Unstable Babel Brief Tabled

This brief from the Irish Times Innovation supplement was simply handed to me on a plate by the editor , 'This is an article about the U.N. being in a shakey condition. How about an illustration of the Tower of Babel?'. I duly scrawled out a sketch which was passed:


...proceeded to the final. What I did differently this time, though, was to use oils for the entire piece. I reasoned that, since I have a half-decent digital camera, I may as well have a go. I was a little concerned that it might take longer to do but it turned out to take about half the time that I usually take. I didn't work up a more detailed sketch; there was no time. I just found it easier to apply oils and move the paint around than the more laboured approach for acrylics. I gave the stretched paper a couple of coats of acrylic wash and then drew the general composition right onto the paper. The sky, for example, was far easier to achieve; the 'biblical' dramatic sky and clouds appeared very quickly. Even the details of the rubble cascading down the walls was a simple matter of applying thicker gobs of colour.

You may notice that I departed from the sketch in that I made the tower more 'massive'. I moved the building further away and daubed in a 'city' at its base. The crevasses and tumbling brickwork are smaller in relation to the building and that gives more of a sense of drama, I think. I also negotiated the removal of the flag. I felt it detracted from the composition and would appear ridiculously large in comparison with its surroundings, Besides, I reasoned that Irish Times readers are intelligent enough to know that the illustration relates to the text next door!

I took the finished illustration out into the garden and photographed it. There was a certain amount of retouching to do, to bring up the colours and contrast, etc. but it proved a worthwhile method of production. This all may justify the expense of a nice new digital SLR camera though...

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