It’s been a while since I’ve written a tutorial. That’s mainly due to two things. One, I’m not sure if anyone reads these at all, but I know that if I keep putting them out, people will eventually catch on…that’s simply how the world/internet works. Two, I haven’t completed a piece of art that’s been challenging in the past year…or I haven’t done anything beyond what I had already covered in my previous tutorials. This brings us to this Power Poster.
Power is a TV series on the network Starz created by Courtney Kemp Agboh and is produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. I started watching the show off the strength of 50 Cent producing it alone. I had also seen the main actor Omari Hardwick (aka James “Ghost” St. Patrick) in a few shows and movies and liked his previous work. After watching the debut I wasn’t entirely sold on the show. There were too many clichés like trying to escape a previous gangster life while still being drawn to it, but the show had potential. Fast forward to the end of the first season and I was extremely happy I kept watching because it took about 2 episodes for things to really take off. Fast forward again to the second season and EVERYTHING about the show improved significantly from acting to storyline, which makes it one of my current top television shows (especially top ‘black’ shows). I’ve been inspired to draw a piece for the show since the second season finale, but I couldn’t find the time. Once I did, I made sure to make this piece as challenging as possible.
Like I usually do for any image, I conceptualized for weeks. In reality this means I didn’t actually do any work, but I was imagining how I wanted the poster to look in my mind. I wanted to capture the two main characters, Tommy (Joseph Sikora) and Ghost (Omari Hardwick), on the top of the image, but I also wanted to show their intriguing dynamic because they’re best friends, business partners, but also have a divide in their standards and ethics which becomes apparent towards the end of the second season. In the middle I wanted to include Kanan (50 Cent), because he is one of the main reasons for the divide between Ghost and Tommy. He’s also directly related to many of the characters in the show, often in a negative way. Surrounding 50 Cent and underneath Ghost and Tommy I included other elements of the show. Just beneath Ghost is an image of him kissing Angie (Lela Loren), who is a former high school lover of Ghost’s who returns unexpectedly and creates a fissure in Ghost’s current marriage. Beneath them is Tasha (Naturi Naughton) who is Ghost’s current wife, but is obviously angered by Ghost’s affair with Angie. On the left side of the poster you have Shawn (Sinqua Walls) who is Kanan’s son, but works for Ghost. Also included is Dre (Rotimi) who works for Kanan, and underneath them are three characters that are part of the police and drug organization (Sandoval, Lobos, and Ruiz). This entire concept was more or less developed in my mind prior to starting the poster, but the layout was really brought together on the computer. I then had to translate everything onto paper.
I chose a 20”x24” Bristol board for this project. These dimensions are a bit unusual, but I wanted something large. I divided it into a grid with 1-inch squares so I could lay the lines down properly. I wanted the pic to have a cartoon feel to it, while being realistic at the same time. I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that, but my approach involved not trying to make the drawings too realistic. I started by drawing Tommy and Ghost using a 2H pencil. Once outlined, I went and added details with my mechanical pencil.
—Now before I continue, I’ll tell you a bit about this pencil. It’s called the Pentel Graph Gear 1000 Mechanical Drafting Pencil and it’s very reliable with durable lead. I ordered it with lead refills for about $25CAD on Amazon. Might seem like a lot for a pencil and lead, but it’s honestly been better than any other one I’ve used and it’s good for drawing small details.—
I went and added more details to Tommy and Ghost in the middle of the two, added 50 Cent, and all the extra characters. In my initial artwork I included some of the gangsters that are part of the drug network in the show, but I replaced them eventually after realizing their roles are somewhat minor. I also included a bridge in the background and left the space underneath Ghost and Tommy’s jackets empty…I didn’t know what I wanted to do with those spaces yet. The line work took me about 10 days on and off to complete.
I took a few days off and continued to the next phase, which was to colour the whole poster. To this date I had not done a coloured piece that was larger than 11”x14”. I can do an entire large piece in graphite pencil because it’s easier…I’m only using shades and smudging lead and charcoal. This time I had to make sure I had all the right colours and shades, and if I didn’t have a certain colour, I had to figure out a way to create it or go out and find it. It was an interesting learning experience. Usually when I know I’m colouring in marker, I’ll do line work, outline it in pen, photocopy the pen work, then colour the photocopied image so I don’t have to worry about smudging my line work (I used this technique for many of my basketball art posters). Some people might think it’s a hack to use this approach…but I think they’re just mad they didn’t think of it before. However, I couldn’t use this technique for this poster because it was too large. I consulted with an art colleague @loveychuhtha on how he colours his pictures because he’s extremely good at putting marker over pencil then drawing outlines over the marker. Go check out his Instagram account and follow his story #LoveyPresents, it’s amazing! After a quick discussion I found out I had to erase my pencil work lightly prior to applying any marker on the page, and then finish with the black outline. I was now ready to colour.
Starting with Tommy, I began by colouring the top left face with an E00 and an E11 skin coloured Copic marker. I wanted a high contrast between the dark and light highlights, leaving the highlights white and making the shadows black. So I didn’t fill the entire face with markers, just certain parts. I also used the main reference photo as a guide for the lighting. Next, I added the hair with an E15 and an E47 brown marker and added the shadows and the lines with different size micron pens (they range from 0.005mm tips to 1mm). For the larger areas I used an all-black prismacolor (PM-89) marker. I did the same thing on the other side with Ghost, but I used the E11 and E15 markers for his darker skin and I also used the PM-111 cool grey Prismacolor and the W5 and W7 warm grey Copic markers for his collar, tie, and vest. I used similar colours for the picture of both characters in the top middle and black for the bridge. I tried to create a small white outline space between each drawn character so you could see where everything is sectioned off. Next, I was going to jump to 50 Cent, but I needed two things before I could start.
Out of all my markers, I couldn’t find an appropriate colour for 50 Cent’s skin. Copic jumps from light-skinned toned colours to super dark ones with nothing in between when you buy their 6-marker skin tone set…it’s annoying. I had to go find a 0324 brown promarker just for 50’s skin. I also went online to buy a white gel pen (Uni-Ball Signo Broad Point Gel Impact Pen) do create white lines. It’s one thing to try to leave space to form outlines using the paper itself, but this gel pen helped me make white outlines and include details that would have been impossible to do otherwise (look at the bridge lines and the outlines around the people). Both the proper skin shade marker and the gel pen recommendations came from my art buddy @mr.drawmatic on Instagram. Please go check out his work…he’s SICK! I was able to complete 50 Cent’s face, but I also used prismacolor colouring pencils to do shadow and highlight effects on his face over the marker because I couldn’t get the shades I wanted. I used a white, dark brown, and light brown pencil to finish the details. Next, was 50’s clothing.
Without trying to sound too corny, I literally had almost 50 shades of grey markers to work with and complete this poster. I have a 12-pack cool grey and a 12-pack warm grey set of prismacolor markers. A 6-pack set of Copic neutral greys, a second set of worn down neutral greys, and about another 8-10 worn down warm grey Copic markers.
—Quick note: If your markers wear down and the colours fade, dip them in isopropyl alcohol to get a bit of extra colour back. I had to do that for a LOT of my markers for this project.—
I also used some pencils, white colour pencils and gel pens for extra details. In total that’s about 40 something or more markers that range from white to black. I ended up using all of them to colour 50 Cent’s clothing. I won’t say exactly which markers I used to colour each portions, but I will say that I used neutral greys for the leather jacket, warm greys for the hoodie, cool greys for the jeans, and light neutral greys for the gun. I had to play with the shades on a scrap piece of paper before using them on the large poster. I also included some yellow for the highlights. The most outstanding part of the poster was done at this point. Also, note that about 1 month had passed since I first started the whole project.
At this point I just had to include more minor (or secondary) colours to smaller characters. I coloured Jamie and Angela with colours I mentioned above. I added little coat details on Angela by making dots in different shades. I gave them a little pink background, then coloured Tasha with neutral greys. I made sure to add a fire-like background to represent that anger that boils in her, knowing her husband is out there creeping with a beautiful light-skinned red-dress-wearing Spanish ting, seen, and she’s at home cooking for the kids and having useless conversations with Lala all season, lol. I then added a small night time skyline inside Ghost’s jacket and the word ‘truth’ underneath it because that’s the name of the club he owns in the show. It’s also to demonstrate the irony of his character because of his affair, which is based on lies, and his split persona between Ghost the gangster and James the businessman he who keeps mutual with deceptive methods. On the top right side of the poster I created a shadow-like scheme with cool greys to fill some space. I used that background technique previously in my Method Man post (go read it!). Now all that remained was the left side.
In one swift session I coloured Shawn, Dre, replaced the old thug characters with the cop and Lobos (the main drug kingpin in the show), and did the same shadow-like effect above Tommy with warm greys. I used my darkest brown Copic marker E47 for Shawn’s skin, used some Copic warm greys for his suit, used light-skinned colours for Dre, some neutral greys for his jacket, and some light colours for the three at the bottom with whatever colour scheme matched the reference photos. I also included a full daytime city design in Tommy’s jacket and filled in the shadows with neutral greys. Finally, about 8 weeks later, I was done the poster. I now needed to prep the image for scanning and printing.
I use a local print shop in Ottawa, Canada where I get my stuff done called Merriam Print (www.merriamprint.com). They do quality work and I don’t go to stores like Business Depot or any generic to get prints done anymore because of a few bad experiences. I went there to get my poster scanned, then had to wait a week to get it back. Once it was returned I added the ‘POWER’ logo underneath the pictures digitally. The poster is now ready for sale.
Overall I found this poster to be extremely time consuming. It just took forever to get the stuff I wanted done. That’s colours, details, finding new colours, scanning, etc. But I’m extremely satisfied with the result. One thing I can’t capture with my camera is the level of detail that went into this piece. Anyone that’s seen it in person can attest to this…it came out looking CRISP. You’d have to order a copy to see just how great this ended up. Also, a few good things have happened since I’ve made this poster. The official Power Twitter account contacted me and they’re giving me a shoutout on their account to show appreciation for my piece. I was also able to get in contact with Sinqua Walls (actor who plays Shawn) and sent him a copy of the poster, which I hope he shares with the rest of the cast.
This breakdown wasn’t as technical as I usually make them, but it shows the many steps I had to take to make this poster. If you’d like a copy, I’m selling a limited number in my shop in different sizes: 8.5”x11”, 11”x14”, and 20”x24”. Make sure to also follow my art account on Instagram: theroyceproject, and you can now find me on facebook (as Royce Williams or facebook.com/theroyceproject). I’ll see you all on the next breakdown.