Preliminary head study for St. Elmo, 9" x 12", graphite and prismacolor on toned paper.
I am working on a commission for Saint Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.
Legend has it that when a bluish light--an electrical discharge--appeared on mastheads or riggings before and after a storm, seamen took it as a sign of Saint Elmo's (or Saint Erasmus's) protection. Thus, it became known as "St. Elmo's fire".
Before I do anything, I like to put down at least 8 - 10 thumbnails. Here's a sketchbook page, with some early thumbnails and some 18th century traveler's clothing studies. (Which I decided suited him, as the painting was requested as a companion piece to a Saint Cecilia, whom I costumed in that same era several years ago.)
Who could not appreciate Howard Pyle's amazing Flying Dutchman?
Therefore, my work will be a bit of a tribute to that great illustrator. Hope he doesn't mind.
Sketch of Saint Erasmus on the stern.
In developing the costume, a few sketches like this prepare me for the larger work, except in this case I got carried away with the pen and ink. Still, I don't consider studies like this time wasted; I learned a lot about this type of clothing, and revisited some great pen and ink artists too. Among my favorites; Joseph Clement Coll, Heath Robinson, and A.B. Frost.
And there will be a Raven on board, because one legend describes Saint Erasmus starving in prison, kept alive by a raven which brought him food (and also because I love those birds).
An early, messed-up prelim.
I find straight-on head studies a challenge--even more than three-quarter views. A mistake I tend to repeat: Drawing the features way to big for the size of the head. (Maybe I oughta quit sketching on the couch, and get serious at the drawing table.)
Redrawing the head to the correct proportion was a wise choice, resulting in the sketch at the top of this post. He's looking pretty Nordic instead of Italian, though.
(As final ghoulish note: If you look up images on the internet, you'll find many paintings of Erasmus being martyred by having his intestines wound up on a spit. They had me wincing. The lives and deaths of the saints often make for some gripping reads!)
Thanks for stopping by!