Sir Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Hitchcock

“Some films are slices of life, mine are slices of cake.”
—Alfred Hitchcock.

That quote sums up everything I love about Alfred Hitchcock. What kind of mischievous mind would come up with such a delightful comparison? And what are the chances that that same individual’s films would, indeed, be like slices of cake?

Anyway, being a great admirer of Mr. Hitchcock’s work, I’ve naturally turned to him for inspiration in many aspects of my creative life. I’ve drawn from photographs on more than one occasion, and I’ve found that Mr. Hitchcock has one of those faces that requires a great deal of precision to get a proper resemblance. Some faces you can get in the general ballpark, and it will at least kinda look like the subject. But with the Master of Suspense, any significant error leaves you with just a generic fat bald guy who curiously looks nothing like Hitch. I have no accounting for this. I’ve screwed up doodles of famous actors Christopher Walken and Lance Henriksen (among other), and they still kinda look like them; I have screwed up doodles of not-so-famous (to everyday Americans, at least) Vladimir Putin that still has a passing resemblance to Putin. I have no idea why my Hitchcock misfires seem to have no resemblance at all.

I mentioned in the Gianna Jun render (completed only a few days before this one) that I initially wanted to do heavy blending to achieve a faux-painting look. In that drawing, I abandoned the style, but here in the spirit of Mr. Hitchcock’s willingness to experiment, I was determined to stick with it. So after laying down the initial lines, I set about shading only the darkest regions—the blackest blacks on his suit, face, and hair, knowing that the blending stump would carry residual graphite which I could use to shade the lighter regions. This way, the pencil never shades large sections of the drawing eliminating the possibility of pencil strokes.

Of course, “blending” means “smearing” which involves lifting graphite from the dark regions and transporting it to light regions creating a smoother gradient. The dark areas become lighter, and the light areas become darker (“blending” the dark and light regions together). So I had to make a second pass at all the black regions to restore the lost value, and I also touched up fine tune details in the lighter regions (the pencil lead is narrower than the blending stump, permitting smaller detail work). Of course, this meant I had to make yet another pass with the blending stump to get rid of the most obvious pencil strokes (with the exception of the hair, for obvious reasons.)

The end result is a look and feel that intrigues me mostly, I suspect, because it doesn’t look like my style. For over a year now, I’ve become fixated with reaching beyond my norm, and looking across my doodles (not shown here at Dark Side) I’m quite pleased with the variety I see, and I wish I’d gone even further. A few weeks back, a relative of mine showed me his portfolio, and I was disappointed to see a boring monotony of lines, shadings, and colors—a very talented artist, mind you, but painfully monotonous to the point his work had no soul. Like a writer, publishing the exact same story over and over and over again. I vowed never to fall into that rut. Vowed to try new things. Vowed to experiment. If it leads to occasional failure? So be it.

Which brings me back to Mr. Hitchcock. Across his career, he always tried new things, and he managed to do it despite hitting on the same themes over and over again: blonde haired heroines, innocent men wrongly accused, a paranoid fear of authority. Yet Hitchcock found new ways to present them. So the pursuit of new challenges does not mean a complete abandonment of everything that came before; it can live in harmony with familiar themes. Just because the notes are the same, doesn’t mean they have to be played the same.

So thank you, Mr. Hitchcock, for leaving behind a legacy of amusing quotes and charming anecdotes, thank you for the inspiring career from which every artist can learn, but most of all, thank you for the cake.

—Jay Wilson