Friday, July 5, 2013

The Man Who Laughs: The Joker

The Man Who Laughs:
The Joker

Comic Book Nerds (such as myself) have long known the bit of trivia that the Joker is based on Conrad Veidt's "The Man Who Laughs", a silent movie from 1928 based on the novel by Victor Hugo.

I was going to use Conrad Veidt as a model for a Batman Cover remake I am doing for a friend for his birthday and, while searching for picture references, I happened to notice "The Man Who Laughs" was in the public domain and available at is streaming on YouTube.  I've only seen stills from the movie before and thought this would be a good time to watch the movie.  Besides, I figured it would give me a lot more drawing references for the painting I will be doing.

Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine in "The Man Who Laughs" (1928)

When you get past some of the acting ticks and troupes of silent movies (I'm definitely not opposed to silent movies--"Nosferatu" is still one of the most terrifying vampires out there, IMHO), there is definitely something affecting in the way Veidt plays Gwynplaine that is winsome and with bits of pathos.  The way he shyly covers his mouth (scarred in childhood by the king to have a permanent smile on his face as a cruel "joke" on his father, just before the father is put to death) and his painful self-awareness of his deformity when interacting with common people is compelling.

Of course, there just just no way to watch the movie without thinking of him as The Joker, of course.  I kept half-expected him to poison the crowds of people with Joker Venom, or Batman to show up at the end... something like that.  :-)

So, anyways, I used the promotional picture above as a practice for the painting I will be doing within the next few weeks if all goes to plan (and it very rarely does, alas).  Here's the process for those who are interested... and even those who aren't.

Here are the pencils.  I used a 6" x 9" sheet of Arches (#110) hot press watercolor paper, which was glued onto a piece of Medium Density Fiberboard with Acrylic Matte Medium.

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Here it is after the first hour or so, done with black and white gouache with a No. 12 size Round Brush.  I just roughly shaped the values and shadows with the large brush.  Gouache is an opaque watercolor paint, so I wasn't too worried if things got too dark in the painting; I could just lift out the color and/or paint over it again if it didn't work.

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Here is the painting after another half-hour or so.  Most of this is just tightening up what was started in the first hour, but there are still plenty of things remaining to be finished.  :-)

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And here is the finished painting.  I did this mostly as a practice piece... and I thought it would be fun.  :-D

I will be posting a colorized version soon.  Probably next week.

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This was done with black and white gouache on 6" x 9" Arches Hot Press paper which was glued to Medium Density Fiberboard with Acrylic Matte Medium.


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