Eric wilkerson develops a sculpture beyond a simple reference maquette, and demonstrates why sculpting is so useful for painting an imaginary creature
Science fiction at its best has always been a form of social commentary. Precautionary tales and imagery that cover issues such as politics, race, prejudice and inequality.
‘Alien Lives Matter’ is a painting directly inspired by the demand for justice for victims of police violence and the institutional racism that continues to plague the USA. As an illustrator of science fiction, I ask myself, what would it look like if we as humans treated an extraterrestrial the way we treat ourselves? What might the outcry from a coalition of young multiracial activists look like?
I set out to create a composition that depicts a peaceful protest march through the streets of New York City. I challenge myself with this project by deciding to have the scene take place at night, surrounded by the multicoloured neon lights of the city. For this painting to be successful I need to design and sculpt a reference maquette of the alien, which will be the focal point of the painting.
Not only do I need to stage multiple figures into clusters that surround the focal point, but the lighting that falls on the alien needs to match the rest of the composition. I don’t believe in guess work when it comes to painting something that doesn’t exist. Therefore I typically create a maquette so I know how light and shadow affect the form. Once the maquette is complete, I have a resource to refer back to or to photograph in any lighting set up I choose. When I move to the final painting I can work quickly, knowing that all my light, shadow and texture questions have been answered.
My approach to this workshop is to create a sculpt that’s built from a loose sketch. I’ll let the clay speak to me and develop the design as I go, instead of working from a refined 2D concept. Before we begin I want to share that this is part of a series of ongoing personal paintings. Therefore I spent extra time to push my sculpture to a higher level of finish for the sake of the future paintings.
Eric is a concept artist and illustrator for film, games and publishing. He’s worked as a concept designer with Weta Workshop and lead costume designer for Blue Man Group. www.ericwilkersonart.com