Saturday, October 15, 2011

Death Dealer commission

by Petar Meseldzija
A few weeks ago I posted a series of entries on my blog that were showing the progress of a recent commission. Each time I did a sketch, or a preliminary drawing, I posted it so that the people who visited my blog could follow the developments. For all of you who are not aware of the existence of these posts, I have put together all of the entries previously posted on my blog.
Day 1
For you who are anxious to know what is going on on my drawing table, I decided to post a series of entries that will follow the development of a commission I am working on at this very moment. It is a Frazetta’s Death Dealer drawing commission, inspiring on one hand, intimidating on the other. I find myself on the Master Frazetta’s grounds. This is enough to give me a feeling of inadequacy, which is not a very good  mental state to start a commission with. However, in the next couple of days I will try not to embarrass myself and hopefully produce something that will do justice to this famous character and his creator.
At the same time I am offering you for the first time a seat in the front row and hope that you will enjoy the show, although at the moment I do not know what kind of show you are about to see; an embarrassing  comedy, a disappointing horror or an inspiring adventure story. Well, we shall see…
This is the first rough thumbnail drawn quickly on an envelope.

The next quick thumbnail made with pencils on a proper sheet of paper.

First two rough sketches based on the thumbnails. The idea about the future composition starts to develop itself and the more concrete forms start to appear.

Apart from a few reference images of Death Dealer, this is the only reference that I use at this stage. It is a drawing of an athlete that I did some years ago. It helps me focus on the anatomy and the movement.

Day 2
Yesterday I did the further study of the character and tried to explore the possibilities of the chosen pose. I intentionally left out the remaining compositional elements in order to focus on the Death Dealer only, and to squeeze out the maximum of the dynamic movement from this relatively static pose. This is the big trick and the most important objective of this composition, and I am not yet done with it.

Day 3
Here is another version of the same pose. And I’m still searching…

Day 4
Yet another attempt to get the right posture, with just the right amount of explosiveness. Not too much, not too little... And although I liked the subtlety of the pencil work of this drawing, I had to abandon it because it still did not feel right. 

Day 5
I think I GOT it right this time…This evening, while waiting for my diner to be ready, I did this little sketch. Although I gave myself free today, I could not forget about the drawing and I kept seeing Death Dealer in my mind. One of these inner pictures showed me the way…However, I think I should wait until tomorrow morning, for the morning is wiser than the evening, in order to see whether I actually have captured the right movement, or not…If yes, the rest of the drawing shouldn’t be a problem… I think…


Day 6
Well, I don’t like Monday. You never know what Monday is going to bring you. Last Monday brought me this sketch which, as a composition, is embarrassingly close to Frazetta’s Death Dealer 2 painting.
I could not resist the temptation and had to try my inferior hand on this iconic pose.

Day 7
Due to a very urgent business I had to abandon the Death Dealer commission for a few days. But today around noon, when nobody was watching, I went to my studio and did another quick sketch…

Day 8
Yesterday I received this interesting email and I thought you might want to read it…
Hi Petar,

You don't know me. I'm Henrik Pettersson (carnalizer on the internet). I've been watching your Death Dealer sketches closely as I'm a fan of both you and Frank. I have no idea if you feel you need or want feedback, but I just wanted to show what I thought was "not so Frazetta" about you sketches. They are awesome in their own right and if anyone can pull of a good FF these days it's you.

Here goes. Sorry about the abuse of you sketch. First is how I perceive your Death Dealer sketch(es), second is how I feel FF got it.

I'm sure you are aware. I can sense you're after a very specific moment of tension. The pose is good and the anatomy fantastic, but I don't think it's what Frank would have chosen.

Please don't be offended by my mail. It is in utmost well-meaning.

Best regards,
Henrik Pettersson

Day 9
Today I have tried to put all the elements together, and although the composition is not yet entirely to my liking, I hope that this will be the last preliminary drawing.

Day 10
(Com)mission completed!

While I was working on the Death Dealer commission many people were reacting on the posted sketches. Some comments were positive and encouraging, other were critical about one or another aspect of the sketch and often very much attached to the personal taste of the commentator in question. Nevertheless, all of them were useful in one or another way and they contained an important lesson.
While the work on this commission was going on, I decided not to react to the comments because:
Firstly, I did not know how this commission will turn out (the possibility of a failure was hanging above my head, and I think I was the only one who was absolutely not sure about the outcome of this commission. I think most of the people who left a comment where sure that the final result will be “fantastic”. I wish I had the same amount of optimism about my own work as they did).

Secondly, I was hoping that the posted sketches, and the final drawing, would give the best answer to most of the questions and comments.

All in all, this was a very useful experiment and a great experience. Apart from the insights that I have gained about the way others perceive us and our creations, as well as becoming more aware of my own faults, the most important conclusions of this commission were the following two things:

Am I satisfied with my own work? Did I achieve my own objectives?
And, is the client pleased with the results?

Well, having in mind that I was drawing somebody else’s character and have been “visiting” somebody else’s world, I must say that I am satisfied, although I realize that there are a few things that I could have done better.

As for the client ( in this case it is Gregg Spatz from the US, an art collector with great passion for art and a sophisticated taste), upon seeing the final drawing he wrote to me: “…the drawing is exactly what I had expected from you and maybe even more…”.
At the end I would like to point out an important thing. Because Death Dealer is  a famous Frazetta character, some people expected me to approach the drawing as Frazetta would do.  My Death Dealer drawing is in fact an homage to the Master, rather than a copy of his character. I am not (and don’t want to be) an epigone of another artist. I am an independent creator with his own vision, and his own abilities.
I think it is better to be a lesser-Meseldzija, that a lesser-Frazetta. One Frazetta in this world is more than enough. What we need ( generally speaking) are new visions, new approaches, new roads that will lead us to Rome, so to speak.
Have a great day!


  1. This is an excellent post (as usual). The walk through of the process of 'finding' the final image is fantastic. Non-artists don't appreciate the work that goes into composing an artwork and I foolishly sometimes count the amount of 'searching' I do against myself. It's so good to see professional artists confidently showing the world this is how it's done. Thank you. Inspiring.

  2. It was tremendous fun watching this drawing grow. Perhaps the best part was observing how you dealt with comments and suggestions. It is a great lesson for students especially those who try to take and implement every suggestion given. It is rarely possible. You accomplished this with your usual good grace and finished a wonderful drawing.

  3. Fantastic post, many thanks.

    It's fascinating to see how you travel from the first sketches, through several different versions, and into the final.

    I'd be interested to know what size the drawing is.

  4. Awesome, thanks for sharing your process Petar!

  5. I love your work SO much. You inspire me to be a better artist.

  6. Bravo- thanks for sharing the process with us!

  7. As you probably suspect, I spend much time and energy composing my posts (because I think that blogging is (or should be) a serious business) , and although I am not TELLING you how to be a better artist, I always hope that my humble words and pictures might be inspiring to some degree. Therefore I am truly happy when somebody says: “ …You INSPIRE me to be a better artist!”
    Thanks for letting me know what you think of my posts, guys! As Dan Dos Santos recently said: “Your encouraging words and intelligent input are what keep us going”.

  8. Sam – the size of the drawing is 16 ½ x 12 ½ inch

  9. That is a very nice drawing! Much effort went into it and the result is definitely a 'Meseldžija', not a Frazetta.

    Quite glad you didn't go with the alternative pose. In Frazetta's version there is no way the Death Dealer could strike down and have his arms not be caught by the horns of his helmet. In your sketch it isn't a problem, but it would still be a reminder of this mistake by Frazetta :-)

  10. Petar,

    Excellent post and love the progressions. The image is wonderful and a tough one to do since it is such an iconic figure as was Frank.

    He would often say " why be a second rate me (Frazetta) when you can be a first rate you"

    Well, you are a first rate you and he would have loved the image........just as we all do. My opinion anyways.....

    Thanks for sharing the image and process.

    All the best



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