Why Pan's Labyrinth?
I've been wanting to do a fan art piece for a while now, so I left it up to my patrons on Patreon to vote on what I should do next! To get involved in my next fan art piece, joining my Patreon at Patreon.com/AshlyLovett.
Movie Plot Summary
In 1944, in the post-Civil War in Spain, rebels still fight in the mountains against the falangist troops. The young and imaginative Ofelia travels with her pregnant and sick mother Carmen Vidal to the country to meet and live with her stepfather, the sadistic and cruel Captain Vidal, in an old mill. During the night, Ofelia meets a fairy and together they go to a pit in the center of a maze where they meet a faun that tells that she is a princess from a kingdom in the underground. He also tells that her father is waiting for her, but she needs to accomplish three gruesome, tough and dangerous assignments first. Meanwhile, she becomes a friend of the servant Mercedes, who is the sister of one of the rebels and actually is giving support to the group. In a dark, harsh and violent world, Ofelia lives her magical world trying to survive her tasks and sees her father and king again. - Written by Caudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. IMDB.com
Process Work: Research Stage
With the beginning of each fan art piece, I start with my research behind my character and the story. I started with the color palette.
" I used the angular, cold world of fascist-era Spain to represent reality, and a very rounded and uterine world to represent the fantasy that the child escapes into. I guess you could say that I am obsessed with images of stillborn things, and seduced by the idea that the womb is the most comfortable place to be." - The Guardian (article link here)
I also found this fascinating article about the lighting objectives and how they worked with the film's low budget and struggled with their environment:
"'The initial color differentiation between the film’s two worlds was simple: Ofelia’s fantasy world would feature mainly warm colors, primarily “deep crimsons and golden ambers, almost like amniotic fluids,' notes Del Toro....In the Pale Man’s intensely warm environment, which is dominated by red tones and a blazing fire..." -American Society of Cinematography (article link here)
The Pale Man represents all institutional evil feeding on the helpless. In fact, this character is inspired by Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya. In an interview with Screen Anarchy Del Toro says, " The Pale Man represents the Church for me, y'know? [He] represents fascism and the Church eating the children when they have a perversely abundant banquet in front of them. There is almost a hunger to eat innocence."
It was also intended to be an old wrinkly man. However, during the sculpting stage, Del Toro wanted it more humanoid and suggested shapes similar to a manta ray. The creepiness factor went way up and they went with it. Read about it here.
Process Work: Sketch Phase
After getting a feel for the look and reason behind the character, I started sketching from the movie to get to know Mr. Pale Man better. I knew I had to include his eye hands in some way. It is a key feature of his character. Now how to do it best?
I didn't want to just take a screenshot straight from the movie. That's too easy and has been done time and time again. I wanted to showcase his wrinkles, the translucent skin, the blue veins, and I knew I wanted a long verticle to compliment his skinny form. I was lucky enough to come across David Marti's Instagram. He is the Co-owner of DDTSFX with Montse, the production company responsible for the prosthetics used for Pan's Labyrinth. There I pulled tons of reference from photos and videos. They were very helpful in understanding The Pale Man's body. I eventually found this gem of a photo on Google images searching "the pale man makeup team." (Side Note: Muddycolors.com put together an excellent post about googling references photos. Click here to read)
I did some Photoshopping-Frankeisteining and came up with a fabulous reference photo for my final illustration. From there I tapped 16x21 piece of BFK Rives paper onto my drawing board and went to town.
Process Work: Final Drawing
I work with chalk pastels on BFK Rives printmaking paper. The biggest challenge for this piece was controlling my values. I had to make a decision to either apply my details in the areas cast in light or shadow. Doing both would only make the piece overworked. Both sides would fight for interest. I chose the lighted areas. The second biggest challenge was designing the forms. This character doesn't have normal features (duh.) Normally I love working with the hair and the plains of the face to create depth, form, interest, and flow. I didn't have that option here, so I had to take great care with carefully placed shadows and highlights to show form.
The most fun was adding the highlights on his hands. It really helped it pop! I also enjoyed adding green throughout the piece to help bring out the reds since they are complimentary colors. Finding places to add subtle blues and purples was a fun challenge too. I didn't want it to be just reds, blacks, and yellows. I needed warm browns and other colors to liven up the overall palette. I used cold medium grey for the veins on his skull, arms, and chest.
Below are process images, close-ups, and 2 time-lapse videos of the making of this piece. I originally offered the time-lapse videos to my patrons, but I really wanted to share it for this blog post. So enjoy!
The final illustration measures 13"x21". Click the images to zoom.
I'm a big fan of Del Toro's work. My first fan art piece was of Crimson Peak (right.) Later this year I plan to do a Hellboy and another Pan's Labyrinth piece featuring the faun. I just need to put aside the time for this kind of personal work since I really enjoy it.