On Being a Vampire Diarist

Last month, for the first time in over 5 years, I was officially back in the movie business, if only for few days. My friend Joeprops was in Atlanta, having taken over as propmaster of The Vampire Diaries. After completing a few small graphics jobs Joe pitched me on cool new project: illustrating a prop journal that one of the characters was slated to find in an upcoming episode (now known as “The Turning Point“, which aired on November 19, 2009). After thinking about the job for a day I agreed to have a whack at the drawings and spent the following weekend studying old woodcuts, peering through antiquated investigations of human anatomy, prying into the secret code of the Philosopher’s Stone, learning the vagaries of pentagrams, and generally trying to inhabit the mind of the book’s fictional author.

Next, I dug up my collection of Speedball inking nibs and a jar of good old-fashioned black ink and started in to drawing. Each drawing was done without penciled-in sketches – it’s just straight from the pen to the paper, just like in my real sketchbooks. I’m not a commercial artist, but neither was “Jonathan Gilbert” the character who supposedly created the drawings, and I thought the book’s drawings should feel genuine, not overly art directed (which is actually art direction in itself).

The prop department did some light aging to the pages but the grownups wanted them to look much older, so we employed my personal favorite method of aging paper which involves a strong brownian solution, a simple newtonian time machine and good timing. Out of all the pages we treated there was only one mishap – one of my ancient vampire curses lingered too long in our secret aging device and began smoldering with the hate of a thousand slain vampires until we doused it in the sink…. for the next 30 minutes every person who walked through the break room remarked on the lingering scent of charred vampire poop.

That’ll sure make your eyes water.

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