Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Rondo Hatton

I mentioned in the previous post that I did an art trade with a friend.  I created this portrait of Rondo Hatton for her.  I have been meaning to do several portraits and Rondo happened to be one of them.

Rondo was born in Hagerstown, Maryland and grew up in various places in the south before his family ultimately settled in Florida.  There, he joined the Florida National Guard and fought on the Mexican border and then in France during World War I. During his time in France it was reported that

". . .he was exposed to poison gas, was hospitalized with lung injury, and was subsequently medically discharged from service and consigned to a pension. Returning to Tampa, he took employment as a reporter for the "Tampa Tribune," where he worked until 1936, when he moved to Hollywood. At some point after his exposure to the poison gas, he also developed acromegaly, a slowly progressive deforming of bones in the head, hands and feet, and internal and external soft tissues caused by disease of the pituitary gland, which onsets after the individual has reached his full genetic height (under normal pituitary influence), and production of growth hormones resume, but the bone structure can no longer produce symmetric growth (as in giantism). According to all authors, his acromegaly was a result of the poison gas, though typically, it is caused by a tumor on the pituitary. In any event, his worsening disfigurement is thought to have led to his first divorce and certainly was responsible for his being noticed by director Henry King, who was shooting a movie, Hell Harbor (1930), near Tampa. Reporter Hatton was covering the filming, and King offered him a role. Hatton remained a reporter, however, until after his second marriage in 1934; in 1936, he and his new, more faithful wife moved to Hollywood." (- IMDb Mini Biography By: Rich Wannen ) 

For all his portrayal in the pictures as a thug and a monster, he was said to have been very kind and possessed a gentle nature.  Regardless, he has made a lasting impression on pop culture and his images continue to be an influence today.

My friend and I found a picture to use as a reference.  I like this one a lot because despite the dramatic lighting, the pose is very natural.  It seems all the two tone horror heavies were made to take stock photos of themselves in there most "terrifying" poses.  Everything was chiaroscuro, hands were held high in anticipation of a strangulation, and a everybody wore their best grimace.

Some of my favorite pictures of Bela Lugosi are of him smiling with a cigar, enjoying a glass of wine.  Boris Karloff is always cute in his top hat watering his roses and Lon Chaney Jr. naturally had a jovial soft face that was far from threatening.

Alas, that type of stuff does not sell horror movies . . .

In working on this, I've come to realize how much I miss pencil drawing and my watercolor paints.  I find that media very rewarding.  There is a gratification that I get from traditional media that I don't seem to get with digital media.  Part of that is the eye strain that comes with staring at the monitor for long hours.  At any rate, I had to be very conscious of not accidentally smearing my pencil work.  As the drawing progressed, I would mask his face off with tracing paper to keep it protected.

My friend liked the style of "the Brute Man" movie poster text.  I tried to mimic the rough painted quality.  I actually had to sketch it out on a separate paper and then trace it onto the illustration board.

Now, I still love pencil drawing but shading in the background and some parts of his coat got downright monotonous.  I think I had to go over the background about three or four times to get the shading I wanted.  When I decided to shade it again for about the fourth time, that voice in the back of my head groaned, "Seriously?!?"

I love illustration board but I still haven't mastered a way to keep it from buckling when you apply a watercolor wash to it.  It warped badly initially but flattened more later as it settled into itself.

My one regret is that I lined the text with watercolor and not gouache.  I got the color I liked but not the opacity. On a quest for improvement and also to get more practice in Illustrator, I recreated the text in vector form.  I like the color better and the sharper look.

We have since traded art but I made sure to get a scan and print of the work I did.  I couldn't let Rondo go that easily!  Here's where the tale gets a little sad.  On it's way to various places, I received numerous responses from "Oh, cool! Rondo!" to "Well, that's interesting." But it is clear when people initially see it they are jarred.  I have been asked on more than one occasion, "Ugh, why would you draw something like that?"

This is a portrait.  This is a picture of a man who is sitting in a pretty nonthreatening pose with his hands loosely clasped.  Perhaps people don't realize that Rondo Hatton was a real person and that at the end of the day there was no mask to take off.

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