Dark Tower Villain Improvements
I haven’t discussed the series in a while, but if you came across this blog any time in early 2018, you were probably greeted with a barrage of posts about the Dark Tower. Even outside of this specific series, I’m a huge Stephen King fan, but the Dark Tower books are probably my favorite in the fantasy genre. As I’ve mentioned before, I would put it right up there with A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings. It’s very strange in hindsight that I hadn’t read the series prior to 2018, but I guess it was a case of “saving the best for last” of the Stephen King catalog. In some ways, it was actually nice to have already been familiar with most of King’s novels, since the Dark Tower ties so many of his worlds together. Anyhow, before I go on, here’s a refresher on other posts I’ve written about the series (warning: spoilers everywhere):
- Reflections on the series, written just after having finished it. Detailed thoughts on the ending, character deaths, and some of my favorite quotes from the series. Reading this post again makes me want to dive back into book #1!
- Campfire sketch. I was on book 4 at this point. I also hadn’t started working with color yet. It’s a pretty rough drawing.
- Villain portraits. Randall Flagg, Mia Daughter of None, Tick Tock Man, and the Crimson King. Not great artwork (early in my exploration of color), but some decent ideas I think.
- Susannah, Jake, and Oy revisited. This was a re-do of a previous drawing about a year later. It was a pretty vast improvement in my opinion.
In a lot of ways, this post is similar to the re-do of the above Susannah, Jake, and Oy piece. Around the time I finished the Dark Tower series, I was trying to transition from black and white graphite to using color. I was still pretty bad at it, which really shows in the villain portrait post. In all honesty, it’s almost as if I was scared to really use the pencils; color lay-downs are light and hesitant, with no bright colors. The heavy layering and blending style I’ve moved towards is more satisfying, at least from my perspective now.
Recently, during an artwork spring cleaning, I was going through a lot of older drawings. I came across those Dark Tower villains and couldn’t shake the feeling that they were a missed opportunity. The rough idea for two of them (Randall Flagg and Mia) really resonated with how I always pictured the characters. I thought about previous re-do and wondered if I should try that again. Another idea popped into my brain though, and it’s one I thought I had learned not to do…and that was to work directly from the old piece. I have previously ruined at least two drawings by doing exactly that, so I’m not sure what possessed me here.
But, I did it anyway. I thought perhaps the colors were light enough that I could just bulldoze over them with fresh color. I actually went into it with the assumption I was going to ruin them. Pretty reckless in hindsight, but hey I guess that’s what pandemic quarantine boredom will do to you! To my great shock, this actually worked. I really like how the portraits were transformed.
First, I’ll talk about the Randall Flagg/Walter Padick drawing. Even going back to The Stand, I always pictured Flagg as sort of a young, maniacal Jack Nicholson. I guess I was heavily influenced by his version of the Joker from the first Batman movie when I was a kid. I just couldn’t help but imagine his antics as that character when I was reading both The Stand and The Dark Tower. So, my version of Randall Flagg became sort of a mash up of Nicholson’s Joker and Jamey Sheridan’s Flagg from The Stand miniseries.
I really liked the original design, but my color choices were just not good. I leaned on a very beige color palette. To correct it this time around, I counterbalanced the beige skin with heavy doses of peach and blush pink. I layered in some shadows and then blended thoroughly with white. I may have gone a little overboard darkening the sides of his mouth, but otherwise I’m pretty satisfied with this update.
Randall Flagg is one of my favorite novel antagonist; really an iconic bad guy. As I mentioned in one of the other posts, although I loved the end of the Dark Tower, I was a bit disappointed with how Flagg exited the story. Based on The Stand though, death doesn’t seem to stick to him very well…maybe we’ll see him again in a future King novel? Here’s a larger version of the updated portrait:
Next, let’s discuss Mia Daughter of None. In the series, she is basically a spirit who invades Susannah and eventually takes over her body to have a baby. It’s a very strange part of the plot that, although central to driving things forward, didn’t really click with me. Maybe because I just couldn’t wrap my brain around certain aspects, like how she went from spirit to separate physical being, the baby, and all that. The upshot of her story though is that when she finally gets her own body and has her baby, the baby is basically a spider creature who eats her.
But how do you draw a spirit who becomes a person? For some reason, despite the fact that she is part of Susannah (I think), Mia’s ethnicity is white instead of black. I remember King described Susannah’s legs changing color, and I also think he mentioned her black hair. Much of the rest was sort of at my discretion on this drawing. So, originally back in 2018, I went for a dark haired creepy woman. In this re-do, I took the same approach as I did with Flagg, applying heavy doses of fresh brighter colors. But this time, I decided to modify the design a bit and emphasize the creepiness a bit more. I added dark circles under her eyes, tilted her brows, and tried to make the smile more sinister.
As I was writing this post, I had a thought that it would be sort of funny to add a spider somewhere on the Mia portrait. A bit of a nod to how everything ended up for her. I actually paused from writing so I could add one on her shoulder. Here’s the final version:
Unfortunately, I don’t have any progression images to make a .gif from. This was too much of an experiment, and I really didn’t think it was going to produce something worthwhile. Like I said above, I’m just about as surprised as I could be that this worked. I’m happy with how the final products look now, and it finally feels like the concept matches the output.
The bad part about all of this, though, is that it will probably encourage me to do this again to more old art. I guess I should just go wherever my impulse takes me hobby-wise, but the idea of moving forward with new things seems important somehow. Regardless, this was a pretty satisfying return to the Dark Tower! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that someday, Stephen King returns to some of these characters, The Tower, or other aspects of these Mid-World adventures.