Ernie Hudson and The Crow

Last fall, I did a sketch of three of the four Ghostbusters. I included Peter Venkman, Ray Stanz, and Egon Spangler…but unfortunately I ran out of room. Due to my poor planning, I couldn’t find a place for Winston Zeddemore. This has bothered me since I shared the sketch; first, actor Ernie Hudson is awesome and I was disappointed that I didn’t include him. Just as important though, an argument can be made that Winston is most important Ghostbuster. It sounds provocative (I know Venkman has the love story so is probably the main protagonist), but hear me out. I think Winston can be seen as a stand-in for the adult audience members; he’s the Everyman of the movie, and is the most relatable of the core characters. Ray and his child-like wonder might be a stand-in for the kiddos, but Winston is all of us trying to pay our bills.

Given those reasons, I really felt I owed Ernie Hudson some artwork (not that he’d actually even see it). Unfortunately, I haven’t really felt inspired to draw something from Ghostbusters again. But, Hudson played a huge role another great movie…The Crow! While Ghostbusters is an all-time favorite from my childhood, The Crow is a movie I loved from my more angst-filled and moody teenage years. It came out in the mid-90s, which was just in time for teenage Jon to grow long hair, wear flannel, and rock out to grunge music.

Teenage Jon and Dog.jpg
90s Grunge Era Jon. I actually really liked that dog, so disregard the look on my face – I think it was part of the teenage uniform.

If you’ve never seen The Crow, I would recommend it with some caveats. It holds up very well overall, but it’s quite violent and has quite a lot of profanity and drug use. It’s also a very bleak atmosphere, and the good guys feel like a significant minority. It’s often described as a “cursed” movie, primarily because the actor who played the title character, Brandon Lee (son of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee), died in a on-set accident during filming. It’s a story about revenge; basically a guy and his fiance are killed by a gang, and he comes back as an invincible instrument of justice who for some reason decides to wear clown makeup. I won’t spoil it, but the finale is very satisfying.

I’m sure nostalgia affects how much I still enjoy this movie, but I think the characters are really well done. Eric Draven (“The Crow”), good-hearted cop Sergeant Albrecht (played by Ernie Hudson), and the neighborhood kid Sarah are all easy to root for in a very dark version of Detroit. Brandon Lee’s tragic death makes the gloomy atmosphere and his performance even more impactful, and adds a real sadness to the other characters’ performances (and when they part ways).The bad guys, most of whom helped murder Draven, are memorable too with their “jolly pirate nicknames” like Top Dollar, Tin Tin, Fun Boy, and T-Bird.

Getting back to the artwork, of course Ernie Hudson had to be in it. And if I was going to do something from The Crow, it would make sense to include Lee as well. In thinking through scenes they share, I came up with a few ideas. But one seemed perfect – when Draven visits Albrecht in his apartment. Here Draven learns more about what happened following his untimely demise. I decided to sketch this portion of the scene:

The Crow Amdall Clip
Sergeant Albrecht finds out Eric Draven is really back. Spooky! Credit: Me (I made the .gif directly from the movie)

With the scene determined, I jumped right into the sketch. The basics weren’t difficult, but I did experience some challenges. Here’s the final version:

This portrait turned into a fairly tricky one due to the shadows, particularly due to Ernie Hudson being farther away from the light source in this scene. I tried to stick to my newer strategy of shading using more organic colors instead of gray; this may be the first time it hasn’t worked as well as I’d planned. In hindsight, I probably should have used more grays on Hudson’s arm and possibly the side of his face. Those areas are darker due to my use of a heavier umber, but they don’t reflect how deep the shadows should be here. Also, somehow I messed up their positioning and eye contact…they’re supposed to be looking at each other. I’m not sure exactly what I did wrong, but Hudson seems to be looking past Lee.

Another issue I have with this drawing is that I really chickened out on the background. I lightly sketched the lamp behind Brandon Lee, and actually trying to incorporate the yellowish light would have made this a more interesting overall piece. I also could have filled in some muted colors for the painting behind Hudson. As usual though, I was afraid to mess it up and so decided to not even try. I really need to get past that artistic timidness, because I won’t be able to improve at areas of weakness if I don’t even try.

In the interest of balance, I should talk about the good aspects. The drawing itself is pretty solid; Lee and Hudson look pretty much like themselves. Hudson isn’t perfect, but I can tell it’s him. Also, I really like how the beer bottle turned out. Especially on first glance without studying it too closely; it’s got a nice shine to it I think. If this were a portrait from six months ago, I think I would have been really happy with it. I like it, but it doesn’t really show progress from my movie-related drawings last summer.

Here is a progression showing how it came together:

Amdall Crow Hudson

Lastly, one more bit of news. The latest custom portrait giveaway just ended…congratulations to Jennifer B. from Texas! She won on the 545th entry, which was a “click for daily bonus.” To my great surprise, we had 1,044 total entries, which absolutely obliterates our previous high of 276. There were a lot of entries referred from and, so thank you to both of these giveaway aggregation sites.

I’ve contacted the winner via email, so we’ll see what she’s interested in portrait-wise. Congrats again, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out!


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  • Another great descriptive and interesting post.

    It’s definitely tricky knowing not only when to quit on a painting but also when to be bold and risk it all. Sorts the men from the boys. I’ll be off to play with my crayons now…

    • Thank you Steve, I appreciate it! Really, I feel like I always guess wrong about when to stop. Usually, I seem to err on the side of not being bold enough. I think I should try flipping the script more often.

      How often do you feel like you get the “when to stop” part right? I’m curious how other artists feel about that aspect.

      • When to stop, probably a third of the time I think I’ve got it right – so that’s two thirds of everything I wish I’d stopped just before making it worse.

        Might sound bad but it’s an improvement!!

      • That actually sounds like a pretty good rate to me! Are there any particular recent ones on your site that made you feel that way?

  • Nice work, Jon! You did well and I think what you are feeling about wanting to take it up a notch would be served if you darkened the background, except for the lamp light – there’s some really interesting things going on with the dark and light in this one! congrats too about the giveaway, that’s a HUGE result! Can’t wait to see what they request you to do!

    • Thanks Hilda! That would have been good…I mean honestly it’s not too late. But I know how I am, and I’m unlikely to go back now. Next time I need to just do it though! Be a little bolder, you know?

      I’m excited about the giveaway portrait! The winner already got in touch with me, and it’s a cool idea that would be something sort of new for me. I can’t wait to get started on it

      • That’s the spirit, you can do it! I know what you mean though, we all get scared about ruining something we spent a lot of time on, especially something like a background that can’t be taken away again. Can’t wait to see the result of whatever the winner is asking you to do, you sound inspired by it!

      • Is it weird that it’s sort of fun when someone else picks what I draw? I felt nervous about it with the first couple of giveaways, but now it’s almost like a game.

  • You know, the more I look at this sketch, the more I think I messed up on the proportions. Ernie Hudson is a pretty big dude, and I think Brandon Lee was fairly average in size. Hudson looks smaller in my drawing, and it seems off. I think maybe my outline wasn’t very accurate this time.a

    Edit: Actually, in watching the .gif again, maybe I’m wrong. Brandon Lee does seem to be taller. I don’t know what I’m talking about

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