts
Cary Elwes – Maj. Cabot Forbes
John Finn – Sergeant Major Mulcahy

The director, Edward Zwick, went on to make a slew of other good movies (Legends of the Fall, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond) but I think this was his best work.  Also, 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the film’s theatrical release so I thought that a commemorative poster was just appropriate.

In terms of the PROCESS: I deviated a bit from my original comp after I realized that too much background detail would only distract attention from the piece’s central characters. Once I had the comp down, I transferred the layout to the board (Bainbridge 2200) using traditional 6H then 3B graphite. Given that I haven’t practiced in a while, I was forced to experiment with colored pencil over poster color, and vice versa. Needless to say, this created some problems and even made me think of abandoning the whole project altogether at one point. Of course, airbrush acrylic would have solved all this but that’s another story. Also, I chose not to cover the initial board with gesso which, in hindsight, I probably should have done.

I chose to use a limited palate for this piece primarily because I wanted the overall tone to come across as muted and dark –evocative of the time. I started on Denzel’s profile first, followed by Morgan Freeman,  then Andre Braugher, the two tent-pole drawings (John Finn & Cary Elwes), Jimhi Kennedy, and Matthew Broderick last.


At this point, I have to say that the hardest part of the whole piece was coloring Broderick’s face. The light is behind him to the left and, for some reason, I never quite got the right mix of gold/yellow/orange to define the lighted  vs shaded areas that my 6-yr. old son came to call this part of the piece –coloring the ‘difficult skin’.

I chose the background scenes randomly from a wide selection of screen-shots from the film because, again, I didn’t want it to detract from the central characters. I also decided to anchor the whole piece with a symbol and for this I chose the Civil War Infantry officer’s hat insignia of the horn around the number 54 –you can see this emblem on the hat of Col. Shaw in full gear (apologies for any historic inaccuracies in relation to this).

To bring the whole piece together I used the outline of a soldier’s face –one I borrowed from Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

I then transferred the whole piece to Photoshop CS2 where I spent over a month (!) cleaning and tightening it up.

Hope you like it.


15 responses to “Step 3 … and I’m done!

  • Roy Sencio

    Nice work! You got to get this out and show it to the world hehehe.

  • rey siasar

    hey rob! could you tell john to stop drawing and donate all his materials to you? nice works man! simply amazing! and the walk through is much appreciated!

  • Annabelle Tan-Amor

    Had to call Dad to show him this work that I’ve seen while in the making, the characters growing out of the paper after leaving your imagination. Amazing is the word. Can you put it on my Wall so I can brag, and where it can be properly appreciated? An artist has a duty to share his/her gift.

  • patrick ceniza

    ur doin great dude! keep it up (and pls give my best to ur mom and dad)

  • gingging dumdum

    Hi, OBs!

    Good work! I admire your discipline and determination here to complete an initial ‘dream’ work. I personally love portrait-making by charcoal or pastel painting but I have only three ‘practice’ outputs (portraits of Jun and Mama in pastel, and one of British author Timothy Mo in charcoal) so far. Yours already looks like the work of an expert (no matter the time you spent perfecting it, but isn’t that the essence of true art, when you labor heart and soul in putting it on canvass for the rest of the world to behold!)! Congratulations and More power, OBs!

  • ding-dong

    Wow! Simply Great work my ol’ friend! just amazing!

  • Lito Munoz

    I am awed! Thanks Roby for sharing.
    Yes, 888 is “sempurna”! excellent!

  • Combi Boilers ·

    you can say that morgan freeman is one of the most versatile actors that we have today ~

  • Bunny Chow

    I’m enjoying your drive and subject matter for this attempt at a movie one sheet, although my main problem with what you have here is the composition. The eye is currently pulled about from face to face in a kind of zig zag shape which makes for un-comfortable viewing, and there is no real focus. You should attempt something that the eye can relax as it takes in the piece as a whole. I hate to point out the obvious, but you should read in to some of Drew Struzan’s thoughts and processes behind his work before he arrives at a finished piece…his new book is a good starting point, and he was afterall the man behind the compositional style you are attempting to emulate…

    Also, visit this link here for some useful information on focal points and compositions:

    Keep it up

    • robyamor

      Hi Bunny, and thanks for the most constructive criticism i’ve gotten thus far. I did this piece 2009 and after repeated viewing, i realized that the composition was indeed a bit off.
      Funny, coz i was actually thinking about doing exactly what you suggested – pre-production studies before attempting my next one-sheet. I’m thinking about doing either HEAT (by Michael Mann) or the de Palma’s THE UNTOUCHABLES as my next piece. My only regret is that i wish i had more time to do this – coz i LOVE doing it! It’s my passion. Sadly, life and the demands of work beckon. but, I’m getting there. No point working if it’s not something you enjoy doing, right? Thanks too for the Struzan suggestion and the link. Appreciate it!

  • Bunny Chow

    …one last note: Try some smaller pre-production studies next time before attempting the full piece and focus on the overall color palette as a unified piece rather that each piece rendered separately ‘then’ compiled, as you effectively end up with a moodboard/scrapbook type effect. This will also help bring everything together and in turn create stronger focus on the painting as one unified piece…

  • Bunny Chow

    …my pleasure. I too am on the brink of embarking on a series of ‘Posters that never were’ hence my delight in finding your piece here … I think the Untouchables would be an excellent idea personally as it has alot of rich characterisation from the period in which it was set…and lets face it, when is Sean Connery not a good option when it comes to drawing…just look at the poster for The Last Crusade … looking forward to see what you come up with … it’s nice to see some people still actively keeping alive the art of the hand drawn movie poster …. an art which should never have left us. Just read Frank Darabont’s Foreword to Struzan’s new book … Man after our own hearts I’m sure, and never truer words spoken relating to the subject. Good luck and kee pgoing!

    all The Best


  • Jon

    What a beautiful and original tribute to my favorite movie of all time. Thank you for sharing your heart and talent. How can I get a copy for my home? Thanks so much, Jon

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