For this post, I thought I'd run through the process behind one of my latest illustrations - Jack White, for the July issue of Mojo magazine.
The brief was to do a picture of him based on the cover of "In the Court of the Crimson King" by King Crimson. Close up, cropped in close, screaming angry.
A tricky challenge because it called for a likeness without the usual signifiers of clothing, posture, silhouette shape, hairstyle, context etc... As well as getting a likeness in a particular expression and angle.
The feeling is important in anything like this, so the first thing to do was track down some of Jack White's latest music on YouTube, and turn it up loud. As it happens he had just broken the world record for fastest recording to pressing of a vinyl record so theres a great bit of video to get a feel for what he's doing right now.
Next I turned to the King Crimson album cover, and did a few thumbnail sketches, just in pencil, quickly to get the basic elements in. One difference is that the album cover is square, and the magazine page is rectangular, so I did a bit of fiddling, and decided to have a distinctive bit of triangular background above the head to suggest his wild hair centre parting. Sections in a picture like this can make all the difference to whether it works or not.
Next was tracking down some good photos of him on the web. Research is important, but careful of the never ending black hole searching for THE picture. A handful of live shots, and the occasional studio one did the trick. Enough to get a sense of the shape of his head, what his face does when screaming, and the shape of his teeth. All very important, especially when doing someone who is famous. Once you think you know what someone looks like it all starts to go wrong.... you must try and see with fresh objective eyes. Someone cleverer than me once said "draw what you see, not what you know".
For this, I drew digitally on screen with my Wacom Bamboo. I've preset my own dip-pen style to the brush, for that scratchy, pressure sensitive nib effect. Superfast. Get the energy!
I nailed the main likeness, then worked into it with gusto. Especially the hair. I love doing the hair.
After a couple of failed attempts at digital colouring I moved on to watercolour on paper. Using my lightbox I was able to paint directly over a print out of my drawing.
After scanning and positioning on screen it was a much better effect, and looks very similar to the undigital King Crimson image. And with a few extra bits of digital colour on the eyes and teeth and here and there, it was done!
I'd love to here your comments, or if you have any questions just drop me a line.
Big thanks to Wag at Mojo.