“Tomorrow We Die!” Thrilling Detective Pulp Cover


When I saw this pulp cover from October 1938 (left), I was immediately struck by the beauty of the woman holding the smoking gun. I’m still researching the original cover artist but it was certainly one of the now-famous pulp illustrators.

As per usual, the original was most likely painted in oils. I can tell because of the glazing of the skin. When I do a copy like this I work as though I’m painting in oils and not in watermedia. This approach has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, it helps me understand how the original artist painted the piece (which is the real goal.) On the minus side, because I’m not handling the painting as I would a watermedia piece, it suffers in some ways. One of the most notable ways is in the smoothness of the skin tones. Glazing of oils and glazing of watercolor/gouache/casein are different. The beauty of skin tones painted in watermedia relies on light and transparency. The beauty of skin tones painted in oils relies on the paint itself applied in delicate, almost velvety, layers built up slowly. You don’t want to see the support beneath the paint in oil painting. In watermedia, you do. With watermedia that you can use opaquely, such as casein and acrylic, you can treat the subject as with oils and build up layers to hide the luminously of the surface beneath and that’s what I’ve done here. But the results are not the same, at least in my handling of it. If I approached this painting as I would a watercolor, for example, the skin tones would look more luminous but the overall effect would not look like the original.

I’m quite pleased with this copy, I think it’s one of my best to date. This painting also provided me with another opportunity — to try out a painting on my new drafting table which you can see in this photo. The table has been working out great, better even than I’d hoped.  Cheers!

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