Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santaman Arrives

Gregory Manchess

Just in time for the Holidays.

The painting was used to draw attention to the latest Ken Scholes story, If Dragon's Mass Eve Be Cold And Clear, for The third in a series of his Christmas-time short stories, I had several ideas to illustrate this one. I could feel the emotional tug from Ken’s words, so I started with a softer approach to the problem.

Then a vision of Santaman came to mind that I just had to sketch out to show the art director, Irene Gallo. It’s a harsher side of the story, but rather irresistible. C’mon, who wouldn’t want to see this version?

After some back and forth discussions, and some time for Irene to think, the choice was made: Santaman!

I took a couple shots of me in a long coat to get the attitude and proportions right (and still screwed up on the proportions in the final drawing)...and painted Santaman in a vicious two-hour throw-down.

Irene felt that the first Santaman came across as a bit gnome-ish, too squat, and she preferred the blowing cloak. It was a classic mistake: I was working from a different thumbnail than she was talking about. I had to give Santaman more height and dramatic stance that was in the rough sketch. The sword hilt, being long and dramatic to me, read as a small sword to her, adding to the short effect. The left arm was also giving the illusion that it was too short.

You can compare the two versions below. I was concerned about the changes as I wanted to keep the loose feel, the costume elements on his chest, and I wanted desperately to save that stage-right hand.

During the painting session, I sacrificed that hand to give the cloak the necessary movement. I liked the right boot as well, but painted in a new one to widen his stance. I had to trim his hood down and thin his face with shadow strokes in order to give him a taller aspect, which demanded that I lengthen and then actually copy the left hand glove in a lower position. Finally, I made a normal-sized sword by taking away the long, two-handed hilt, cut down the decorative guard, and shifted the reflections. I was able to keep the chest portion of the costume.

It has become a favorite little piece as it was painted and corrected quickly, allowing me more time to live with that feeling that someone else had painted it. Always a great opportunity to study your implicit painting skills.


  1. This painting is everything I dig about your work contained in one small package... love it! May I ask what it's painted on?

  2. Wonderful! I Love the sense of motion and looseness

  3. Thanks!

    Painted on the same ol' stuff: double acrylic pre-primed Belgian linen, Fredrix brand. I think the number is 140DP.

    There's no need for stretcher bars as it's already been primed. It comes on large rolls that I can cut pieces out of, then lay it on my drawing table to work it.

    Once the painting's finished, I can roll it to ship or store it flat in files until I frame it. REALLY easy.

  4. As always, your work amazes me. I'm so glad they keep turning you loose with my stories. And I love how perfectly you've captured the image in my own head that I have of the Santaman when I write about him.

    Thanks Greg!

  5. Ahaha, Santaman was definitely the way to go!

  6. It's the "edges" of this piece that give me painter's envy. Each one, deftly directing the viewer's eye as they sharpen and recede throughout the painting. And that face in great.

  7. You have a very interesting style of execution—thanks for the beautiful work (I've been following your National Geographic stuff and it's enjoyable to see). I think it's interesting to note that both you and Jasper have mentioned the difficultly of translating sketch to final in all the right ways (albeit your mention was about developing the wrong sketch in this post; Jasper seems to worry intensely about nailing it in thumbnail and then preserving that in final). Anyway, great thoughts and thanks for the post.

  8. Glad to know that, Ken! The character is now haunting my visual cortex and demanding I do a larger more elaborate piece.

    Edges....lost and found, direct focus. Glad you noticed Kim! Could be a whole 'nother workshop... : )

    Trying to preserve the thumbnail spirit can be nerve-wracking. I use it only as a guide to getting closer to the image in my head. When the thumbnail takes over, trouble starts. But it's so tempting!


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