Project Friday—A Movie-Related Sketching Project

April 3, 2015


Above: First sketch while watching "Ironclad." Pentel pigment ink ColorBrush with fine tip and washes with Pentel dye-based ink ColorBrush and Niji waterbrush. Japanese Lined Journal (7 x 10 inches).

Note: All the images in today's post are made with the same media in the same book as the first image—Pentel pigment ink ColorBrush with fine tip and washes with Pentel dye-based ink ColorBrush and Niji waterbrush. Japanese Lined Journal (7 x 10 inches). Some also contain color from 15- and 30-mm Montana Markers. If you click on any of the images they will expand so that you can see them in greater detail.

Back in January when I was house-bound with bronchitis I did a lot of video streaming. I didn't have a lot of energy. I'd sit at the computer and try to get some work done, and then go eat lunch and lunch would turn into sketching. I just really wanted to be out and about at the zoo and life drawing.


I can honestly say I watched so much film and TV that I became impatient with it! (Never ever thought that would happen.) I also became pretty grumpy. Dick had to deal with that. I did try to apologize, but then we both started laughing half way through my apology because we both knew things weren't going to change until I got well.

During times like that I really need a project to keep me sane. Sometimes a project lasts for a month or a week. Today I'm showing you my self-imposed project of two half-day's duration, i.e., I started it one evening, and I finished it the next morning: I sketched my way through "Ironclad."


Look I don't know why I selected this movie to watch in the first place. If I'm not feeling well I tend to lean towards comfort food like Westerns or Film Noir. Perhaps I saw that Paul Giamatti was in it (as King John!), or Brian Cox (I am a fan of Brian Cox). The truth is, as I made my way through "Ironclad" (and believe me this is a movie you make your way through, you don't just watch it) so many of my favorite actors stopped by for a visit that at one point I actually thought my fever had returned.

"Ironclad," if you don't already know, is a movie about that happens AFTER King John signs the Magna Carta. No one follows through on what is agreed, and King John decides he's pretty pissed off, so he goes after the barons big time. Enter our "heroes," a rag-tag band of men who've served in whatever war de jour was going on, and who happen to be fond of the Baron, played by Brian Cox. It's shear lunacy coupled with a death wish, but they all sign on to travel to a strategically located castle and hold it against the king. The pope has abandoned them all by invalidating the Magna Carta, but that doesn't dissuade our motley crew.

(Some of it didn't jive with the few details I recalled from history class, but I wasn't watching the movie for historical accuracy. I was watching because it was a motley crew movie.)  


So in the initial scenes the movie seems like the "Magnificent Seven," guys signing on for a bit of a lark, pushing back a bandit bully. Very quickly, however, the movie turns into the "Alamo."

The movie is not for the squeamish. This is a WAR movie. It is a gruesome movie. While shell-shock "seems" to be a "modern" invention, there were all sorts of ways to mess up men's minds in war when all that was on offer was a million arrows and some burning oil. This movie is a catalog of 13th century siege warfare—along with those arrows and oil, you'll see all sorts of blades used to impale, pierce, and dismember; tongues will be lost; people will hang (or hang themselves); you'll see interior views of human anatomy. At times it seemed as if modern CSI techniques were applied to give us accurate blood-spatter patterns. Gory does not even begin to describe this movie. By the end of the evening (when I had watched about half the movie) I admit I was a bit overcome by the futility, not just of war, but of the whole history of man, after watching characters I had grown fond of, and others I'd known only for seconds, meet some graphic end.)

Don't think you can watch a little of this movie to see what it's like. Very quickly into the movie people start dropping like flies. I stopped cataloging various ways to kill a person with a blade when I got to 15 (and the movie had hardly started). 


Above: This is the last sketch I did that evening. It was time to go to bed.

I have a movie sickness. Once I start a movie I pretty much have to always finish it, no matter how bad (i.e., poorly written, shot, acted, etc.) or how violent, gross, etc. Exceptions fall into the "definitely not funny—" and "endangerment of kids and animals—" categories. There are other categories, but frankly I'm finding it hard to think of a movie I started but didn't finish recently, so we'll just leave it at that.

In part I keep watching because I want to believe that sometime during the movie making and editing process someone took charge and said "hey, we can still save this." And I want to see that last minute save. I just need to know what happens. It's the same reason I read books from start to finish, even if I don't like them—but I make one condition with books, I have to love the first two pages or I do stop reading. Why I give movies a pass I'm not really sure. Maybe I still hope that 3 act structure is alive and well. Maybe I'm just jaded and waiting to be surprised.



Above: First sketch made when I resumed viewing the next evening. This is also my favorite sketch of the series. I believe that the other sketches "set me up" to do this one. I knew what I wanted to do with the ink and the washes and how I wanted to show that greying beard.

On this particular day I kept watching because the movie was beautiful. It was grainy and gritty, but crisp. Everything was so clear I thought my eyeglass problems had been solved. (I drew all of these without my glasses.)

150126_CharlesDanceDETLeft: Here's a detail view from the last image above. Click on this one and it will also enlarge.

And the cameraman loved the faces. Absolutely loved the faces, from every angle you could imagine. So if I couldn't go to life drawing I decided life drawing was coming to me. I picked up my pen and started to sketch. (I did stop the video for each of the sketches shown here. They took from 15 to 30 minutes. Then I'd go back to watching.) 

So that's what I did on January 25 and 26 this year. And while I really can't recommend that you watch "Ironclad" (because it is definitely not everyone's cup of tea), I will encourage you to pick a movie with strong facial visuals ("Long, Hot Summer" is a fun one, pretty much any Billy Wilder film would be a good choice, "Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra, any of Hitchcock's movies, anything by Akira Kurosawa; the list is endless) and watch and sketch and watch and sketch and watch and sketch, as fast as you can, one right after the other (as soon as you get to another face that interests you, which with luck will only be a few moments). 

Experiment with your paint if you want, use only pen, use pen and wash. Do whatever works for you to get something down on paper. 

Do NOT stop to consider what you're getting down, just keep working as you would when you are at life drawing: turn the page and keep working. Some of your sketches will work, others might be less successful—you'll know 2 days later when you take them all out to look at them again.

It's a good way to get some sketching practice in if you're housebound, have missed life drawing, or are living with someone who shows signs of becoming weary of posing for you. (My being ill was really hard on Dick in so many ways.)

Caveat: I advise you to avoid selecting a horror movie for this project. (Especially if you are staying up late alone.) If you want to watch "Ironclad" you can see it streaming right now on Netflix.

Oh, and some people may wonder why I didn't sketch James Purefoy who was the "hero" or main character. Everyone else was a lot more animated; his character was brooding, glum; and he has borderline symmetrical features and you know how I feel about that


  1. Reply

    Great sketches!! Oh my this sounds perfect for a binge watch with my son. When I visit him we tend to binge watch gory violent TV series like walking dead and pacific but first I have to go to the Atlanta aet stores to procure more supplies as if I don’t have enough lol. Can you imagine I left my Pentel color brushes at home. I wanted to draw my son again. DUH!! I bet they sell more at Blicks or Sam Flaxs! ?? At the rate I use them at dr Sketchys I will need more anyway. Ten sketches in one sitting goes thru the ink!! Bytw I ordered one of those Apica notebooks from amazon. Wafting it’s way to me as I write!!

  2. Reply

    He does. He’s watching Lucky Number Slevin tonite. We watched Ironclad. Historically inaccurate but a great story. John is so vile. I did have to look away at some of the bloodier parts but we give it a thumbs up. I am going to tell my son about this one tomorrow. History and war. His thing!

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