Greg Manchess was the man of the hour for the final Tor.com/Spectrum demo. He worked the full time on a Hellboy portrait–bringing his own painterly style to Mike Mignola’s design. I figured it would be a crowd-pleaser for the attendees. What I didn’t figure was the other exhibiting artists getting all drooly over it. It looks like Stephan Martiniere will go home with it…after a little touch-up after a box accidentally got placed on top of the wet painting.
I asked Greg for a few words on the demo:
“I’ve done enough demo paintings and drawings to know that each and every time can be a disaster. Luckily, I’ve never had to quit or start over. I know my craft, but most of all, I know to never give up. So I plow on through. And usually I bring out what I had meant to bring to the onlookers anyway: the process and eventual success of an oil painting.
“At this point, I’ve learned so much that I don’t usually get nervous. So you can imagine my confusion when I started my demo at the Con this year and watched my hand shaking.
“It wasn’t from nervousness, mind you, but from excitement. I’ve done portraits and head studies before, in front of hundreds of students. But this time it was the Comic Con, and I had decided to do a portrait of Hellboy.
“I didn’t want to just render a still from the movie, or copy a Mignola drawing. I thought to take one of Mike’s comic panels of a Hellboy headshot, and using shots taken from the film for lighting, blend the two with my own sensibilities and love of the character.
“But I wanted it to be right on. It had to be. Mike Mignola was two booths away. Hellboy fans in every corner, as well as professional portrait artists wandering the floor. So, with much eagerness, I started sketching the bold black outlines of Hellboy’s mug.
“Within 15 minutes I was well into slathering cadmium red onto the panel, and started to whistle. Everyone wanted a cool-ass portrait, and I couldn’t let them down.
“An hour and a half, lots of laughs, and a bunch of satisfying strokes of bright color indicating high key lighting later, I signed off on my first painting of Hellboy. I even got an applause that was most satisfying.
“Later, I showed the painting to Mike and got a thumbs up. It’s interesting to note that when an artist has created something so popular, as Mike has, the artist has to be able to get to a point where they can let go of the character enough to allow others their own interpretation of the property.
“Mignola’s bold design, Hollywood’s dramatic lighting, and my broad strokes came together for a successful rendering. I couldn’t miss. Except for the chance that at anytime during the process, 30 years of practice can suddenly leave your hand shaking….”