I was recently commissioned to create a traditionally illustrated portrait. The portrait is actually of a friend of mine. The stipulation was just that she wanted me to base the portrait on a particular photo she supplied me. Everything else was up to me.
The illustration was created on a fairly smooth 11×14″ bristol board paper; not sure if I’d use this same paper again though. An initial, fairly rough pencil sketch of the illustration was created and I sent photos of these to the client for approval before I began colouring.
I was given free reign on the background and how to position the portrait in the frame. I decided to do something I rarely have an opportunity to do, which is Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Being influenced by Alphonse Mucha, I created an organic border of vines and leaves with a few flowers. I had the top ends of the vines turn into a metallic brass and drew a metallic brass plate that ran across the bottom.
Prior to colouring the piece I cleaned up some of the thicker lines with my pen eraser and dabbed my kneaded eraser across the entire surface to lessen the amount of graphite that sat on the paper. Then I started colouring it with my Copic markers. I sometimes use Copics almost like paintbrushes, lightly blocking in areas of colour and applying colour in a stroke-like fashion, allowing the colours to blend in. I also use a Colorless Blender marker that significantly aids in blending Copics.
After I was satisfied with the Copics I used Faber-Castell Polychromos pencil crayons. Faber-Castell is my favourite brand of pencils and their pencil crayons are a pure joy to work with. I dry blended the pencil crayons and kept certain lines intact, such as around the cheeks of her face to add a bit of movement. The hair was approached differently as I added heavy layers of pencil crayons to build up colour, tone, and shape.
The final steps were using acrylic paints on certain areas to bring out highlights or allow portions of the illustration to sit further back, such as the yellow petals at the top were given a light white wash so they were less impactful. Once dried, I sprayed a fixative on the illustration so it wouldn’t smear.
The client was very happy with the results. She was also particularly happy that she had given me free-reign on the background -and so was I. All too often the projects I work on (like sketch cards) are very specific in what I can do. This is fine but sometimes it’s good to stretch your legs as an artist!
If you would like me to create a portrait for you of a family member, favourite celebrity, or perhaps of the cherished family pet, contact me here and we can get started!