Tag Archives: cover illustration

Dead Man’s Hand Grand Finale!

Wow! Proud artist SB dropped off the Dead Man’s Hand watercolour last Sunday. It looks absolutely fantastic! Until this afternoon, it occupied the place of honour above the mantlepiece where I.ve been admiring it. Met up with photographer extraordinaire MR at Island Blue Print to choose out a frame earlier today, and the process will take about two weeks. So, although The Dead Man’s Hand is done, and it will be really done when it gets hung on the wall. Can.t wait!

But in the meanwhile, diligent readers can see the finished painting right here and right now! The professional photographs and scans that will be used on the book cover are forthcoming. These are photos I took with my mobile phone to post onto the blog. They were done on a little bit of an angle which gives the images more of a nervous look (I.m looking up the painting).

Dead Man’s Hand Photos

Dead Man's Hand

Dead Man’s Hand

LH as Server

LH as Server

SB remarked that there.s a neat effect with the server: her eyes follow you across the room no matter which angle you.re looking at the painting from. With the other characters, the eyes lock in if you.re standing in front of the painting. The painting is from the point of view of the gunman (who is himself not visible). It.s probably the smallest thing that creates the effect: a thin line in how the eye is drawn or just how the angles all converge together.



Here.s TS and GP.s husky, Lucy. Sleeping away just like in real life! Lucy is the best dog ever! They were all visiting a month ago. Every night, Lucy would do her rounds to make sure everyone is okay. So around 2 or 3 in the morning, you.d hear her get up, pitter patter up to everyone, give them a sniff and a lick in the face, and then go back to bed. I like that–a pet who earns her keep! TS is saying it.s a husky ‘pack’ thing to make sure the other members are okay b/c they work in some cold and harsh environments.



Here.s gambler #3. The red from the baseball cap adds a splash of colour to the painting. The protective gesture wasn.t in the original photographs but SB improvised a shot of Oz adjusting his cap to come up with the gesture. His back is also off the back of the chair to give that feeling of surprise.



Here.s gambler #2. SB was saying that some faces are difficult to draw and other faces are a delight to draw. Of all the faces in The Dead Man’s Hand, she found this one to be a pure delight: however she drew, it would look like the model. I wonder why that is? Mmmm, the cigar looks good too.

Gambler #1

Gambler #1

Gambler #1 wasn.t from the photo shoot. He.s a composite of various images from the internet. Originally Gambler #1 was cast as the ‘cool & relaxed’ guy. But this didn.t really work out when the painting was coming together. The chips dropping out of his hand implying motion is a touch I like.



Photographer MR handed the camera controls to artist SB so that he could partake in the photo. Him and C were the two models in the photo shoot with acting experience and it really showed. To pose in front of a camera without acting experience is actually really hard!–you have to stay still and it doesn.t quite feel natural. Kudos to SB for capturing a high level of detail in this face: it was more difficult because the customer is further back than the gamblers.



Here is one of the owner.s of Cenote.s posing as himself: the bartender!



And here I am as Wild Bill Hickok holding the dead man’s hand: a pair of black aces on eights! The large pile of poker chips in front of me is the consolation prize for what.s going to happen in the next couple of seconds: BANG!

Thank you to everyone who turned out to the shoot and Cenote Lounge (where the beer is cold and the Cenote dogs are hot) for hosting the event! Kudos to photographer MR who ran the photo shoot. And congratulations to artist SB for putting it all together!

Until next time, I.m Edwin Wong and I.m enjoying the fruits of Doing Melpomene’s Work.

Dead Man’s Hand – The Artist’s Studio

Paid a visit yesterday to assiduous artist SB at her studio. She.s flying back to Brazil next week so that means that the Dead Man’s Hand cover illustration is going to be done real soon! Not only can she paint, she.s also a damn fine cook! Also there to enjoy her Melanzane alla parmiggiana (fried eggplants layered with meat and tomato sauce, basil, cheese, and on top a crust made with eggs and more cheese) was cameraman extraordinaire MR (who took care of photo shoot duties at the Cenote Lounge) and their significant others, R and M. It was fun to watch the artist showing off her creation and listening to everyone.s feedback.

Dead Man’s Hand Status

The last blog on the status of the cover illustration was last week. At that stage, all the individual sketches had been approved as well as the global layout for where everyone was going to be situated. Actually, the gambler on the left didn.t quite fit. He had originally been cast as the ‘cool gambler but as the picture progressed, it seemed better if all the characters exhibited a degree of surprise to maintain the unity of the theme (i.e. the unexpected). Since all the models sitting in that position had been playing the ‘cool’ role, this means that we had to find an unsuspecting model from the internet to fill the role on a last second basis. Also (since some of us are cigar aficionados) the decision was made to place an ashtray by the dead man’s hand poker combination to draw attention to it with a wispy trail of smoke.

In chronological sequence, here.s how things shaped up in the last week.

Dead Man's Hand - Outline

Dead Man’s Hand – Outline

The Photoshop image was printed out in a line format (outline mode) onto a full scale reproduction. From there, SB placed it on top of the watercolour paper with a carbon sheet in between and traced it out. Eagle-eyed readers might be able to see the outline of the characters on the carbon sheet:

Dead Man's Hand - Carbon

Dead Man’s Hand – Carbon

And really assiduous readers will be able to tell that some stuff moved around after the carbon transfer as well!–the table, Lucy (the husky), and the door have all moved to the left. Compare it with the photos below. This was done to increase the sense of perceived space and line up the poker hand I.m holding with the door.

Here.s the finished outline on the watercolour paper:

Dead Man's Hand - Outline

Dead Man’s Hand – Outline

Next comes colour!–

Dead Man's Hand - Colour

Dead Man’s Hand – Colour

What comes after that? If you said ‘more colour’ you win!–

Dead Man's Hand - More Colour

Dead Man’s Hand – More Colour

This pretty much is where the drawing was as of yesterday. Have you ever wondered how an artist.s studio looks while they.re working away?

SB.s Studio

SB.s Studio

When I got there, she had some incense lit at her workstation. Light is natural from the south facing window. It.s hard to see from the photographs, but the painting is a good size and the size looks impressive in person. You can get an idea of the size from the scale of the chair or the coffee cup, but it doesn.t do justice to actually seeing it.

Here.s the artist.s apparatus:



What.s next, you ask? The eyes aren.t put on yet. This gives the characters that timeless look of Grecian statues, which is sort of cool as well, though!

I hoped you.ve enjoyed what is probably the second (or maybe third)  to last blog on the Dead Man’s Hand cover illustration (things always go on longer than anticipated: I used to be an estimator for a construction firm in a past life). Meeting up for a celebratory dinner at my place next Sunday to wish SB and R a safe trip to Brazil and to wrap the project up. Thanks for tuning in, I hope you.ve enjoyed seeing the painting coming together as much as I have!

Until next time, I.m Edwin Wong and I should get cracking at Doing Melpomene’s Work if the cover illustration is almost complete!

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.


Here.s how it looks now:

Dead Man's Hand AFTER

Dead Man’s Hand AFTER

Here are the details:



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



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.

Staging the Dead Man’s Hand

Dead Man’s Hand Photo Shoot

This is it! Photo shoot coming up at the Cenote Lounge Sunday, May 31st 2:30-4 with appys and drinks on the house afterwards. The Cenote Lounge is next to the Odeon Theatre and down a flight of stairs. Thank you to the owner for opening up a few hours early so that we can do the shoot. And thank you also to all the volunteers who are taking a big chunk out of their Sunday afternoon to help out. Don.t worry, it.s time well spent: when the book on tragic art theory sells ten million copies, you will be a star!

Not sure what I.ll wear to the shoot, thinking about trousers with collared shirt, no jacket no tie. But jeans and t-shirt would be equally appropriate. LH is thinking about wearing classic black dress and word is MR is going to break out the mighty cowboy boots and hat. Baseball caps (might work out well with poker brim) and bow ties have been mentioned. To me, best fit for the shoot would be something that is your style in a subdued colour. The centrepiece of the painting is the dead man’s hand and people.s astonished reactions to the loud entrance. Lots of options for attire.

There.s a cap of 10 people, we.re at 10 adults and one child (understandably the owner isn.t looking for the restaurant to be overrun!). Of the adults, 3 women and 7 men. Had wanted balanced numbers but couldn.t get it to go this time. Here.s the roll call:

1 LH

2 MT

3 Es

4 OZ

5 CR

6 Ei

7 MR

8 DR

9 SB

10 Ro

11 EW

I hope everyone can come, it.s going to be a blast! But if something comes up (which is the way of the world), please drop me a line so I can fill the spot.

Dead Man’s Hand Cue Cards

What.s everyones’ roles during the shoot? Good question! The talented artistic team nailed it down last night at Cenote over a few cold ones. Thank you to SB, MR, and Ro for their enthusiastic input. There.s seven roles. Everyone can play as many roles as they like: nice thing about digital photography, we can take lots of shots and select the best afterwards. I.ll have little cue cards made up for the day of the shoot so as you rotate into different roles you.ll can see what that character is up to. The backstory is that Wild Bill Hickok is playing poker with his back to the entrance, pulls out the dead man’s hand (pair of aces on eights). At that moment, the gunman enters and shoots him in the back of the head. The moral of the story is never to underestimate the unexpected. The dead man’s hand is the visual representation of the unexpected that.s made its way into common folklore (i.e. Dylan has a song about it, Motorhead sings about it, and so on).

Here are the roles:

Dead Man's Hand Concept Sketch

Dead Man’s Hand Concept Sketch

1 Bartender. Action: cleaning a mug, looking at gunman apprehensively. Thoughts: ‘Something bad is about to happen (but I.m not sure what quite yet)’. Personality type: experienced, seen it all.

2 Barstool customer. Action: turning head slightly towards gunman, looking with corner of his eye. Smoking cigar. Thoughts: ‘Make my day!’. Personality type: ornery, not impressed with what.s about to happen.

3 Server. Action: walking into kitchen, startled by sound of gunman entering, contorts body/head to look, carrying tray. Thoughts: ‘Shit!’. Personality type: easily frightened.

4 Gambler #1. Action: playing with poker chips, arm on chair, disinterested smirk. Thoughts: ‘Hmmmmm’. Personality type: cool, indifferent

5 Gambler #2 Action: hand on table, tilting body, about to get up, looking directly at gunman. Thoughts: ‘Shit!’. Personality type: interested in self-preservation.

6 Gambler #3 Action: focussed on game, turns to gunman with poker face. Thoughts: ‘A distraction to the game of poker’. Personality: stoic.

7 Dog: Action: sleeping, perks up ear.

8 Wild Bill Hickok: Action: startled, about to turn around. Thoughts: ‘Damn I shouldn.t have sat with my back to the door’. Personality: grizzled

There you have it. Comments and suggestions by assiduous readers always appreciated and welcome!

Until the Sunday shoot, I.m Edwin Wong and I am always thinking of ways of Doing Melpomene’s Work.

Looking for a Cover Illustration

Today.s the day! After sitting on it for way too long (over a month) I hit the street to find an artist to paint a cover illustration for the book. In preparation for the big moment, I revised the Call for Art last night and printed some copies. Believe it or not, my laser printer.s going on thirteen years and has travelled in moves across North America and back again. It smudges and each page has to be loaded separately. I thought about getting professional copies done up at the printer.s–maybe a splash of colour in the heading as well–but then, would that really be necessary? If an artist is into it, the information.s the same both ways. Here.s what the revised Call for Art looks like:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 17.15.34

Also started drafting a sample contract so that the artist.s can have an idea on how to quote the project. There.s quite a few sample contracts online. I took one that I liked and modified it so that the patron has right to use the painting as a cover illustration. That.s one thing that I learned from reading: typically, even if you physically own a work of art, the artist retains the right to reproduce the work or art, not the owner. Still working on the form of the contract, but here.s how the draft looks:


The Agreement is made the __________ day of __________ (month) __________ (year) between:

Name (Patron):


Phone:                                                                        Email:


Name (Artist):


Phone:                                                                        Email:

The parties agree as follows:

  1. The Work: the Patron is commissioning a painting ‘The Dead Man’s Hand’ from the Artist as specified in the Call for Art (attached) at the purchase price of $_______ (x dollars). The purchase price includes all direct and indirect costs in creating the painting and delivering it to the Patron, including but not limited to purchase of the canvas, oils consumables, shop expenses, labour, shipping, and taxes.
  2. Right of Refusal: should the Patron be unable to purchase the Work from the Artist when the Work is completed, the Artist will retain the Work and the payments made prior to completion. In that case, the Artist will retain the Work free from any claims or interests of the Patron and the Patron will be free of any further payments.
  3. Copyright: the Artist grants the Patron (or any agent retained by the Patron) the right to reproduce the Work for the purposes of promoting or distributing a book that the Patron is writing. Notwithstanding the right granted the Patron, the Artist retains reproduction and copyright rights.
  4. Project Schedule: delivery of the painting will take place within six months from the date the contract is signed. Should the Artist be unable to complete the work within this period…
  5. Payment Schedule: payments will take place according to the following schedule:
    1. one-quarter when the preliminary sketch is approved
    2. one-quarter when the preliminary sketch is transferred onto canvas
    3. remainder upon delivery

I have to think about the payment schedule some more and how many sketches should be incorporated into the process. The thing about this work is the look of surprise in each of the figures. Should I approve each of the looks of surprise in each of the subjects in the painting? Looking in my Durer art book, I see that often he would draw up sketches–and sometimes surprisingly detailed sketches–of figures, gestures, faces, and so on before incorporating them into his masterpieces.

At the art supply stores in Victoria, there.s a very handy corkboard. So the Call for Art was posted at Island Blue, Opus Art Supply, and Artworld Art Supplies. Also went by some of the galleries downtown (of which there are quite a few!). I was happy with the positive responses. Actually meeting some assiduous artists tonight to discuss the concept over a beer. People are generally quite inquisitive when you say you.re writing a book. And there.s a genuine desire for them to match you up with a good artist. So got quite a few leads. I get the impression that the art world is tightly knit. It.s a face to face community. I also learned there.s Community Arts Councils. One for Victoria, one for Saanich Peninsula, and so on. They might be able to send out Calls for Art to their members. So I.ll check this out soon as well. It was also fun just going into the galleries to see all the fantastic works of art! The one thing I noticed is that there.s a lot more landscape and still life artists than artists who do portraits and human figures.

Everything was positive except for this one gallery. But ugh did the lady there ever take the wind out of my sails. She was unpacking some pieces of art when I got in, so I though to take a look around the gallery to catch an opportune moment to introduce myself. After a few minutes, I tried to start off the conversation with a, ‘It must be exciting to be getting some new piece!’. She didn.t look up. So I thought it.s now or never and introduced myself, saying I was looking for help finding an artist to do a cover illustration. She simply said no. To which I asked her if I could leave her a flyer in case she knew any artists who would be interested. At this point, she looked up and said it was impossible: her gallery only works directly with artists. When she looked up. I noticed her glasses right away. They were these purple shaded glasses made of what appeared to be some high end ceramic material. Very very very fancy, I thought they must have cost a fortune (I had been glasses shopping a little while ago). And in that second, I also noticed her whole attire and bearing. In a way, she was dressed like the fancy gallery shop owner. She was playing the role of the ‘power player’ in the art world. And I was to her–I imagined–a nothing, something beneath nothing. And I had dared to disturb her. And such beady cold eyes, like looking into a shark, not even human. I said thanks and walked out. How could someone be so close to art and so unhappy?

But onwards and upwards! Can.t let a little negativity slow me down. But the whole episode does fill me with a sense of wonder at how some people are. Have you had run ins like that on your journey? How do you react?