On January 9th of this year, Stoo Metz celebrated the 1st year of his new life. To commemorate this anniversary he commissioned me to draw his portrait. The visual challenge for me as illustrator was to make a cliched sword-and-sorcery trope work to portray a critical time in Stoo’s life with enough humor and humility to do justice to his nature.
For the portrait he envisioned himself as a victorious fighter, standing proudly on the bodies of his vanquished Personal Demons: since Stoo said goodbye to smoke and drink, and dedicated himself to a healthier lifestyle and the pursuit of his long-lost love (photography) he has been a new man.
The ‘victorious warrior on a pile of defeated foes’ is a cliche I would normally steer clear of, but the humour of imagining Stoo in that context was enough to give me access to the idea and let me have fun with it. Stoo is a fun-loving and immensely sociable person, not at all your Conan type. As such he cuts a pretty amusing figure in this scene, but at the same time the determination on his face is very much Stoo: he has really stuck to his guns this year and has made big changes in his life that many fail to achieve. There’s a genuine everyday courage behind these kinds of changes.
Working with the scene Stoo had layed out for me, my first choice was to bump up the cheesiness of the picture by framing his head with a giant, full moon. In addition to being humorous this also allowed me to establish a dramatic color scheme for the picture by putting in purple sky between the yellow of the moon and the red of the devils’ corpses.
From there I worked in some details that would help to tell a little more about Stoo. Rather than give him a big barbarian axe or sword, I chose an over-sized chef’s knife which he’s used to slice the demons like tomatoes. Stoo and I met at my first kitchen job, and he has continued to work as a cook alongside his work as a photographer – note also the camera slung over his shoulder. His pet tarantula Shelob is in the scene as well, and the shirt he’s wearing is one printed by a mutual acquaintance of ours, the artist Geordan Aaron Moore.
Stoo also asked that I work in a few specific details, like a lion, crows, the initials of some friends who helped keep him motivated over the last few years, and particularly his tattoo with some Queens Of The Stone Age lyrics that were a mantra for him in 2010: ‘Give me Toro/ Give me some more’.