Wednesday, June 23, 2010

100 Sketches of Hanuman

A few weeks ago, I wrote about receiving my first commission to design a tattoo. The client, my good friend Richard, wanted me to create custom art of the Hindu deity Hanuman holding up an icon of the heart chakra. A short while ago, I began the first of many preparatory sketches for the project.

Though they share common elements, no two representations of Hanuman in Hindu art are exactly the same. For this project, neither Richard nor I wanted a simple replica of anything that already exists. So I've started the long process of examining, internalizing, and evaluating the existing images, bringing parts together I like, and coming to my own version through drawing.

What looks like a fairly straightforward assignment becomes far more complicated when you consider the details. What pose should Hanuman take? What expression should he have on his face? What is the right balance between simian and man? Should his face be skinny or wide? Eyes large or small?

Beyond the questions about Hanuman the character, there are even more about the art itself: how stylized versus realistic should the representation be? What character should the line work have? Should they be heavy and minimal, or the opposite? Should I use brushwork for the lines, or should I use something harder so the lines are a uniform width? How much detail should I include? The options go on and on.

It's strange, but I feel some additional responsibilities with this piece. While I always want to do a good job for a client, I want my representation of Hanuman to be true to his story (just part of being respectful of the religious tradition the story is from). It will be technically challenging as well. Tattoo flash art is based in good line work, and this this piece needs to have far more polish than I'm used to putting on things. Considering also that this piece will grace someone's back for the remainder of his life, the pressure is on to make it perfect.

When I designed logos I gave myself the goal of doing 100 sketches for every finished piece I presented to the client. With this job I'll be lucky to get off that easily. Ah, well: four or five down, ninety five or so to go.

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