Case Study - King Ghidorah, Process

While I've been painting a lot lately, it still feels like I'm figuring out a process. So, here's how my latest painting "King Ghidorah, 2009" came together:

The Sketch

After many doodles and scratches in my sketchbook, I felt that this composition of King Ghidorah summed up what I wanted to get across. I wanted to show the immensity of the creature and get across a sense of authority. He's Godzilla's biggest enemy, so he's got to be proud.

This sketch was done on my computer in Sketchbook Pro. Not all of my sketches are done at my computer. Plenty are made on plain-old paper with Col-Erase color pencils. I'm trying to warm up more to my tablet screen, so I made a point to work on it with this sketch.

Clean Up

After I got the sketch where I wanted it, I took it into Adobe Illustrator to pin down the important lines and shapes. Illustrator is very flexible and allows me to fine-tune my artwork. I traced the sketch and moved lines around, scaling things as I need them. More and more, a lot of my drawing decisions happen right in Illustrator.

The Final Drawing

After I was happy with the vector version of my drawing, I transferred the image onto gessoed plywood board using a projector. I then tightened up the artwork, adding detail as I went. I decided that it would be interesting if each head of the creature had a different style of horn. I also changed the angle of the foot for a more dramatic/graphic perspective.

The Color Comp

So, then it was long overdue to figure out what colors to use on this thing. I kind of had an idea that I wanted a vintage poster look to Ghidorah, but I needed to flesh that out before committing to paint. I took a quick photo of my board and brought it into Photoshop. From there, it was just a matter of making gestural notes about the placement of colors, and indications on how the details might play into each other.

Starting to Paint

With my Photoshop color comp as a guide (and opened big on my screen), I started laying out the basic shapes for the painting. Once I was comfortable with the major areas of color, I started having fun with the scales and where the light might wrap around the form. The paint I used was all acrylic based. Some of it was cel-vinyl paint. Some of it was gouache. I later used fluid acrylics for detail.

The Finished Painting

After all of the detailing, I applied a layer of semi-gloss varnish over the whole piece. This normalized all of the different textures and helps the colors to really pop off of the black background.

The Frame and Other Details

I made a simple box frame for the painting out of pine trim from the local hardware store. I used a miter box to cut 45 degree angles at the ends of the trim to join them at 90 degrees. Once the frame was made, I glued pieces of wood onto the back of the painting to brace it into the frame. I then nailed the frame to these pieces of wood with small finishing nails. After all of that, I painted over the nails and touched up any troublesome areas. Here are some shots of the finished product (via Flickr):

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My painting, "King Ghidorah, 2009", is part of a group show called "Toy Karma 2" that will open September 5th at Rotofugi Gallery in Chicago, Illinois. The show, currated by Max Toy Co. founder Mark Nagata, features over 70 artists paying tribute to monsters from Japanese popular culture. More information about the event can be found here: