That’s a pretty austere title, isn’t it? The Making of a President. While I don’t fancy myself a political puppeteer making it possible for certain people to take possession of the Oval Office, I do, from time-to-time, make images of presidents. Today I wish to share with you the methods used to make the illustration of John and Abigail Adams that I posted here yesterday.
First, this started with an idea from Jenny Dillon, the art director of Clubhouse Magazine. She needed an illustration of the Adams family (not the creepy one) in a presidential home looking like they were in love with lots of love letters strewn about them. Specifically, she asked that I make it look like they were taking a selfie as I had done once before with Abraham Lincoln.
The first thing I needed to do was a little research into what John and Abigail looked like when he was the President of the United States. As best as I could decipher, these are what they looked like from old art made of them back in the day.
As I always do, I worked out my initial rough sketch of the shmoopy-faced couple digitally on my Cintique monitor. That is a special computer screen that allows me to draw with an electronic pen (a stylus) right onto the screen. For this, I used the Photoshop program.
First sketches are just that – a first pass. It is the first time artist and art director can see what the possibilities are with the concept. This means there is time for refinement. When I was a young illustrator first starting out, I HATED drawing things more than once. It was a by-product of youthful impatience. I always felt my first drawing was genius. I was stupid. Being able to go back and work on poses, expressions – even the environment – not only gives you a chance to improve the scene technically with a better drawing, but it also gives you reason to think more about the image and perhaps come up with more ideas to make it better.
Upon reflection, the first sketch made our happy couple look like old geezers. This was primarily an article about love between a courting couple in a kid’s magazine. So, I took a second stab at it making Abigail look younger, again based on old art created of her.
Guess what? Now Abby looks young and cute, but in the arms of a creepy old man! Yikes! Even though John was nine years older than Abigail, there was no reason he should look like the age of her grandfather. So, one more pass should do the trick.
By the way, the brown tones and pink I threw in there were just to make it easier to see what is going on in the art since there is so much detail. It doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the final color scheme. You can see I left it out of the last sketch below since by this time all parties involved just needed to see little tweaks to the drawing.
To make John Adams appear younger, I gave him a little more hair on top (perhaps even more than his young portrait showed), darkened his hair, and gave his face more angular features – less rounded. This one was a keeper!
Tomorrow I will show you the next steps using traditional art methods (real paint & paper believe it or not!) in creating the illustration.