Ordinarily, concept art for film is created as a means of visualizing scenes before they are staged and filmed; giving directors, designers and production companies a guide as they develop the components necessary to actually bring the scene to to the screen.
However, according to Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter, this is a case of specialized concept art being utilized at a much earlier stage — to sell the film idea to the studio.
Producer Lionel Wigram had the idea for the action hero take on the Sherlock Holmes tradition, but felt that a written story treatment wasn’t sufficient to get the idea across to the studio executives.
He contacted Gregory Noveck at DC Comics and asked for a recommendation for an artist who could help him convey the idea visually. Noveck suggested John Watkiss, an artist with experience in both comics and movie concept art (see my previous post on John Watkiss).
Working together they created a comic book like pamphlet with illustrations that got across a visual and dramatic punch that sold the movie to the studio. (The comic-like format led to rumors for a while that a Watkiss-illustrated Sherlock Holmes graphic novel was in the offing, but unfortunately that was not the case.)
Watkiss used dramatically staged ink and tone drawings, heavy with chiaroscuro, to convey both the mood and action intended in the production.
The drawings themselves are an unusual style for concept art, but work beautifully for the purpose (and would have made for a terrific graphic story).
Many of the original illustrations are currently on display, and for sale, at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA, in an exhibit called The Art of the Motion Picture: “Sherlock Holmes” by Jon Watkiss, that runs until January 18 2010.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you might consider some of the images plot spoilers.