The Process Behind 'The Insidious Whisper' #3


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This is the third instalment in my look at how I created my painting 'The Insidious Whisper'. So let's backtrack and have another look at my initial drawing; you will see that the huge figure has an almost human face with what I was thinking of as a "cracked earth explosion" around his eye. As you do. This linked in with the sheer destructive power of the whisperer.


I stuck with this idea for a fair while into the painting process until I started to block in the main elements (see above). Even with a dark area around the eye the head would have been lost due to the strength of the patterns on the arm. I needed something with a lot more presence to balance this. Oh so much easier said that done.

This problem coincided with me picking up a nasty stomach bug so while I was recuperating, lying on the settee watching films, I started to think about and sketch ideas. After further consideration, I decided that at this stage in the series of paintings the creature would still be trying to conceal its true appearance. (In the next painting the disguise is definitely starting to slip.) A mask was needed. I didn't want to include any new materials in the painting so I went with the mask being made from crumbling concrete.

My first sketches in Photoshop show the mask without the towers but again, it didn't have enough presence.


The mask draws heavily on ideas taken from the free association phase of my planning. I've got a pretty good idea what my subconscious was up to but I'll leave you to come up with your own interpretation. That's a lot more fun.


I drew the mask so that the figure was directly facing the viewer, brazenly going about his business. I liked the fact that this put the head in an impossible position. It made it more disturbing for me. Which always makes me chuckle. When I started to add the mask to the painting, I decided to change the angle of the pit to direct the viewer to the smaller figure. I also changed the number of sections on the top of the head to make it more angular and less friendly (I know, the original's not that cuddly is it?)

This design caused some major headaches in the composition. With the mask present, the balance of the painting was pushed to the right. I had to add more to the image on the right, painting an extra inch strip of background, to shift the composition back and I removed some distracting buildings and a tower from the right. (Later on when I added the large foreground tentacle in the lower left hand corner the composition shifted to the left and I had to rebalance it using the smaller tentacle on the right and by strengthening the tentacle in the upper right hand corner. It certainly was a back and forth process.)


The scariest part of this painting was adding the final washes to enhance the fog effect. I tested ideas first in Photoshop and on spare pieces of board before tackling it on the main painting. Any mistakes made during this stage could have resulted in a lot of repainting. The way that I worked was to mask off the foreground areas with masking fluid and then wash over the whole painting with very dilute white paint. I then masked off more areas and added the wash again. I repeated this numerous times. The pictures below roughly show this process, the yellow areas showing the areas masked at each stage.







I had to repeat this process a couple of times to achieve the result that I was looking for. I was quite happy spending this extra time doing very thin washes because I didn't want to overdo the effect. That would have been very very bad.

I hope this look at the painting process has been informative and I look forward to seeing you next time.


As an extra bonus for you, dear blog reader, here's an exclusive time lapse video of the whole process with a commentary:

Signed Limited Editions Prints of

'The Insidious Whisper' are available from my shop:


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