War Cry

Taking pencil drawing to its logical conclusion.
Original pencil drawing on hardboard, coated in PVA-based size, and then acrylic gesso. Coated in varnish. 25″ x 60″.

I did this drawing as one last nostalgic tribute to the era when we didn’t realize that tyrannosaurs had feathers. I wanted an edgy, sketchy kind of look with sharp detail. I also wanted a lot of dynamic range at the same time as having bold contrast and a dramatically lit scene. I achieved this look by drawing with various pencil shades from 6H to 8B on a board coated with acrylic gesso.

I started planning this composition in 2015, completed a quick draft sketch in 2016, and worked on the drawing from 2016 to 2019. There were a couple hiatuses in there and my studies of Ojoraptorsaurus were mostly worked on during this same period, but War Cry required overall the largest number of hours I have spent on a single artwork (even including sculptures). Why did it take so long? In a word, gesso. Firstly, according to the local art supplies stores, you can not buy illustration board larger than 40 inches wide unless you are willing to order a few hundred. My solution was to buy a piece of hardboard – it’s like MDF but harder. But I had to make a white finish to draw on, so I sealed it with PVA-based size (a sealer), and then coated it with a couple layers of acrylic gesso. Then I sanded it to a smooth finish with just enough tooth to be good to draw on. I soon realized that I couldn’t use an eraser on the gesso. Since working and re-working my composition until I am happy with it is part of my process, I had to figure out a solution to the eraser problem. My solution was: tape two pieces of Stonehenge paper to a separate board (sheets of Stonehenge are 44” wide and the board I taped it to was 60” wide) and figure out the overall composition there; tape tracing paper on top and trace out the composition onto the tracing paper; and then rub out the tracing onto my gesso-coated board. I then very carefully completed all the details and shading on the gesso board – I couldn’t make any mistakes since I couldn’t use an eraser. Three and a half years later and – voila!

The draft sketch of the composition, 2016, was on display at the Symposium of Vertebrate Paleontology 2016.

Testing fixatives on acrylic gesso in order to make a decision of which fixative to use once the drawing was complete.

Pencil on acrylic gesso gave the drawing an edgy, sharp quality which I liked. When I first started researching this technique, around the end of 2015, I remember I only found one artist that actually completes finished pencil drawings on gesso-covered board. And now I know why there are so few artists who work like this. I probably won’t do this again.

Product 1: the original artwork.

The original is on the piece of hardboard, 25 inches x 60 inches, so it’s five feet wide and pretty heavy. Available for sale for $9,000.

A photo of the back of the hardboard, sealed with size.
Front of the original.

Product 2: Limited edition print, signed and numbered.

I am only making four large prints from the original, all four are printed using archival quality gicle inks and are signed and numbered by me:

Print 1 of 4: 23” x 58 7/8” (full size) on stretched canvas (SOLD).

Print 2 of 4: 23” x 58 7/8” (full size) on stretched canvas. $700.

Print 3 of 4: 23” x 58 7/8” (full size) on stretched canvas. $700.

Print 4 of 4: 17.53” x 44.16” (75% size) plaque mount/dry mount. $650. I made the plaque-mounted print 75% of the original size to cut down on weight slightly and to make it a more manageable size to fit on a wall.

Photograph of the full size gicle print on canvas, with black tape around the edge. Only 4 prints are being made of this drawing (three of which are on canvas).
The back of the canvas print, with wall-hanging hardware.

(Please contact me regarding purchasing original or print of War Cry: [email protected])