June 1-6: Confronting the characters & planning the rest of the chapter
Page 2 of the chapter is a closer angle on the two characters on the bench, so I have to get serious about their physiognomies, costumes, gestures and expressions. So, sketches ‘n’ studies time:
Spent a few days away, with only sketch pad and a few pens. A good opportunity for intense character studies. Trying to capture awkwardness of a “first date,” for a young couple from a Victorian-like culture:
doing a little casual thumbnailing as well so i can anticipate the various gestures and expression. Using a brush-pen for hatching practice:
Numbers to remind myself which page each sketch is meant for:
May 25-29: Page 1 ink.
A real challenge for me in this first page (and for the entire chapter, actually), is that my style models — Gibson, Flagg, Booth, etc. — didn’t draw a lot of night exteriors, or a lot of landscapes with heavy foliage, so I’m on my own as far as what kind of shading and mark-making to use for all this dark foliage and sky backgrounds. The exception to this is Franklin Booth, with images like these:
And especially this one:
Since the real challenge is going to be how to handle the pen-and-ink shading in this complicated night scene, I start doing studies for the page in ink:
There’s just a lot of different things to shade/describe here using the ink: pavement, grass, leaves, trees… a lot of page to fill. Finally I decided to simplify the composition, make it more centered and head-on. I want it to be more like that third Franklin Booth, with the couple at eye level, the trees against the night sky. It’s not really that much less complicated, but at least, for instance, I’m not drawing grass from above, or trying to contrast the leaves against the grass. Everything is sort of on its own plane, which makes it easier to be methodical about assigning different types of marks to different elements. This is the final rough:
The horizontal stripes for the ground is a direct swipe from Booth, as is the approach to the tree-trunks. I still have made something of a jumble of the leaves against further-back leaves and an unclear delineation between leaves and night sky. But it’s close enough…. One more nervous energy sketch. mostly to figure out how to do the sky:
May 25-28 Page 1 pencil sketches
To be honest, I’m posting these studies quite a while after drawing them, and I can’t remember what it was that made me keep going over and over the composition with slight variations. It seems obsessive to me, but I know there was something I was trying to get!
May 23-25: Still sketching!
Foliage studies drawn from life with a Rotring art pen (EF tip).
(this last one is from an old photo)
May 17 – 22 Meanwhile….
While copying from Gibson and Flagg, and drawing from old photos, I also did a few sketches, getting ready for whenever I actually get started drawing this chapter. Character sketches and studies for the first (and most challenging (I think) page). which will be an “establishing shot” of the young couple sitting under a gas lamp in a park at night.
And also a sketch for page 7 (I think it’s going to be page 7), as I nervously or wisely make sure I have a handle on the gestures and actions upcoming. I like this sketch! Now I just have to worry about capturing it as well in the final version!
May 15-22: Learning from the masters (and trying to apply the lesson).
Copying like this, I realized how good they are, especially Gibson. The line work in his faces is so delicate and precise, never simply shading, they also describe the curves and planes of the face. It’s hard to use that many lines in a face, and not “age” the face, keep it glamorous and pretty.
I felt pretty good about the line-work in my copy, but I really wanted to capture that period feel of the Gibson original. I didn’t think I had it. She looked more like Jane Fonda in the early 70s, than, say Mary Astor, who the orginal looks like to me. And so… obsession:
I love this one by Gibson, it’s called, “The Last Day of Summer,” (the original is on the left) and the expressions and poses of the two characters are wonderful. I definitely didn’t quite capture it: the haunted look on the faces… the way you can feel them pressing against each other, his cheek on her shoulder, her head leaning on his, as they contemplate the end of their summer tryst. But… still… i learned something in the effort.
I then decided to apply whatever I had absorbed from Gibson & Flagg, to more work from old photos. I chose this one:
She doesn’t really look like how I picture the character in “Lunatic,” but she has an interesting face, and also curly hair — and short hair, which is pretty unusual for the period. Anyway… I spent a long time drawing from this photo, trying over and over again to get a likeness, capture the expression:
Awful. Head is out of proportion to body and bad likeness. I’m happy enough with the figure/costume, and the background cross-hatching… but definitely more work needed!
I decided to try a “close-up.” First an abortive attempt:
Then one I was finally happy with.
Still not much of a likeness, but my favorite drawing so far in this effort. Now, to “put it all together:”
Still not the likeness I had hoped for. But I think I’ve probably done enough from this picture.
May 10-12. Still warming up, drawings from old photos.
I’m not sure why I was working so slowly (it’s a couple weeks later, now). I might have had some good reason, but I was probably just procrastinating.
May 8. Getting started: thumbnails and some old photo studies
Getting down to work on the actual chapter. Starting with thumbnails. This is a shorter chapter, with a quicker pace than the last one. It takes place on a park bench, on a summer’s evening…
Very rough thumbnails, but they will do.
Next, I will grapple with the stylistic challenge of trying to emulate Gibson, Booth, et al. And also, start to figure out the character’s appearance as a young woman, hair style and costume, as well as her face. To get into this, I start doing some sketches from old photos of Victorian young women. Not looking for specific models for her appearance, just general period style and look:
Here are the photos I was working from:
Prelude: inspiration and stylistic research.
I’m changing styles and/or media for each chapter of the book. Each chapter of the book corresponds to a different period in the character’s life, so hopefully the technique and style employed will resonate with the mood I want for that period.
For chapter 3, I decided to switch to pen and ink, and to let inspiration come from the classic illustrators of the turn-of-the-century, or early 20th century, especially Charles Dana Gibson and James Montgomery Flagg. The heroine of the story is a young woman now, probably late teens, and the chapter depicts a romantic encounter, so it seems that Gibson, whose cartoons and illustrations were largely about romantic relations among young couples in that period, would be appropriate. Taking into account that Gibson depicted an idealized version of young late-Victorians, I don’t mind that, because it has an ironic application here.
Of course it’s no easy target to try to emulate Gibson, Flagg and others of that ilk. I don’t intend to copy any style, exactly, but to have the “feel” of the illustrations of the period, as shorthand for the feel of the period itself.
Anyway, I began to collect images from the internet by the artists I wanted to look at. I pulled hundreds of images, here are a few:
Charles Dana Gibson:
James Montgomery Flagg:
Those are the main two, but I collected images from some of the other good illustrators of the period (and a little later).