Process, sketches, inks and colors
The client asked for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as bikers. They didn't have many specifics in mind, which leaves me with a huge amount of freedom, but can also lead to doing a ton of work that doesn't get approved. I could easily see this happening with the character design on this one, so I did the following 43 character heads to narrow down what they really want for each of the four riders.
These sketches proved to be extremely helpful in figuring out the character designs without having to do a billion revisions. Huge time saver for me and the client. I did want to have a few of the riders be girls, but they didn't go for that (so watch out for the female versions of the riders in the future).
The various numbered heads allowed the client to easily navigate each design. Instead of saying, "The one in the upper right-ish area that kind of looks like a sailor..." they can just say, "number 7." You'll notice that they liked a few of these designs with very few changes.
I did the same for the bikes. A lot of people would tackle this scene with the riders riding down the freeway, but I pitched the idea of have them be posed for a club photo. I have some riding experience and I've found that the real hard core dudes don't feel the need to front and show off. The biggest threats would be casually standing next to their bikes not caring what you thought of them. I took that into the poses of these guys and wanted them to be intimidating (low camera angle) but casual about it. I explained why I wanted to do the fanned out bikes and the client went for it.
After I nailed down the arrangement of the bikes and the four riders' heads, I got out my big paper. I like sketching really large, especially since this will be an 8 foot wide sign. You'll notice that I was playing a little with the symbolism of each rider and how their attributes might translate to clothing, weapons, bike and physical appearance. The riders, War, Famine, Death and Pestilence, are each described with what they do and the color of their horse in the Book of Revelation.
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I outfitted War with as many different types of soldiers' gear that I could. I used uniforms, gear and weapons from different time periods and countries including Ancient Greece, Colonial UK, LA streets, Medieval Europe, WWII and Vietnam. His bike is a red modified WWI with mounted ammo box and rifle.
Famine was a really fun one to do. First off, I was trying to decide whether he'd be really fat, as if he was causing the famine or whether he'd be really emaciated. I decided to go with the latter because I wanted these guys to be the embodiment rather than the cause of what they represent. So, Famine looks like he hasn't eaten in a long time. Everything in the verses is represented here.
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.
He has the judgement scales and his sleeve tattoo references Rev 6:6. His Converse Chuck Taylors and bike are thin and stripped down. I went with tall narrow ape hangers to elongate the bike and make it feel thinner.
Death was interesting because The Reaper has been pretty well defined by many artists and writers in the past. I went with a thick Roadking style bike to add to the weighty idea of death. The color of the bike is described as "pale," but apocryphal writings often depict and describe this color as a sickly light green, or the color of a corpse. I added the bandana because I want these riders to feel authentic and not cartoonie. I used to roll with a dude that just used a bandana over his nose and mouth when he rides.
Pestilence (aka conquest) has a white bike. Again, with the embodiment idea, Pestilence wears a modified steampunk gas mask to protect against the pollution, poison and plague. He's wearing a shearling lined Swiss Army Sniper jacket called the m1909 field coat. This is the same jacket worn by Batman's Bane and Vin Diesel in XXX. There's a lot of symbolism here, firstly, it's part of a military uniform, but it also has the symbolism of the sheep's skin, or in other words, something had to die to make that jacket.