“This Ming is a psycho!”
Ah, the 80’s “Flash Gordon” movie. I got to see it at the Southaven Cinema theater when the movie originally came out in 1980- back when I was in junior high school.
My wife doesn’t understand my love for this sci-fi flick, but I have many friends who feel the same way I do about this movie. Maybe it’s the cool art direction, the awesome soundtrack by Queen, retro spaceships, the hilarious and action packed screenplay written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. (who also wrote for the 60’s Batman TV show), the great cast including Max Von Sydow and Timothy Dalton, or the costumes Dale and Princess Aura wore! Maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever the combination, it became a cult classic and a fan favorite.
Since this blog post is about my recent Ming painting, I guess I should get back to how I did it, and the story behind it.
My friend and Fox13 photojournalist Derric Curran called me up one day and asked me if I was working on any art projects. He had a human interest story cancel on him and needed to fill the vacant slot the following day. I told him I didn’t, but could have something for him to film. I had planned on painting the Ming portrait and had a canvas ready for it.
Derric (L) and reporter Tom Dees (R) have been by the house in the past for a couple of stories, and I knew them both from the haunt and Ronald McDonald House events we did together. They are also fans of Hernando Donuts.
Derric came by the next morning and he shot video and asked me questions about airbrushing while I painted in my garage- my usual airbrush studio. Normally when I paint out there I can open the garage door for good ventilation and additional lighting. Unfortunately it was REALLY cold out that morning- close to freezing actually. Derric was wearing a parka and looked like Kenny from South Park. I was wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt and hockey jersey, but after about 10 minutes of painting I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore! After about 45 minutes he had what he needed on tape and we both ducked back inside the house where it was warm.
This is as far as I got on the painting that chilly morning, and for about a year that’s the way it stayed. The Mid-South Cartoonists Association scheduled an art show to coincide with the Broad Avenue Fall Art Walk this past October, and the theme for the MSCA’s 25th anniversary show was the 1980s. “Flash Gordon” was one of my favorite ’80s and Emperor Ming was my favorite character from the movie.
So, I decided to pull out the Ming canvas, find my photo reference, put on the soundtrack, and get back to work on it. Painting in the garage in October is a lot more comfortable than January!
First I added a bit of golden yellow to the canvas, then I added some red and pink to the image. Yep, I do paint in color from time to time and not just black and white “Monsterpieces“.
After the red/pink tones, I then started adding some more brown, purple, and blue. I try to keep black to a minimum when doing shading.
I added a bit of metallic gold and red to the painting to give it a slight shimmery effect. Used a bit of black and some more purple and brown for details and shading. Sometimes if I use black I may add some purple, blue, or brown on top of it to give it a bit more depth and help it to not look so flat.
I added some white highlights, and went ahead and signed it while I had the white in the brush. I almost always hate my signature, and the brush sometimes decides to give me trouble when I’m ready to sign the canvas! I have a love/hate relationship with airbrushing. When everything is working smoothly it’s fast and fun. When it or the elements want to fight you it can be incredibly frustrating. Keeping the brush and bottles clean helps, and having a good compressor with a holding tank and moisture trap is a must. Most people give up before they gt good because of a compressor that just doesn’t put out enough air pressure/PSI (pounds per square inch). Low pressure and the brush will have a hard time spraying. No holding tank and you won’t get good constant flow of air.
Lastly I added a few more details, shading, and highlights before calling it “finished”. It’s funny how just adding a couple small highlights in the eyes can bring the painting to life. Color or black and white paintings- those last little details of highlights make the painting.
Once while drawing a Yoda sketch card I put the highlights in where I thought they should go and the face looked wrong. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and why he didn’t have the same creepy factor as in the movie when he replies to Luke not being afraid with, “You will be…YOU WILL BE..!” Well, the Yoda puppet is slightly cross-eyed in that scene. I repositioned the eye highlights and VIOLA- scary Yoda!
I paint with a PaascheVL-3 double action airbrush and Createx paints on pre-stretched gallery wrap canvases. The paints come pre-mixed and I get mine at The Art Center. I also get extra airbrush needles, tips, bottles, and copies of Airbrush Action Magazine (I’ve been in their readers gallery 3 times now!) there as well. I usually get my canvases at Hobby Lobby or Micheal’s when they have a sale or if they have a coupon for 40-50% off. I like painting on 24″x36″ canvases- which is what Ming is. It’s a good size- not too big, not too small. Anything bigger is hard to transport or have wall space to hang for most. Anything smaller can look like a postage stamp on a wall by itself or in an art show, and it can also give my eyes a fit to paint smaller.
I like the gallery wrapped canvases. They look nicer with the staples on the back and out of sight, and I can paint around on the sides and eliminate the need for framing. My finished Ming painting hung for two weeks at Adam B. Shaw’s studio. I’ll be entering it into the Midsouthcon art show this next March.
We had another great turnout for the MSCA opening reception at Adam’s studio/gallery! The Broad Avenue Art Walks have become very popular with the Memphis art community and continues to grow. I had my 2009 Monsterpiece show here and was part of the SIVADtribute show and the MSCA’s “The Process Revealed” art show here as well. Not sure when the next MSCA, DAC, or another one man show for me will be, but I’ll be sure to post that info here and on my Facebook page.
Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!