You've probably seen posts where illustrators describe their self abuse when capturing reference photos for their work. Like other illustrators, I've got a hard drive full of very strange photos of myself swinging flashlights, brooms, or plungers, while wearing weird mismatched outfits and the occasional colander on my head. My wife has kindly learned to look the other way, so the only witnesses to this foolishness are usually my dog and my camera.
There are times, however, when you need a model who isn't a forty-something guy who spends a lot of his time behind a computer. It would be great if we had an endless supply of people willing to pose for us at a moment's notice, but that's not always the case. Sometimes events coincide to help out.
This was how it went with a recent Magic: The Gathering card I was commissioned, which came to me as illio.# 152526 Hulking Minotaur (A.K.A. Mogis' Chosen).
The assignment was to draw a bad-ass (yes, that's a technical term) Minotaur with a big axe and a belt of severed heads. It just doesn't get any better than that.
I did several sketches. This is the one that got approved, with the request that there be fewer heads on the belt, and only one set of horns.
The next step for me was to tighten up the sketch, and get my reference together. I posed for the minotaur - but I still needed to find the least embarrassing (and legal) way to photograph some severed heads. As it happened, my sister-in-law asked a bunch of family members to her house for dinner that weekend, so providence conveniently provided access to a cornucopia of crania.
Instructions to the models: "Sit on a couch, then let your head loll and jaw go slack".
The hardest part was getting past the inevitable giggles, but in the end I got the shots I needed. Here's my reference composite:
The guy in the middle with his eyes bugged out is my Brother-In-Law, Robert. He didn't have to pose. I already have a lot of shots of him photobombing family pictures.
Yes. That minotaur is wearing a watch. When common sense and good planning fail me, some editing on the fly is necessary.
The resulting painting:
If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that if you make yourself available to any illustrator as a model - don't ever assume the result will be a shimmering, soft flattering portrait.