Mano Derecha Roja or the Red Right Hand, Comes to Town

I’ve been a fan of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since I heard Red Right Hand in the mid 90s, and this is still one of my favorite songs by them. It always evoked a sinister, dark feeling, because of Cave’s voice, but also the narrative itself. Who is the “tall, handsome man, in a dusty black coat, with the Red Right Hand”?

More people are now aware of the song, since part of it is used in the BBC drama, Peaky Blinders. So now, many people that I know associate it with that show. Here’s my art inspired by the Red Right Hand, that I call Mano Derecha Roja. Below, I describe the process that brought this image about.

Mano Derecha Roja. Red Right Hand. man in cowboy hat and coat.
Mano Derecha Roja.

I don’t remember what reminded me of the song when I drew this. I just started drawing, and came up with this pretty quickly on this 8×8 inch sketchbook. I modeled this somewhat after myself, in that I gave the figure a mustache like mine, and a hat and coat similar to some I own.

Pencil sketch with railroad and trestle.
Photoshop flat shape.

Here, I did a rough layout in Photoshop just to get a feel for the pose I wanted. I put the money in the figure’s right hand, since the hand looked like it was holding up something.

I eliminated the railroad image and put a viaduct in the background, as well as indication of mills with smoke from the stacks. All of those, are elements from the lyrics. I thought the mist curling in front would some atmosphere to the piece.

This stage reminded me a bit of Daniel Brereton’s work. He creates mostly horror-themed art, but also does some comics work. I like the stark, dramatic, but still very colorful, ligthing he tends to use in his artwork. I think I was channeling a little bit of that at this stage in this picture.

I noticed the right had was a bit off, that it was turned at a wrong angle, as if the had is perpendicular to the arm. I moved it so that it seemed like it actually was attached to the arm and holding the money naturally.

When I first created this layout, I drew the long coat as I thought it might look, not from anything I’d seen at that point, just my idea of one. It was good enough as a placeholder, but wanted it to look like something that could exist. I found some references of coats that looked more like I pictured it, sort of based on a trenchcoat I own. The collar is different than in the earlier images, the lapel more obvious. I also changed the mist from a pale blue to pale green.

The right hand at a more natural angle.
New style of black coat.

In the next image, I gave the red hand more definition and pushed the contrast a bit more. The shirt has some color, indicating it is dark purple, like one I have. Also, I added a belt buckle design from one that I have. The coat is also more defined.

Final version, so far. I deliberately left the background kind of vague, and expressive. I darkened the storm clouds and subdued the purple, so it’s more of a suggestion than a major color. The red right hand is clearer, and I pushed the contrast on the entire image. At this point, it’s pretty much finished, though I have worked on it a little since this stage, and there are some places I might still tinker with.

Mostly done. Just a few more touches.
Mano Derecha Roja. Red Right Hand. man in cowboy hat and coat.
Mano Derecha Roja. Final version.