Meet the Artist Who's Drawing Every Character From Every Coen Brothers Movie Ever Made

Stephen Case
Stephen Case

Ethan and Joel Coen have directed 17 films spanning three decades, and in that time, they’ve brought some pretty memorable characters to life. They’ve given us the laid-back Dude from The Big Lebowski (1998), the bloodthirsty Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men (2007), and Ulysses, a charming “Dapper Dan man” who leads a band of escaped criminals in O Brother Where Art Thou (2000).

A caricature of Anton Chigurh
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men
Stephen Case

As it turns out, these characters aren’t just enjoyable to watch—they’re also fun to draw, according to Hong Kong-based artist Stephen Case, who's currently making caricatures of every character from every Coen brothers film ever made. If you count major and minor characters—plus some of the more intriguing extras, and the cast of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a forthcoming anthology film—that works out to be well over 700 planned drawings.

This estimate is based on the 100-plus hours of research that Case has put into the project, a figure that doesn't include the time it takes to actually create each drawing. While this may seem like a daunting task, Case has enjoyed rewatching all 17 films, beginning with Blood Simple (1984) and ending with Hail, Caesar! (2016). Case said the idea for the project came from friend and fellow artist Harvey Chan, and it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“What I love about the Coens is, firstly, I'm a huge fan. One of my all-time favorite movies is The Big Lebowski, but they also have many other classics,” Case tells Mental Floss. “Secondly, all their characters are so ripe for caricature, from the lead characters down to the extras.”

Take, for instance, Chad—a dim-witted gym employee in Burn After Reading (2008) who's often seen with his mouth agape.

A caricature of Chad Feldheimer
Brad Pitt as Chad Feldheimer in Burn After Reading
Stephen Case/Netflix

While watching a movie, Case takes screenshots of the characters he wants to depict, then separates the images into individual computer files.

Next, it’s time to draw. He typically starts with a pencil sketch, then scans the image into his computer and uses Photoshop to digitally add in the color and brushwork. The goal is to achieve a likeness of the character without overexaggerating the features to the point where they're unrecognizable.

Ultimately, Case chooses which characters to include in the project. While he won't take on every extra ever shown in a Coen film, he says he will give characters with “decent screen time” or at least one line of dialogue their due diligence.

“For Raising Arizona, I'll only draw one of the babies rather than all of them, for example,” Case says, referring to the scene in which infertile ex-convict H.I. McDunnough, played by Nicolas Cage, kidnaps one of five babies belonging to a local businessman.

A caricature of H.I. McDunnough
Nicolas Cage as H.I. McDunnough in Raising Arizona
Stephen Case

Case also finds inspiration in characters that make an outsized impression for the relatively short time they spend on screen, like the mysterious visitor in the opening of A Serious Man (2009), who is believed to be a dybbuk (Yiddish evil spirit).

"This is going to be one of the best parts of this project—drawing faces like this," Case wrote in a caption accompanying the drawing. "Most of the Coen Bros characters are ripe for caricature, but faces like this are a gift from God ... or Yahweh ... or whoever."

Caricature of a Yiddish dybbuk
Fyvush Finkel as a Yiddish dybbuk in A Serious Man
Stephen Case/Netflix

The most obscure drawing he has completed so far, though, is of a curmudgeonly man who appears for one second in a painting hanging above Freddy Riedenschneider’s hotel bed in The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001).

“It's probably better to draw people as famous as possible, but with the Coens, some of the best characters are extras or those who have small parts,” Case says. “While they may be wasted on a lot of people, I figure fans of the movies will get a kick out of it.”

As for his favorite Coen character? “If I had to choose one it'd have to be John Goodman's Walter in The Big Lebowski,” Case says.

Some of his caricatures are currently on display at Swing A Cat, the art gallery and studio Case owns in Hong Kong. You can also check out his work on Patreon. He says he’s entertaining the idea of publishing a book of his Coen caricatures down the road.

So far, Case has finished about 35 drawings completely. And while he still has a long way to go to reach his goal, see if you can recognize some of the characters he's drawn already:

A caricature of Abby from Blood Simple
Frances McDormand as Abby in Blood Simple (1984)
Stephen Case

A caricature of Carlotta Valdez
Veronica Osorio as Carlotta Valdez in Hail, Caesar! (2016)
Stephen Case

A caricature of Carson Wells
Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells in No Country for Old Men (2007)
Stephen Case

A caricature of the Big Lebowski
Stephen Case

National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Aretha Franklin With Week-Long Exhibition

Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA
Courtesy of Angela Pham BFA

With the passing of Aretha Franklin on August 16, 2018, the world has lost one of its most distinctive voices—and personalities. As celebrities and fans share their memories of the Queen of Soul and what her music meant to them, the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery will pay tribute to the legendary songstress's life with a week-long exhibition of her portrait.

Throughout her career, Franklin earned some of the music industry's highest accolades, including 18 Grammy Awards. In 1987, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015, the National Portrait Gallery fêted Franklin with the Portrait of a Nation Prize, which recognizes "the accomplishments of notable contemporary Americans whose portraits reside in the National Portrait Gallery collection." (Madeline Albright, Spike Lee, and Rita Moreno are among some of its recent recipients.)

Milton Glaser's lithograph of Aretha Franklin, which is displayed at The National Portrait Gallery
© Milton Glaser

Franklin's portrait was the creation of noted graphic designer Milton Glaser, who employed "his characteristic kaleidoscope palette and innovative geometric forms to convey the creative energy of Franklin's performances," according to the Gallery. The colorful lithographic was created in 1968, the very same year that the National Portrait Gallery opened.

Glaser's image will be installed in the "In Memoriam" section of the museum, which is located on the first floor, on Friday, August 17 and will remain on display to the public through August 22, 2018. The Gallery is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and admission is free.

This Wall Chart Shows Almost 130 Species of Shark—All Drawn to Scale

Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Shark Week may be over, but who says you can’t celebrate sharp-toothed predators year-round? Pop Chart Lab has released a new wall print featuring nearly 130 species of selachimorpha, a taxonomic superorder of fish that includes all sharks.

The shark chart
Pop Chart Lab

Called “The Spectacular Survey of Sharks,” the chart lists each shark by its family classification, order, and superorder. An evolutionary timeline is also included in the top corner to provide some context for how many millions of years old some of these creatures are. The sharks are drawn to scale, from the large but friendly whale shark down to the little ninja lanternsharka species that lives in the deep ocean, glows in the dark, and wasn’t discovered until 2015.

You’ll find the popular great white, of course, as well as rare and elusive species like the megamouth, which has been spotted fewer than 100 times. This is just a sampling, though. According to World Atlas, there are more than 440 known species of shark—plus some that probably haven't been discovered yet.

The wall chart, priced at $29 for an 18” x 24” print, can be pre-ordered on Pop Chart Lab’s website. Shipping begins on August 27.

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