Dead Man’s Hand Newsflash

Artist extraordinaire SB has been busy in Photoshop composing the Dead Man’s Hand. Last week the discussion was on how to increase the sense of space in the rough draft and how to increase the sense that something unexpected was about to happen. To diligent readers jumping aboard the story now, the Dead Man’s Hand is the cover illustration for my upcoming title Paying Melpomene’s Price. The dead man’s hand is a poker hand (pair aces on eights) which stands in as a visual analogue of the unexpected because that.s the hand Wild Bill Hickok held when he was unexpectedly shot! It.s a fitting illustration because one of the central themes explored in Paying Melpomene’s Price is the disproportionately large effect the unexpected can have on the best laid plans of mice and men. Here.s the sketch before the brainstorming session:

Dead Man's Hand BEFORE

Dead Man’s Hand BEFORE

Bringing the Dead Man’s Hand Together

A good start! We wanted to do a couple of things to make it even better: 1) focus more attention onto the poker hand, 2) increase the sense of space, and 3) make it more obvious that something really bad is going to go down.

So the construction crew came in and busted down the bookshelf on the right wall, a table was added in the back right corner to suggest that the space extends to the right, a barstool was placed in the front left corner also to suggest that the space extends towards the viewer, the table was flipped 90 degrees, the staff door moved and left open (to generate space receding into the distance, and the sleepy husky was moved further into the background.

Results

Here.s how it looks now:

Dead Man's Hand AFTER

Dead Man’s Hand AFTER

Here are the details:

Bartender

Bartender

Wild Bill Hickok

Wild Bill Hickok

Go Ahead, Make My Day

Go Ahead, Make My Day

Poker Player #1

Poker Player #1

Poker Player #2

Poker Player #2

Poker Player #3

Poker Player #3

Server

Server

The changes look bang on! The gambler on the right holding his hand in a protective gesture really adds to the suspense. The space is nice too as it allows the eye to wander around. Moving the dog to the back also concentrates the action in the front and makes the action more concentrated, as the dog is having a snooze.

What.s Next

At some point, the Dead Man’s Hand is going to get transferred from Photoshop into a real watercolour painting. The creative team.s going to get together for another session in the next few days and talk about the gambler on the left and the bartender. Originally the gambler on the left was cast as the ‘cool’ guy, but contextually, it might work better for him to express some form of surprise. Same with the bartender. The only character not looking surprised is the ‘make my day’ barstool guy. But with the scowl, it sort of works even better for the overall tension of the piece: it give it more of an ominous edge.

There you have it! I hope the Dead Man’s Hand is coming together to your satisfaction! Until next time, I.m Edwin Wong and I have been Doing Melpomene’s Work.

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