All In The Eyes

When it came time to work up a new piece for Skull & Heart, we agreed it should be something that followed on from the original piece I created for the launch of S&H, Noir. So when approaching this new piece we stuck to a few of the same concepts from the original. Pink, Black, Tats and pretty girls.


Noir – Dan Mumford

My first starting point on something like Rose is to think about the canvas I have (In this case A2, 17”x23”) and what sort of shape I want to produce. Do I want to have negative space in the piece or will it be a full piece with line-work bleeding off the edges. We decided on a bit of both, and I went about finding the right body-form for the piece. I knew I wanted to incorporate a large back piece featuring Rose tattoos that would snake up the body. I spent a lot of time looking at backs in various corsets and with shoulder blades thrust back, but in the end I went with a fairly simple arched back as it really gave the best canvas for creating the secondary image on and dropped the idea of a corset strapped at the back.


Starting Sketches

Generally once an idea has been agreed on, I work it up very roughly in my head over the course of a week, I prefer to let the idea mull, it sounds weird, but a quick mental sketch of where I want the piece to go really helps when it comes to drawing it up. When I get down to drawing properly I sketch very loosely via tablet and mainly focus on the key lines that I want flowing through the piece. I don’t really focus on detail or minute areas of the piece at this stage. I simply want it to work as a shape. Its all about balance and flow in my pieces. I will work up an idea how I think it should work and then generally zoom right out so it’s a small thumbnail  and I can only see shapes and major lines. The other key aspect I try to keep in mind is the light source in the image, where is the light falling on the subjects and what parts of the image should be in shadow, getting this right can make a big difference to whether an image will look flat or alive. If all this is working nicely, then I know I’m happy to move on to the next stage.


I work in Photoshop now pretty much exclusively for drawing, so it means taking the next step to drawing up a final piece is fairly simple and I just begin to redraw over the basic lines I already have in place from the rough sketch on a new layer, meaning I can quite closely follow the lines and shapes I was happy with in the rough sketch stage. I generally don’t deviate too much from the sketch shapes when drawing up the final art, and it’s simply a case of working up the idea and imagery in a much more detailed way. At the same time its important to react to how the piece is coming together as I draw it and a lot of the time changes are made simply because it feels more ‘right’ as the piece comes together. Again it just comes back to balance and flow. With a piece like Rose that mainly comes from the hair and the arch of the back, alongside the two black Ravens mirroring each other slightly in either corner.


One of the key aspects in Rose was getting the face looking just right. Generally I use a variety of reference material to make a face work, eyes from one place, lips from another, all to make a Frankenstein face that works for the piece in hand. Either that or I work from a specific pose from a model or friend that works for the piece (Photobooth is my best friend for this on mac). Sometimes this process can take a long time, but normally it’s all in the eyes. Once you have the pupils staring back at you and not looking completely lifeless, the whole piece can come alive. We spend so much time looking at people’s face’s, it’s the one thing that anyone can notice looks ‘off’ in an image. It’s all in the eyes.

Hair is something is something I am supremely fond of drawing. I enjoy getting lost in the flow and finding the right curve that flows nicely around the face and falling down on to the body. Its quite a random and automatic process once the key lines are in place to hold it all together, and after that I kind of let it just flow naturally from there.


The Roses in the piece were added in last. I made sure the black & white part of the image worked nicely on its own first and then started to add them in from the back and snake up the whole body. I wanted them to accentuate certain areas of darkness and shadow, around the eyes and crevices in the body, but also be quite a detailed mass of colour.


Rose was a lot of fun to work up for the S&H kickstarter, and I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out. It sits really nicely alongside Noir and it’s always nice to continue a theme on from a previous piece. It’s also only available through the kickstarter which will make it even more exclusive than the previous print. So head over there now where you can pick up the print in a few of the pledge packages!

Visit the Kickstarter here!