I'm not a massive fan of film posters that focus on cramming all the main characters into a print and wanted to do something a bit more conceptual for it so rewatched the film to refresh my memory. It's visually very rich and there's so much symbolism in it, it became a case of what to leave out. I don't want to give any spoilers away for the film if you haven't watched it yet (and if not why not?!) but here's the poster from early draft sketch through to the primary illustration and subsequent design make-overs.
The final poster below is a four colour screen-print limited to just thirty and is available to buy from FrightFest Originals here.
Here's the initial concept sketch. It's WELL sketchy. Although surprisingly close to the finished print.
And here's the main illustration from pencil to inked. I tend to work in non-photo blue pencil, then when I'm happy with the direction it's taking I use a 3B pencil to give more form to my sketches but a lot of my decision making comes with the inking.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. AND BAD PHOTOS.
For some reason I only started documenting the process once I'd pencilled it all out but first up was the De Niro's/Louis Cyphre's creepy long finger-nailed hand. I really wanted to overstate the menace/creepiness of the hand but it doesn't take much once you've seen the boiled egg scene; *bleurgh*. For the hand connoisseurs amongst you it should be noted I was the hand model for the illustration. Incidentally I'm always available for hand-modelling gigs.
After the hand I progressively started to build up the right side of the page and the top of the elevator. I was initially going to include New York style tenement stairways but felt that it was already quite heavy with detail so opted to leave them out but you can see the sketch work here.
Trying to create the illusion that the elevator was descending into darkness I laid on the shading more heavily at the bottom of the page.
And onto the left hand side of the page. I was considering more stairs and a fan but felt it would be better left clear for the film title and credit block.
And this is pretty much the finished illustration before scanning and layering. I wasn't very happy with Rourke/Harry Angel's face - I thought it looked a bit too much like wide-faced Leonardo DiCaprio - but was confident I could fix it later.
Then onto the scanning and layering. I added some block shading then added a textured layer to make it more grimy before trying out some colour variations. The sepia is good but we made the decision to have the red in to contrast with the rest of the design.
Then onto the text. Tried out some typewriter text ideas in keeping with Harry Angel's fifties private dick aesthetic but they didn't look quite right.
A less intrusive typewriter font that I quite liked but it still lacked a punch.
If in doubt lots of blood. I was hesitant to go down this route but there is actually a fair amount of blood splattered around the walls in Angel Heart. It still didn't quite fit the tone of the poster though.
Eventually we settled on a classic style font in keeping with the original poster. A few final tweaks included redoing Harry Angel's face, carrying on the hand outside of the frame and adding some steam/smoke and it was finished. It was one of the most challenging illustrations I've worked on but I think it's one of my strongest not least because I really like the concept. Louis Cypher is pulling the strings from the word go as the film follows Harry Angel's descent into who knows where...
Now go watch the movie then buy the print!
And a big thanks to Alex and the Frightfest Original team for not only putting out some amazing posters but also for giving me the opportunity/dream commission. Also thanks to the super talented Luke Insect for sending them in my direction.