By looking at this page, you can probably guess I'm a big Indiana Jones nerd... Well, so be it.  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was a great source of inspiration for me, and two of the artists who did the film's art campaign -- Drew Struzan and the late, great Richard Amsel -- I've aspired to emulate. (Struzan is widely reknown for his work on the Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Back to the Future series, while Amsel did the campaigns for THE STING, FLASH GORDON, THE CHAMP, THE SHOOTIST, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, THE DARK CRYSTAL, MAD MAX III, and countless TV Guide covers.) As for me, I'm still working on it, though I think I'm improving.

For this INDIANA JONES illustration, I'll coin the punchline Harrison Ford used so well: "I don't know, I'm making it up as I go..." That was a literal truth with this painting, made over the course of about three years. I wanted to feature a "poster" design similiar to that of Drew Struzan's work, but with closeups of the lead characters and a surrounding montage of events from the movie. I sorted through a variety of stills, selecting the two portraits of Harrison Ford and Karen Allen that I thought would be perfect...That is, until I decided to change my mind.

Here you can see the original sketch of what I had planned Indy & Marion to look like. Let me say here that every good artist should take their time, plan carefully, and try to have as thorough a sketch of the ENTIRE design as possible... But I'm not that good an artist. I instead insisted on doing the closeup portraits FIRST, under the impression that everything would go great as I went along. Oh well. For Marion, I sketched out and started to paint an alternate pose, but realized early on that I didn't like it, and I opted for another photo reference.

You can also see the early preparations for Marion as she appeared in the final painting. I covered the earlier painting with gesso, sketched in the new face, and placed over a basic coat of acrylic color. From there, I refine the portrait with more paint as well as colored pencil, layer after layer. (At this point, I was still set on using the old pose of Indy as shown...)

A quite paintful process: covering all the work I had done on Indy's mug with a layer of gesso. The gesso was sanded, and the new pose was sketched in. Yet while I liked it much more, it caused another dilemma: it conflicted with the smaller "montage" characters and scenes on the bottom. They, too, therefore needed to be re-done.

And now the work began to take its completed form. A black border was painted around the characters, as I wanted to incorporate an ancient-Egyptian style "frame".

The background sky was airbrushed in. For the smaller montage of characters, you can see that the original idea here, too, differed from the final product: Belloq is in a different pose, Toht has the same pose but is in a different position, and there was the inclusion of an image from the truck chase.

The "Ark" in the background was loosely brushed in, so I could have an idea as to how the color balance would look in relation to the characters. But at this point, halfway into the painting, I admitted to myself how much I hated Indy's pose. I tried to revise it over and over, but realized that the only way to get it right was to start over, from scratch.

I really wanted to keep the truck chase image, but it proved problematic in relation to Indy's jacket. I started out on the border "frame" by using a toothbrush to "flick" on specs of color for implying stonework. I had also originally planned to include montage elements on the TOP part of the frame (including a transparent plane flying over the "red line/world map"), but as the border design became more and more detailed, I decided not to overdo it.

Easily the hardest part of the painting for me was the Ark. I spent a good month on it. Getting the lighting and color right prior to airbrushing drove me half mad.

The fire was NOT my original idea, either -- it was too similiar to what Struzan did -- but I felt that it would be the best way to "marry" the montage elements together.

I also wanted to inject more color -- reds and yellows. This also required my adding red and yellow highlights to the "stone carvings" on the frame for a 3-D effect. (One person saw the image on the internet asked me, "Where did you buy the frame?" So I guess it turned out alright.)

The finished painting.