Frankenstein Head Studies

I recently attended a performance of the play Arsenic and Old Lace which brought back memories from when I had acted in it myself when I attended college. This specific performance was particularly special as it was directed by and starred my friend Daniel Roebuck who is a ginormous fan of the late great Boris Karloff.  Danny’s role was, of course, the part originated by Karloff on Broadway many years ago.

If you are not up on your classic movie trivia, Karloff is forever etched in the memory of horror buffs as playing the Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster in the early 1930s. In Arsenic, there was the running gag that Karloff’s character (Jonathan Brewster) looks as scary as Boris Karloff – a joke made funnier with Karloff actually in the role.  So Danny had make-up that transformed his face to resemble Frankenstein/Karloff. What made the evening even a little more special was that Karloff’s daughter, Sarah, was in the audience.

Boris Karloff's daughter Sarah, Daniel Roebuck as Jonathan Brewster, and Chad Frye after a performance of "Arsenic and Old Lace" in January, 2009.

Anyway, I tell you that only because that experience put my mind on a Frankenstein kick for the past few weeks. I’m toying with the idea of doing a couple of final pieces featuring the monster. For now, though, I wanted to explore how my monster might look.

Often when I begin a project, I have an image in my head that cascades forth onto the paper. Sometimes it doesn’t elegantly cascade so much as blort out, but after one or two attempts, I run with it. In approaching a character as famous as Frankenstein’s monster, a broader visual exploration seemed more tantalizing. Everyone has an idea of what this character looks like because of Karloff’s flat headed, bolts-in-the-neck, heavy lidded creepy monster. What can I bring to it?

So, the following head studies represent my own Frankenstein experiments to see what will come ALIVE!  I’ve been playing around with size of nose, forehead, jaw, etc. Some are mean, some scary, some even smiling.  It’s amazing that no matter what part of the face changes from sketch to sketch, each one is recognizable as Frankenstein’s monster.  Goes to show there are always more solutions to a problem than the original thought in the artist’s head.



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