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Mondo Kong – Part Two

Here, I’m developing the pencils. I refine them with my 3H pencil (a 3H gives me a fairly hard, light line), getting a little darker as needed. If I need to go even darker, I switch to my HB pencil. Note that in the previous drawing I had made Kong‘s right leg too short, so I’ve lengthened it here (In studying Kong, I’ve found that he has very short legs in proportion to his massive body).

Seeing that I had inadvertently chosen one of the most difficult angles of which to draw Kong’s head, my pal, fellow artist and regular Journal contributor Rick Catizone just sent me a series of freeze-frame head shots of Kong taken from his DVD.

I had already done something similar. I began my first sketches of Kong’s head using a little cast I’ve got of Mighty Joe Young‘s head. That was OK for the rough, but I soon discovered many differences between Kong and Joe. I got out my Kong blu-ray (I don’t recommend the blu-ray version of King Kong, BTW; it looks like the first half of the film was shot in a sandstorm. Two things blu-ray does not do well: mist and smoke. It granulates both. For this same reason, the Island of Lost Souls blu-ray looks awful compared to the laser disc version) and went through it, shot-by-shot, looking for head poses similar to my drawing, then corrected my drawing accordingly. Now that I’ve got Rick’s pics, I’ll compare them to my drawing and see if anything needs adjusting (knowing, too, that the features of Kong’s head change throughout the movie depending upon which figure Willis O’Brien was using in each shot. Then, there’s that giant head they constructed which bears little resemblance to the stop motion figures’ heads).

I’m comfortable with obscuring part of “KING”, as “KONG” is so associated with “KING KONG” that I think any of my potential audience will get the “KING” part because they’ll see the associated “KONG” and put two and two together. It’s all part of my making my audience a participant in the picture. Plus, I wanted to have the K, N and G  of “KING” and “KONG” directly on top of each other. The problem with that is the funky spacing (there’s too much room around the “I” compared with the tiny spacing between the other letters) of the “I” in “KING”. I solved this problem by overlapping the Tyrannosaurus rex head over most of the “I”, giving the viewer something interesting to look at while obscuring the “I” (as I pointed out, also making the viewer a participant, as the viewer has to figure out that’s an “I”). My theory is that if you have a big T. rex head to look at, you won’t mind the odd spacing.

Also note that I tipped the “KING” back in perspective to lead the viewer’s eyes into the picture. I have also designed the picture so that the main composition of the Kong/T.rex tableau is triangular. Then, I set it against a big “U” design (the negative space behind Kong). The triangular design psychologically suggests stability and triumph. The “U” leaves a psychological impression of sadness or depression with the bottom of the “U” graphically pushing down. The overall effect, psychologically, of this triangular shape placed on top of a “U” is Triumph over Adversity.

Typically, I tightly (and I mean tightly; it’s a holdover from my days with Kurtzman & Elder on Little Annie Fanny) pencil everything before I start inking. In this case, my deadline is looming, so I’ve penciled everything a little looser than I usually do. I am also doing tight pencils to little sections I’m unsure of just before I ink them, something that probably won’t show up too much in this step-by-step demonstration, unless you go back and forth, comparing pencils to inks.

A word about how I’m inking this baby: Recently, my publisher John Fleskes came down and stayed with me. He showed me a film he had shot of my friend Mark Schultz at work. It included many close-ups of Mark inking. I was amazed at how loose Mark’s approach is to inking. He tightens everything up towards the end. As an experiment, I decided to try this same approach. It seems to be working so far…

I never thought I’d be turning to Mark Schultz for tips on how to speed up my art process…!!!

To Be Continued…

4 thoughts on “Mondo Kong – Part Two

  1. I know you’re just getting started but it looks sweet. Thanks for sharing the entire process with us. Feels like we’re peeking over your shoulder.


  2. Hey Mr. Stout,

    This is a beauty! I’m afraid I don’t get the whole U form and how it works psychologically in this particular instance. To me it looks, at least at this point with the background yet to be inked, like the negative space creates an arch over Kong. That form with the jungle vines you have inked reminds me of the depth the film achieved by shooting through glass mattes in various scenes. The tipping of the KING is brilliant and makes me think the whole scene might be set on top of gigantic steps carved by the lost civilization that created the wall in the film. Oh, and putting the pterodactyls in overhead is another genius stroke. It’s like they’ve all been put to flight by the battle between these titans. Just wonderful! And yes, I am a big fan of the original film. How could you tell?
    I can’t wait to see this finished up. Thanks for giving us a look at it.

    Best Wishes,

  3. Bill hasn’t mentioned it (although I bet he’ll be there if his schedule permits) but on Sunday March 24th in Pomona, California (it’s just east of Los Angeles) the old Pomona Fox theater will have an 80th anniversary screening of the original King Kong. Tickets are only $9.00. Info at

  4. @ Aaron,
    The “U” is not very apparent in this penciling. The inking will bring it out. Thanks for your other comments, too. You really seem to “get” what I was going for, and that’s very gratifying.

    @ James,
    As James indicated, this is the year (Kong’s 80th anniversary) for you and your loved ones to experience King Kong on the Big Screen. I’m sure the March screening will be the first of many. The first time I took my daughter Faith to see Kong on the Big Screen was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater. A teenage Jody Foster sat behind us with her date.

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