This drawing started in a colored pencil drawing class. The project was to draw something black and white. Over the years, my uncle had sent me many family photos going back nearly 100 years. Of course, most of them were black and white. These family photos were perfect for this project.
Of all photos I received, there was a particular series I loved. The three pictures were taken in Scotch Plains, New Jersey one fall about 1948 The subjects were two adorable boys: my uncle (on the left) with his younger brother, my dad (on the right).
While my dad and uncle were the models, their father (my grandfather) was the photographer. And as with many photo sessions, the goal was to document the work of a clothing designer. In this case the designer was my grandmother who had just finished knitting matching yellow sweater vests for her sons.
The three images were narrowed to the one of the boys leaning against the family car. My uncle recalled that on days when it rained, the car was so leaky that he and my dad would need umbrellas while they sat in the back seat of the car. The sepia tone was color corrected back to a black and white. After the scratches were healed, it was time to work on the composition! Background clutter such as other cars and a telephone pole were removed. The image was then cropped to a square so the focus was on the boys.
Once I started drawing, I realized there were some areas where the details had faded. Most critical was that my dad’s legs had nearly disappeared! This is where all those anatomy and fashion illustration classes helped. With a few clues available, I was able to give my dad back his legs.
“Attention to detail is not about perfection. It’s about excellence, about constant improvement.”– Chris Denny
My husband investigated blurry elements in the photo so I could add back in details. He found a similar New Jersey license plate from 1947. A family friend who collects antique vehicles assisted in the research, and the car was identified as a 1940 Pontiac Torpedo 8 Sport Coupe.
Obtaining clear reference photos is important when recreating details. In realistic art as in life, getting the details right is critical.
This drawing was done with 15 Faber Castell Polychromos pencils. These are wax/oil-based colored pencils (not regular graphite). Black, white, and yellow are the obvious colors. In addition, I used two different ranges of grey – warm and cool. There were six variations within each range which is where the other twelve pencils come in. So, six warm greys and six cool greys.
The first 99% of the drawing was created in black, white, and the 12 greys. Only in the very last step of the drawing, I added the yellow to the vests. It took less than 5 minutes. Once a drawing is complete, I always confirm with the recipient to ensure they are happy.
From there the next step is photography and digital editing. Creating an image that as closely as possible resembles the original is especially important for developing reproductions (like prints or greeting cards) and printing the image to create custom merchandise like puzzles, mugs, jewelry boxes, or any other dozens of possibilities.
The piece received a little extra TLC when it came time for matting and framing. The frame has a bit of an art deco feel and echoes the radiator grill. In addition to the double mat, there is a beveled edge between the two mats. The bevel is a fairly inexpensive upgrade yet presents as luxurious. The glass is protected with an ultraviolet (UV) coating.
This drawing was able to accomplish several things the photograph itself could not. By removing background distractions, I was able to make the boys the clear focus of the picture. Using my skills as an artist and a fashion designer. I was able to recreate how my father’s legs might have looked. And finally, I was able to brighten the picture by reviving the yellow of the sweater vests bringing them back to life!
Do you have a series of photos that are ready to be turned into a singularly distinctive piece of heirloom art? Send me a message so we can get started selecting photos and helping you to create a beautiful memory that will bring joy for generations.