The last time I posted a blog post on my site was in 2018. Two years later, a lot has changed for me. I’m in a different city, different working space, and different day job, plus I’m married and have a dog. And I’m still working my butt off to make the artist dream, my dream, come true. This whole time has been a roller coaster of growth and experiences that I could only being to describe in both my personal and professional life.
I could go on about all of that, but I want to show off my latest work. And future posts will be about my work and the process behind them, with the occasional personal life update.
I made this for one of my best friends as a birthday gift. We both are Star Wars fanatics, and have been since we were kids. With this piece, I wanted to capture that last episode of The Clone Wars (which this piece is titled after). I knew early on, as the image was forming in my mind’s eye, that I wanted Darth Vader looking into the distance, skyward, as if he was contemplating on his past and all that has happened. And I really wanted to do something with the last scene of the series, as it was really powerful seeing Vader walk across the snow to this grave and wreck of a Republic Venator, and to find Ahsoka’s lightsaber that he kept for her when she left the order. I especially wanted to capture this moment from Vader’s point of view, what he was thinking about and how he was feeling when he came to that grave. Since he was ordered to go there to confirm the death of his old Padawan, for him, this was sad closure to someone whom he loved.
In my early sketches, I had an space owl up above and at one point I thought about including Padmé or Rex in the illustration as well. But it made more sense to have Ahsoka behind Vader, especially when you consider the abandonment that he felt when she left the Jedi order and now is dead to him. The abandonment and sadness that raged with in him must have been immense, especially since she was his only Padawan, and I can imagine he felt regret about her training and felt like he failed her.
I gave Ahsoka a look of disgust toward what Anakin became and to also play off of how Anakin would imagine her if she saw him now, how disappointed she would be in him. It took me some time to figure out how I wanted to have her show up in this piece. I knew I wanted her to have a ghost of herself type of feel, given that Anakin believed her to be dead now. Then it hit me to illustrate her in a sky blue hologram type of way which would give that ghost/ memory feel that I was looking for. And I’ve seen this done before, I just can’t remember where.
I included the wall of color partially as a design element to break up the page and to help move the eye around the piece. I also put it in to also show Anakin’s emotions as he walked up and stood in front of the graves. From the blue sadness of being there and losing someone and having to confirm her death and all those memories, to the love for her, the purple and violet, to the anger and rage, the red, that he had towards himself and possibly her for leaving him and for being dead instead of joining him and being a Sith Inquisitor. Especially when you consider how as a Sith Lord, Vader would use anything to fuel his anger and rage, so that he could have more power, even as distorted as it wold be to pin someone’s death on them, I wouldn’t put it past Vader.
As for the technical process of drawing and painting this piece, I always start out with a few thumbnail sketches until I find one that I like, and then I just fiddle with it until I like how the composition and elements are all placed. That is all done either in my sketch book or on cheap drawing paper. Then I move onto the final paper and re-sketch everything out so the drawing has the same energy that the early sketches. That allows me to make any minor tweaks and to improve the piece until I am ready to start painting over the pencil.
After that, I do the final pencil and then go over the whole drawing with a dry cleaning pad eraser to lighten up all the lines enough so they don’t bleed through and get covered up by the watercolor.
With the watercolor, I started with painting in Ahsoka first, as she was the lightest most crucial thing to get blocking in and done first. The tricky thing with her was rendering an colorful alien species in light blue scale. And being me, I just went for it with no study in mind and just let my gut have at it, not overthinking it (which is key in anything).
With Vader, I started with a light black wash of water color. Then, I realized it would take too long for me to do it that way, so I jumped over and used my ink brush pen and started to put ink down, just filling in the areas of black that I wanted. The patterning on Vader is from me using a rag towel right after I put ink down, pulling up some of the ink so it wouldn’t go to dark. The most annoying thing to get on Vader was his chest controls because I didn’t want to go back in after filling it with black and using an acrylic to get the detail, which I had to do with the green and red marks on his belt. So I piled the black on around all the buttons and then used a pen to get the lines right. Then I filled in the red and green squares with watercolor. Likewise, any of the light grey on Vader is just layered watered down black watercolor.
As far as to how I got the grey cloud look, I just used a 1/2″ Wash brush and went back and forth from the darker grey color that I had, watering it down, and dry brushing, splashing it on the paper making sure it matched up and gave good direction and helped as a design element too. And speaking in the psychological aspect, I put grey clouds in, as the overall mood of this piece is darker and speaks to how grey Anakin’s journey is. Though he dresses in black, an absolute color speaking to the evil that he is, the reality is that there is still good in him and he is burdened by all that he has done but refused to reflect on it, though it haunts him.
For the materials, I used a sheet of Canson Heritage Hot Pressed w/c paper from a 12×16″ block that I cut down to 11×14″.
The paper itself is okay. I won’t be buying it again for any watercolor work, as it has proven to be hit or miss in how it takes the watercolor, and the paper gets pulled up with any tape, no matter what one tries. I will be going back to Arches.
The watercolor that I used is Winsor & Newton, and the brushes I used are the discontinued Utrecht Masters W/C brushes. As for the acrylic, I used Liquitex basics and the Uni Posca Extra Fine paint marker.
The ink I used is Noodler’s Heart of Darkness black ink with the Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen with converter.
I loved how this piece turned out and I hope you enjoyed the behind the scenes thought process of mine.