Got to take a stab at Stalin, in an illustration for today's NY Times book review of "Secret Speech" by Tom Rob Smith, author of "Child 44" which is soon to be movie. Art director was Nicholas Blechman.
The novel is set during the process of de-Stalinization, set off by Khrushchev's secret speech in 1956, during which some of the hunters and executioners became the hunted and executed.
In the illustration I wanted to show the Stalin driven murders and the cycle of revenge afterward.
I'd actually had a similar idea for some personal work I've been meaning to do on the bloody history of communism. In those sketches Stalin moustache's was a grim reapers scythe which I simply switched to a knife to better fit this assignment.
So I was thrilled when Nicholas gave me the job and ended up picking that idea.
Here's the sketches, I spent a bit too much time on them, but sometimes when I'm really loving a subject I can't help myself.
Naturally I had to base my drawing of one of Stalin's posters, but as portraits go the best I've seen is this one by Ernest Hamlin Baker on the right, which is much revealing of the true Stalin.
A photoshop color study. I ended up pushing more distance between the figure and the background in the final, but I'm still unsure which is better, closer and flatter or a bit more atmospheric space.