I mentioned that in creating Rorschach's mask-pattern, that I was running into one downside, namely that by incorporating that bit of symbolism I was breaking the template of how the inkblots typically work in the story, and using a symbol that was basically for insiders. 4 months ago, I myself would not have made the connection. The last time I'd seen it was probably in Back to the Future, since Plutonium/radioactive hazard symbols don't surround us regularly.
The first proof that I was being too clever by half came while showing it at DragonCon. I got lots of great responses to the piece, but one fellow who liked the piece pointed out that he didn't like the way the shape broke with the Rorschach template. Hmm. His was the only spoken critique of the kind, but it squared with my own suspicion.
Returning home, I went about including the image in an email update to friends and colleagues, and got some good responses there. The Art Director who I mentioned much earlier was at dinner and saw my Cosplay photos really enjoyed the piece, but asked if he could chime in with a couple cents, having finished the graphic novel recently. I'm always open to constructive criticism, so was eager to hear what he had to say. His primary issue was once again with the mask, for both reasons. What struck me most was he used almost the same words I'd thought to myself: I was trying to be too clever. Hmm.
Well, that sealed the deal. Soon as I finished up a project I was on, and in the middle of these posts appearing, I pulled the painting off the shelf and worked back into it. It's not often that I rework "finished" paintings. I prefer to learn lessons but apply them forward. This one was fresh enough that it wasn't much effort to change. As well, because the mask is an isolated shape, it was easier to paint it out--had I decided that I didn't like the graffiti in the corner, for instance, it would've been much more risky to get things to match up again.
I still liked the idea of putting something referential into that mask--such a shame to waste that space! So this time I dug back into the book, and used the exact Rorschach blot used when he's being questioned and lies about what he sees; the "pretty butterflies" pattern. That was a really haunting moment, and it tied everything together again--I got to include a good reference from the book, and got to reestablish the face in keeping with Gibson's portrayal. I also repainted the wrapper to be a little bigger to help it be more readable--again, since it was isolated it was a quick change.