These of course were non essential to the task at hand, or so I thought).I jumped right into the portrait and felt I had done a decent job of it. I spent about five hours drawing the fellow and his wife from a small, grainy badly lit 5"x6" photo prvided. Then I had fun scribbling in the background with some dark charcoal making what I thought of as a "cool" and "interesting" texture to fill the space.It was meant as an engagement gift for his wife. Then we agreed to meet at the local subway sandwich shop (where I worked at the time) to exchange payment for the final art. I actually remember making sandwiches when I saw him come in as my heart began to beat faster. At some point I found the time to run out back, grab the rolled up charcoal image and darted out to the table where he waited. I unrolled it real fast with my subway apron still tied around my waist, he nodded and said it looks good and handed me the cash. Probably the weirdest transaction in my whole career.
Of course now I do things extremely differently to the point of meticulously giving clients updates and asking for their advice, ideas and changes along the way so that I know they will be happy with the final product. At the time of that portrait I didn't know much at all about portraiture and how difficult is really is to get a likeness of someone. When you think about the millions upon millions of people int eh world living and those who have passed on and how each face is different enough to be told apart from all the others. How is that even possible? and for the artist, how is it possible for us to represent each individual so precisely with mere pencil marks on two dimensional surface? Now seven years later I have only begun to scratch the surface of this dilemma as that was basically the last portrait commission I accepted from that point forward. The fellow came back and wanted adjustments which I did but it made me look at the portrait from a
more critical standpoint and realize I hadn't done a very good job at all. In the years that followed everything I learned about portrait art only served to enforce in me the realization that I don't have what it takes to be a portrait artist.
However something weird kept happening to me over the years of illustrating children's books
that I couldn't figure out how to escape. These independenat selp publishers were coming to me with book ideas and wanted me, time and time again, to use there own kids as reference for the main characters. I've done about twelve books to date and I would be hard pressed to point out the few where the clients didn't request that. So while I thought I left portraiture in the graphite powder (dust) I found that instead I was accepting gigs where I was now required to create entire character designs based off a few low res photos of kids who may or may not look the part. While this proved to be a time consuming and difficulttask it did help me learn how to study each subject critically and find the tiny details that make each kid unique. I also learned to draw various hair styles I probably would have been afraid to touch if I had just been designing my own characters.
Now after years of drawing kids and adults alike and learning to create characters based on photos I have finally begun to learn the skills needed to consider portrait art with a new perspective and less trembling. Sometime a few years back I had a difficult time finding steady illustration work so I filled the time by doing some art competitions on the side. The image below is one such image. This was probably one of the first illustrations I had done that wasn't for a class assignment or for a client. Needless to say I had tons of fun with the image. I had no idea at the time that it would be the first of a series of illustrations I'm calling "Imaginative Portrait illustrations". This wasn't Even necessarily intended to be a self portrait but did indeed use photos of myself as reference and the image is just as much about my own struggle with college loans as it is for any college student in debt.
I won second place for that contest and got a great piece of art that was shown in a couple of shows since then. But more importantly this image lead to more work! Soon after I was contacted to do a portrait illustration of a guy and his brother riding dinosaurs in outer space on a rainbow road. For some reason I accepted thinking " i can do that!"
Today I'm introducing a new portrait in this series for the same client as the one above. I'm still ironing out the details with the drawing and portrait portion but will be headed to paint soon! This one focuses on the portrait aspect far more than the others while still having a healthy does of additional background filler describing the lives of the family as a whole. As I work on the image I realize how much I love doing these and wonder if this isthe sort of thing other families or individuals might want. I'm considering offering this as a new service and possibly even start up a whole separate website geared towards these imaginative portrait illustrations. I'm thinking I would offer traditional graphite portraits at various price levels, traditional painted portraits and then at the high end would be the full blown imaginative portraits. These could practically be about just about anything the client can imagine them and their loved ones doing. riding unicorns through the clouds, submerged under the sea in scifi like underwater vehicles, or like the one below which has the family juxtaposed against a background of various family vacations and places of note in their lives. These would be for those who's families already have everything money can buy and who have a bare wall screaming for some sort art representing the family. I haven't worked out all of the details yet but I certainly expect at some point to try actively seeking out these sorts of projects. Now as I look back over the years I wonder what ever happened to that first protrait I did. Did the guy hang it on his wall or did he just buy a new gift for his wife and throw the image aside? Could he ever have possibly imagined that roughyl seven years later the young student who created that crude portrait would have made such large strides? What do the next seven years hodl ins tore for me as an artist? Time will tell. There is only one thing I know for sure whcihis that I will probably despise all fo the art I'm currently creating as I hope to have improved ten fold by then.
detailed view of the portraits.