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Ella Underground

MAY 22, 2009
In the formative years of my career I have devoted time regularly to doing personal work.  These samples are among my most well known works and I have really gone too long without doing more.  I've built up a long backlog of images and this year I have blocked out time each season to doing a few.  If an illustrator steers their career skillfully, the work they are assigned will be just like their personal work.  Sometimes for me, assignments are great and fun and endless.  After months and months of these assignments I start to feel like the images in my head are not getting out.  I guess I don't always steer the career the right way.

The first is a painting of Ella.  Ella is my sweet niece and she is the definition of cute.  She is very aware of herself and as a result, always strikes a memorable pose.
I like contrasts and so I thought of a rough and rusty background behind a profile of her.  In playing around with this, I found the rust to come forward too much so I kept washing it out to the point of minimizing the impact while maintaining the look of pipes and gauges.
This is a portrait of an underworld urchin and Ella is perfectly cast in my opinion.  Her sister Molly said right away that she was a bit jealous so I have to do something of her soon.  She is also stunning.  Cassius has been in a few illustrations now to the bloom is off that rose.
So, this is a sort of 'steam punk' portrait I guess.  I was thinking of doing something similar to a portrait I did for Irene Gallo several years ago titled "Prince Ombra."

Thank you Ella!

I think if this was for a client there might have been suggestions to make her a bit more determined and conversely pleased. I like the slightly weary feel to it as is. "Ella Underground" Oil and Gouache on Panel.
I liked the angle of her 'bob' hairstyle, and kept that part in, but the hand holding something had to go.
My sketches are on anything BUT my sketchbook. This one on a scrap piece of paper was the first time I thought of a square and industrial pipes as a motif behind her head.
At this point I had some solid ideas of clothing and the pipes. The inside of PRATT is very old and industrial and I think I was influenced by that. I would often suggest my students USE that stuff as reference. None did, so I did. Here is a watercolor to set the mood.
The pipes are mostly a drawing with gouache and oil glazes.
I must always hold back on going overboard with surface texture of faces of those with soft skin. The lines are there on close inspection but the contrast between the brush strokes and the area beneath is much closer.
I get a ton of work from this illustration. Irene Gallo, AD extraordinaire commissioned me several years ago to do this kid. I always wanted to do an other in the same neighborhood.