Drawing Biblical figures

I organized another Art+Faith Life Drawing session through my church and this time we had two wonderful models, husband and wife, who posed in our makeshift Biblical costumes so artists could imagine and draw scenes from our shared religious heritage, bringing our faith into our art.

We started with warm-up sketches of 5 to 10 minutes in length. I sketched on charcoal paper with prisma pencil..

Our models took a poignant pose of Mary Magdalen receiving counsel from Jesus. I drew this longer pose in pencil on charcoal paper –

While the models often posed together in a scene, time restrictions made it hard for me to get developed drawings of two figures, so I concentrated more on one or the other. Here is our model posing with ‘tablets’ as Moses below. It was really striking to see him standing in front of us – there is a grace in the draping of ancient clothing styles that does make you stop and contemplate: the gravity of their lives so long ago, the convictions they held that carried them through devastation. Drawing these faithful figures has an effect that goes beyond simple rendering.

My favorite from the day – an Evangelist.

My Illustration for a Business Birthday E-Card

I drew this car parade birthday illustration for Furia Rubel Communications last year. They originated the idea and needed me to make it into an image for them to send out with their best wishes to their clients. I think it’s a great way to make a touchpoint with each client – a beneficial marketing strategy – and remind their clients of the whole team of people working for their interests. I have often drawn the FRC team for projects in the past.

I started with a pencil sketch of the whole train of cars and caricatures of each FRC member.

When that was ok’d I printed out a copy and did a rough color sketch with markers and colored pencils. The great thing about sending out ecards is, there is no more expense in doing full color over black and white. On computer screens, color is free!

I decided to colorize this illustration using digital color, so the colors would match those in the FRC logo and other hues on their website. I drew each carload in black line, then filled it in with digital color.

After drawing and colorizing each piece of the picture this way I assembled them onto one page and added the banner, balloons and honking horns.

Another advantage of assembling this piece digitally is that if employees change from year to year, I can adjust the picture accordingly. And in fact, this year I was asked to add new team members and remove some who have moved on; so with some tweaks Furia Rubel will have an updated ecard showing their full team for 2022.

Portrait of a Charming Little Home in Vermont

A friend commissioned me to paint her daughter’s adorable first home, as a gift and celebration of this milestone. I waited for a while so they could send me some photos of full trees and flowers blooming around the house – Vermont’s spring comes quite a bit later than it does here!

I started with a pencil sketch. My client also sent photos of her daughter’s cat, so I pencilled him in on the front porch.

After some more recent photos were sent I was able to add newly-planted flowers to the color sketch.

And after approval from my client I transferred the drawing to illustration board and painted it using a combination of prisma pencils and acrylic paint washes.

Illustration for Liebovar, a Children’s Opera

I have worked with composer and librettist Misha Dutka before, illustrating the poster for his children’s opera The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Recently Boheme Opera NJ performed a beautiful concert version of Misha’s full length opera Liebovar, or The Little Blind Girl, at the 1867 Sanctuary in New Jersey. Liebovar‘s plot has an opera-within-an-opera, and now Delaware Valley Opera Company plans to mount the short children’s opera that is within the larger story of Liebovar, in the fall. Misha asked me to do an illustration to advertise this performance.

Misha explained that the children’s opera involves the same young girl I depicted in the art for the full length work, a blind girl in a WWII concentration camp –

– but in this fairy-tale-type opera she is a poor peasant girl wandering through the woods, and befriended by various animals – a squirrel, a turtle, a fawn and a duckling. As soon as he described this I sketched a rough idea quickly, which he then approved:

I tightened up the pencil drawing –

and did a colored pencil color sketch first –

and then the final painting, in acrylic washes over prisma pencil, on illustration board. Below is the poster with text added for the event.

Drawing Women of the Bible

I organized another Art+Faith Life Drawing session through my church and this time our model was a lovely friend of mine, tall and with waist-length hair; and instead of Madonna and Child poses we decided she could pose as Mary at the time of the Resurrection or other women of the New Testament. Another artist in our group borrowed some beautifully-made costumes from a Nativity pageant, and along with some props, veils and scarves we put together some wonderful depictions of women of the Bible to bring into our art.

We started with warm-up sketches of about 5 minutes in length. I sketched on charcoal paper with chalk and conté crayon.

I didn’t get too far with this one below but I think I have the basic pose, just have to develop it more. This is prisma pencil on charcoal paper. I think this drawing could be Mary waiting to go with the other two women to the tomb on Easter morning.

The last two are twenty minute poses I drew on toned grey sketch paper, with burnt sienna and white prisma pencils. I added some local color with other pencils and chalks. The top woman with the jar could be the ‘woman at the well’ that Jesus met, and the bottom one, since we dressed her with several accessories, could be a wealthy woman – perhaps Pilate’s wife, contemplating her message to Pilate to “have nothing to do with this righteous man.”

Many years have passed since I drew figures daily in art school; until these drawing sessions I had forgotten how personal and cathartic it is to draw from a model in the moment. It inspires exploration, harkens back to stories long remembered, and turns accidental strokes into almost prophetic discoveries. I’m looking forward to our next Biblical model.

Liebovar illustration

Misha Dutka is a composer for whom I have created illustrations before, for his children’s opera The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. He has written a much more serious work and it will be performed this week by Boheme Opera of NJLiebovar, or the Little Blind Girl. The involves the inhabitants and soldiers in a concentration camp in WWII. Misha asked me to create an illustration of some of the main characters for online promotion.

I tried a few different pencil compositions to show the blind girl and also the love triangle of the camp Kommandant, wealthy opera diva and imprisoned opera impresario. I used a photo of the actual camp at Theresienstadt as a backdrop.

With the composer’s suggestions we eventually came to this composition –

And I tightened up the drawing to a finish, below. Liebovar will perform at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing NJ this Wednesday April 27 at 7 PM, and it is a free event. For further info see this page on the Boheme Opera NJ site.

More Madonna and Child drawings

A few more from a life drawing session of a model posing as Madonna and Child. The first is again chalk & conte crayon on toned pastel paper, the second is more a line drawing in prisma pencil on toned paper.

Sketching the Madonna and Child

I was very happy to be able to arrange a life drawing session a few weeks ago (before a nasty bout of sickness from which I’m emerging) to help celebrate the Christmas season – a lovely model who posed for as the Madonna and Child. This is one of the ways I hope to continue to bring art and faith together in my life.

Here are a few of the first quick sketches we did to loosen up, on plain paper & toned paper – we called these croquis drawings in art school. I used sepia chalk and conte crayon for these loose sketches. More drawings to come this week.

Bills! Bills! Bills!

I recently painted the cover art for another fun book by author James Miller, whose previous book, The Book of Jims, I also illustrated. This one is another compendium of historical figures having the same first name, William or Bill. Bill’s! Bills! Bills! is the title.

I started with a very rough pencil sketch of the Bills to be shown on the cover – William Tell, Buffalo Bill Cody, William the Conqueror, William Shakespeare, William Penn and Bill Clinton.

Jim also asked me to include a red-billed toucan, a spoonbill and maybe a hen, along with some dollar bills and cable bills, so I worked those into the drawing and tightened it up a bit by tracing it in felt tip pen.

I then made a rough color sketch, coloring in a scan of the drawing and placing the text.

I consulted with Jim on some details of the drawing & text and painted a finished illustration to drop into the design. He’s awaiting publication now. I think Bills! Bills! Bills! will be a fun & interesting read – especially to other Bills – but also for anyone who likes quips and quirks of history. 

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 3

(To read Part 1 and 2 of this process click HERE and HERE.)

After I did rough color sketches for Laurie Nowlan’s entire book, I started transferring the drawings to illustration board and painting. I use prismacolor pencils to outline my characters and acrylic paint, thinned with water to the level of a wash, to paint the colors. You can get nice vibrant hues using acrylics, which brightened up the autumn pages at the beginning of the book.

This story follows two brother robins as they go on a southern migration to Florida, the twists and turns they encounter along the way, and how they help each other as siblings. They encounter a nasty storm, which knocks the younger brother, Robbie, for a loop.

The older brother, Ben, has trouble with one of his wings, and suddenly little Robbie is the sibling that has to look out for his older brother.

Robbie steels himself and finds the strength to get both himself and his brother out of danger.

And to see the sunny conclusion of the story, you’ll have to get the book!

Since the cover art is so critical to the appeal of a children’s book, the author and I went through several sketches of the cover illustration before we settled on the right scene and feel for it. We wanted Robbie alone on the cover, but did not want to give away too much of the climax of the story.

I envisioned Robbie swooping through the stormclouds with a determined, serious expression; and after discussion with Laurie we tried a more cheerful look and we both liked it better.

I did a color sketch and added some lightning to create a little more excitement –

and then painted the finished art.

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“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.