Back to Paper for a Coworker Request

Following my brief foray into digital artwork, it felt like time to get back to my usual comfortable pencil-and-paper mode. At this point, I’ve got a pretty substantial computer folder full of ideas, many of which are inspired by Unsplash photos. But before tapping that reservoir, I found myself with a portrait request! Actual subject requests are somewhat rare for me, but rarer still is to have someone I personally know ask to have something drawn.

This is probably a mark of an amateur/hobbyist, but I am still quite flattered and humbled when someone requests a portrait. Also, the thought of taking money for one makes me a bit uncomfortable. I imagine that experts and experienced professionals have long since moved past those feelings. To me though, I’m still not entirely comfortable thinking of myself in artist terms. I have improved significantly in the last two years, and even wrote a book, but I still feel like a teenager sketching video game characters in many ways.

Anyhow, when someone asks if I would mind drawing a portrait, it feels like a special honor. That a person would think enough of my scribbles that they might want their kids, family, or beloved pet in that same style. As I said, it doesn’t happen often, but I’ve always jumped at the chance when it has. Recently, a coworker approached me after having seen some of my recent artwork. He asked if I could put something together of his father and his two kids. His dad is ailing and he doesn’t have a photo of the trio together; just the thing a pencil can assist with.

My co-worker gave me a couple photos to use of the subject posing separately, so I rolled up my (metaphorical) sleeves (it’s too hot for sleeves in the summer in Louisiana of course) and got into it. Here’s the final result:

For a scene that hasn’t been captured in a photograph in real life, this turned out decently. I’ve never met his dad, and seen his kids only a handful of times at the office. But at least from my photographic references, they seem to look very similar. Of course, the real verdict will be rendered when my co-worker sees the drawing. But, overall I don’t see any major fidelity issues.

Now, if I was to do this over again? There are a few decisions I might make differently. The first is my co-worker’s dad’s shirt color. I chose blue, which I admit is a common habit of mine. But the blue I selected is really bright, and I think it distracts a bit. The faces are on the outer edges of the portrait, and now this bright blue in the center pulls your eyes right there. The stars of the show are supposed to be his family members’ faces, but I didn’t quite accomplish that. If I had gone with a muted gray, or even a semi-white coloring for the shirt, it would have been less distracting.

In this hypothetical do-over, I might also change the positions a bit. His daughter is higher up because she’s older/taller, but his son’s lower position looks off. It might have been better with both kids centered a bit more, and possibly more even horizontally. There is certainly some room for improvement here, so I really hope he likes it. I have so many little quibbles with the portrait at this point, I’m not sure if they add up to something of quality or not .

Here’s a progression .gif of this project. You can see as it gets closer to the end, there’s a version that doesn’t have the shirt filled in; that stage is probably my favorite.

Fingers crossed on this one! I hope it’s well received. I’m not sure what’s next on the artwork agenda, but something tells me it will be more pencil and paper work from the Unsplash folder.

7 comments

  • Nice artwork, also love the progression gif idea, will certainly be copying that!

    • Thank you Andy! I’ve always liked to share the earlier progression images of sketches, but found that just including all the images sometimes made posts too cluttered. Sharing a .gif of all of them seemed like a cleaner solution.

      There are tons of sites/methods for making them, but if you need a recommendation, I’ve been using https://ezgif.com/maker. It’s easy to use and has lots of options (like changing the speed of each frame, autocropping, etc.).

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  • How was it received? Hope they liked it – glad you went analogue for this one ☝️

    • It was well received! Honestly I was a bit nervous about it. Self-doubt in the corners of my brain kept peeking out, trying to feed me imagined scenarios where the recipient was like, “Oh, yeah. Ok. That’s…well, alright then.” In hindsight, that would have been unrealistic, and the guy never would have reacted like that anyway. But I was relieved that it made a positive impact.

      I’m also glad to be back to analogue – digital is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there

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