Friday, September 24, 2010


I was asked by a publisher to contribute some images to a book that will be coming out devoted to illustrated portraits. I have never been very good at rendering the likenesses of characters -- I can do it, but it takes me quite a while to get it just right. I understand that it takes practice, and that much of it has to do with strict observation and being able to translate it properly onto the page; even the slightest tweak to a person's proportion in his/her face can set it off incorrectly. I am amazed even moreso by those artists who can exaggerate the features of a person's face because when I do it, it just looks awful.
But this is not what my post is about.
The images above (2 of them actually) were a couple of illustrations that I did a few years ago; the top image is of The Beatles, beneath that is Beyonce, and the third is (chef) Anthony Myint. All of these images had already been published but looking back at them again, I decided to revise them slightly; there were things about the originals that were bothering me. That happens sometimes, for whatever reason, the deadline is too tight and I take the job, or I have too many assignments going at once, or I'm sick, or unmotivated but still have to work, and sometimes it means that I have to compromise my vision in order to create a drawing that is still publishable. I am constantly reminded of how much time factors into what we (illustrators) do on a regular basis. It's not just how well we can draw, or paint, or collage, but we also have to be able to do it within a short amount of time.
I never thought that I would do this, to pull up past work and then re-work it. This is the first time that I've done it, and in the case of the portrait of Anthony Myint, I even sent the revised illustration to the art director, with a note asking if he could re-post the illustration on the website for which it was drawn.
I'm only as good as my last piece.
My artistic journey includes improving upon what I've done in the past figuratively, even it it means exploring new disciplines, or brushing up on techniques that I've let go of in the past.
I continue to work on exercises within my studio concurrently with my professional work. These are only exercises in hopes of improving my technique, my concept ability, and introducing new colour schemes into my work. That said, it's also incredibly fun to do. To know that whatever content I choose to render and create can appear in whatever type of shape or form that I desire. Something that I did the other day was copy a photo of a person that I found in an old Vogue magazine; I painted it using tempera on watercolour paper. The reason why I chose to use an existing photograph is because it took the pressure off having to conceive of what to draw. Using the photo easily facilitated my want to just shove paint around on a piece of paper; this piece was not about concept, and it was not for anyone else except for myself. Oddly enough, I decided to use a grid system to translate the image from the photo onto my paper (can you believe that I had never tried this method before? and it works!) and then I fleshed out the lights and darks using graphite (as a make-shift grisaille technique) before going over it with a clear gesso and then paint. The red is done with Alizarin Crimson, some of which was mixed with Yellow Ochre; the darker part of the shadowy areas was Alizarin Crimson mixed with Prussian Blue, and sometimes with Burnt Umber, and the background is an Emerald Green. How strange it felt to actually be aware of the colours that I was putting down on the page. As a digital illustrator, I take for granted that I can move the sliders back and forth and then play around with transparencies if I choose to, and even undo some (aesthetic) decisions that I make while drawing. I swear that at one point I saw my left index finger and thumb nudge and rock a little bit, searching for the Ctrl + z keys.


Narco said...

That's a neat little painting you did there. I thought you didn't do anything traditionally, but that's great that you still got the stuff for actual bristles. I wonder though, when I start doing a little more digital stuff, that I'll have a Ctrl+Z twitch.

Those illustrations up top are excellent, too.

Johnny said...

Looks very cool, Marcos. Looks like a photo of Jacque Cousteau! Good choice.

J. David McKenney said...

I LOVE that beyonce!

Marcos Chin said...

* yes! johnny! it is Jacques Cousteau... correction though, the photo was from Harper's Bizarre, not Vogue.. oops!.

** J - thanks for the comment - i luh-luh-love beyonce :-) but not as much as mariah ;-/