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'Equivocation' for Arena Stage

JULY 28, 2011

A few months ago I was asked to work on a theater poster for Arena Stage's production of 'Equivocation'.  The story by Bill Cain imagines a conflicted William Shakespeare who is commissioned by King James to dramatize the crown's official story on the Gunpowder Plot, a failed bid by Catholic zealots to blow up Parliament and King James I.  Shakespeare, or Shagspeare or Shag, as his friends call him here, struggles to balance his loyalty to the crown with his conscience.  The play explores the moral obligation of artists to resist the manipulations of those in power.  Artists, not illustrators.
In my world I work with an AD and together we find a workable path to travel.  Luckily for me, this was an easy collaboration.
On the phone I often do the thumbnail that informs the final.  I hear what the AD is asking for and sketch it out right away.  It is in this moment where I decide if I can do an assignment and come away with a good image.
Thumbnail on the phone with the AD.

This was a bit of a tedious job because of the Shakespeare costume, but my agent went out and rented me one to use for reference.  This is not easy as most costumes are not quite right.  He did finally find one and I'll show it here but blank out my head to keep my goofball friends from using it against me for years.
The following three images are my favorite pieces of reference for this job.
I like this etching but I think the 'diaper' pants would not work too well.

This reference helped me even though it's just a figurine.

Shoe reference I eventually paid attention to.

The reference shot I worked from.

After getting the references I set out to do a formal sketch.  Many times when actually drawing something  I make connections between elements.  An open book is like a bird,  fire can look like flowing hair and two points can share a purpose.  After drawing sparks at the end of the fuse on the gunpowder keg, I moved to the hand holding the quill.  A point on one side and a point on the other.  Sparks on both?  I submitted this idea and thankfully the client liked it.
First sketch, no sparks

This is the sketch I wanted to do

The obligatory alternate sketch. I had not seen it in a while and kind of like it now. Oh well. Perhaps he's a little too small on the keg.

Love this acid color but I was drawn in slightly.

Much of our discussion of the piece centered around shoes.  This was my blind spot on this illustration and the AD focused me on getting that part right. 

It's been a while since I posted an illustration on Drawger.  I'm here all the time, but relentless vacations have taken their toll.  I love summer and thankfully have worked hard on illustrations all summer and will post more soon.  5 weeks left!
Have fun.