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  • Writer's picturePeter

Charcoal: U2's 'War' album and a bit of a change...

I just recently had the privilege of doing a commissioned piece based on the cover-art for U2's 1983 album 'War' which features a boy named Peter Rowen (son of Bono's friend Guggi, and nowadays a famous photographer in his own right).


The original piece is much larger than my usual work, and I hadn't realised the difficulty of up-scaling correctly when using my usual method of drawing from the eyes outward and then comparing shapes etc, or the other method I tend to use of doing a sketch first and working the scale from that (which is very handy when you need to get the drawing central on the sheet).

For this piece I decided to try the method of using grid lines which I've never tried before. I was never keen to use it and I don't know why since it really worked! I tend to be somewhat over-eager when it comes to starting a piece preferring to just get on and start, which meant that spending an hour measuring up rather mundane grid lines was (and always will be) not the most enjoyable of tasks. Couple that with spending a further 2 to 3 hrs outlining the basic detail also didn't seem very exciting either, however once it was all filled out I was quite surprised at how easy it all turned out to be. The size of this piece did seem quite overwhelming to begin with, but once it's broken down in to bite-size little squares I found I could focus entirely on one section at a time, filling in around 6 squares in one session, which also gives a good indication of progress and how long it could take to complete. Reminiscing, It took me back to revising for my GCSE's years ago, and the 'bite-size' method books we had in order to revise school subjects such as maths, biology or chemistry, and I scraped through my GCSE's somehow with those! Needless to say, In the end I think this piece took around 3 weeks to finish, a little at a time.

One more thing to mention, this work is also predominantly more charcoal than pencil. The album artwork itself didn't really lend itself to the usual pencil lead as the detail on the album cover is actually minimal, and the raw hardness and 'dirt' of charcoal absolutely captures the nature of the album cover. Pencil would have been more grey tones with it's graphite shimmer - far too lovely for an album called 'war'. So charcoal it was!


If you have impeccable taste in music and are therefore a big fan of U2 - and by chance you're also in the market for a print or two then head over to my Etsy shop, they're available now. Print sizes are smaller than the original at 17"x13" portrait, but if you would like a specific size do contact me and I'll see what I can do. (click this link below)



Next job: David Attenborough! Update coming soon!


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