The famous faces challenge

A belated birthday homage for Mr. Dickens

It’s been a busy few weeks, so I haven’t had time to post though I promise I have been drawing. I completed one more graphite/digital piece to share, but I can’t post it until later this month when it goes live elsewhere on the internet.

In the meantime, I decided to pay a little homage to a great writer. Last Tuesday, February 7, was Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday, and since I’ve been known to gift friends with an occasional digital portrait, I made this. Okay it’s belated, but the man has been dead for 142 years, so I figured he wouldn’t mind.

While the image of Dickens that most often comes to mind is that of his later years, with the grizzly beard and wild hair, I rather like this younger shot from 1850. He was already famous by that time, having visited the U.S. and just completed David Copperfield. By many accounts, he was a handsome-looking fellow and a bit of a dandy, so I thought it might be fun to resurrect him like this in full, dashing color.

Here’s the original image I worked from. It’s a public domain image from Wikipedia.

Clearly, I took some liberties at the details not apparent in this black and white photo. I found myself searching all over the web to figure out his eye color (responses ranged from brown to blue), and what fabrics were used in mid-19th century men’s clothing. Whatever I couldn’t figure out, I gave my best guess.

I call this particular digital drawing process my “Facebook portrait” since it’s a style I began using for social media avatars several years ago.

My first Facebook avatar (October 2007)

Back then, I began with a drawing done with good ‘ole brushes and india ink that I scanned in and colored in Photoshop. Today, I simply trace right in the program, using a mix of raster and vector lines. The Dickens portrait inspired me to figure out fabric textures, which was a good challenge and something I’ll probably work into future portraits. I also want to work more on backgrounds. In this one, I found a historic view of Fleet Street and St. Paul’s that made a nice contrast between the bright, contemporary illustration and the faded, historic photo look. I should probably do something original, but this works for now.

Anyway, my goal is to do a series of famous faces with some sort of fun, random connection. I had considered doing just writers, but that’s too straightforward. Then I thought about famous Georges (for a series called By George!) or Scotts (Great Scott!), but I need something that allows me to draw an equal number of women. I’d love a range of people from different ethnicities, races, and historical time periods—a variety of faces and stories I can tie together with a simple, quirky premise. Like a pun! I like puns.

Feel free to help me brainstorm. Anyone with a great concept and a few good names wins their own, free Facebook portrait.


4 thoughts on “The famous faces challenge

  1. I’m a long-time fan of syphilis. Such a romantic disease! Syphilis is called “the great imitator” because its symptoms are so simliar to other diseases. This series could be called “Great Imitators.” (Or “Lesions of Honor!”)

    Here is a partial list of historical syphilitics:
    Charles Baudelaire
    Christopher Columbus
    George Washington
    Karen Blixen
    Al Capone
    Napoleon Bonaparte
    Franz Schubert
    Édouard Manet
    Henry VIII
    Paul Gauguin
    Leo Tolstoy
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Oscar Wilde

    • Hahah! Oh, sexy syphilis–it sure got around. I like this idea, but there aren’t many famous women who had it (though good call on Blixen–dang, who knew?). Though I do sort of want to draw Nietzsche. He had a fantastic ‘stache.

  2. Pingback: Another project I’ll never finish | McGillustrations

  3. Pingback: Portrait process | McGillustrations

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