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Published on Tuesday, May 3, 2010

To The Banner Born

The Making of The Western Online Banner

By Michael T. Pizzolato



When our visitors see the banner, Showdown at Sundown, across the top of the site, most realize we are using a romanticized Western image. But for artistic purposes, our banner shows the typical Hollywood version of the quick draw: two gunmen, hands over gun and holster, and the barren streets of the town.

Whether building a house, raising a barn or painting a picture, the most important part of the process is the plan. So too, for the artist painting a picture, the plan gives a sense of
confidence on where the painting is going. I liken this planning technique to the outline some writers create when working on a story, which gives a general direction to the story.

When I began painting Showdown at Sundown, the first step was a thumbnail sketch which only vaguely resembled the eventual finished product. The important thing at this stage was to get a basic design, without a lot of detail. The drawing in Figure 1 was the thumbnail I proposed to our editor, a rough sketch on typing paper.


The next step I began experimenting with the pencil. At this point, I moved the gunman in the distance a lot closer for a more personalized view of the gunman's face rather than an obscure figure in the distance.

The perspective in Figure 2 is called one-point perspective, where all the outer lines, top and bottom, of the buildings generally converge in one place. But notice the "X" I created on the left side at the index finger of the hand looming over the holster. I was experimenting with a way to bring more focus to that part of the painting, the hand and holster. Consequently, this perspective, with the town in the background, would later change as I decided to widen the focal point.

The next step was the most important of the entire painting, the construction lines. (Figure 3).


These construction lines, or block puppets (figure 4), are necessary for a credible human figure.

In figure 4, my goal with the gunman figure was to present him walking slowly forward, so I made a block puppet whose hips and rib cage were twisting in    
opposite directions, just as people do when they walk. Notice his right hip is moving forward, while his right arm and ribs are going backwards. Also, his left arm is pulling the left side of his rib cage forward, while his left hip retreats. Although I would eventually paint over this puppet, I felt had created a
human figure with form. I would know where to correctly place things like his belt, his buckle, his holster.

In the next edition of The Roundup, we will splash some paint on the canvas, in a painting process called blocking, a prelude to the eventual finished painting to come.

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