Vintage Photos #75 – Spectacles

Here it is – the final illustration in the series. Oddly enough, I am ending the series with a drawing based on a photo I know literally nothing about. Pinterest suggested it to me and I liked it so decided to add it to my list of images for this project. What I liked about it was the woman’s bone structure, the big hair, and her spectacles. I have worn glasses almost my entire life so am very familiar with them but drawing spectacles remains a challenge for me. I eliminated the floral decoration on her dress. The asymmetry of it appealed to me but it was just too fussy in the composition.

96 Spectacles

When I embarked on this challenge, I had a few objectives I hoped to fulfil. I wanted to restrict my colour palette to monochrome and I found I actually really enjoyed working within that limitation; I hoped to get better at layering ink and watercolour and I definitely think I have gotten better at using more delicate, transparent layers and building them up; I also, of course, wanted to hone my drawing skills and, even more so, I really wanted to develop and strengthen my illustration style. If you have read my blog for any length of time you will know that I perpetually ponder whether I have an identifiable style or whether I flit around too much. I think this series has finally driven it into my brain that, yes, I actually do have a distinctive drawing style. Mission accomplished then.

Now on to the next challenge. I will be sharing all of my Drawlloween illustrations on here next. Stay tuned.

Vintage Photos #74 – Bonnet

This is the penultimate drawing in the series, drawn on the left side of the final page in my notebook. I could have kept this series going for years and, who knows, maybe it is a source of inspiration that I will return to in the future. Anyway, for this drawing I pivoted back to early photography and chose a daguerreotype from the 1850s. I know nothing about this photo, not the photographer or the sitter, but I liked her sad expression with those tilting eyebrows and the elaborate bonnet with its woven straw and its ribbons. I think I caught something of her sorrowful gaze but I should have made her mouth a little more downturned. The bonnet was definitely fun to draw.

95 Bonnet

Vintage Photos #73 – Esther Eggers

I returned to the web page of vintage Australian mugshots for the next illustration in the series. I wanted to find a mugshot with attitude in order to share the page with Goldie Williams. What I found was the portrait of Esther Eggers, a young woman who attacked a police officer during her arrest. There was something in her pursed lip smile, the curve of her cheek, and the directness of her gaze that suggested a complete lack of repentance and maybe even some self-satisfaction. While my illustration looks nothing like Ms Eggers, I have hopefully captured something of the spirit that made me select the image.

94 Esther Eggers

Vintage Photos #72 – Goldie Williams

I am almost at the end of my sketchbook so this particular project of mine is drawing to a close. I, therefore, wanted to cram in more vintage mugshots. I absolutely had to draw Goldie Williams (alias Meg Murphy). I thought drawing her wrinkled nose and pouting mouth would be a fun challenge but mostly I just wanted to capture her feisty, defiant attitude. Being arrested is obviously neither fun nor funny but this mugshot tickled me. I didn’t draw her facial features quite screwed up enough but I think I caught the right energy so I am happy with the drawing.

93 Goldie Williams

Vintage Photos #71 – Flood Refugee Mother

I was in search of another Depression era mother and baby photo to pair with the previous illustration, because of them sharing a page, and I picked the photo based on the vibe of the mother and the pixie face of her baby. I cannot find out anything about the photo, not even the identity of the photographer, but the Library of Congress indicates that the subject was a flood refugee in Missouri. With the caveat that I am definitely not a portraitist, I am pretty happy with how this illustration turned out. I think I captured something of the set of the mother’s jaw, her pursed lips, but it’s the baby’s face that just makes me smile and laugh. I took that pixie quality and really leaned into it so that I could fully believe that his child is a mischievous imp frustrated that he is being held because he wants to get off and destroy stuff.

92 Flood Refugee Mother

Vintage Photos #70 – Natchez Trace Mother

After two duff illustrations in a row, I was on a quest to redeem myself with this next drawing in the series. I selected another mother and baby photo. Those have cropped up a lot in this project but at least this one is not based on a Dorothea Lange photo. The photo was taken on the Natchez Trace by Carl Mydans and I otherwise know nothing about it. The baby looks rather derpy in a borderline creepy way but I am otherwise pleased with how this drawing turned out. I think I have captured enough of the look and expression of the mother for me to feel like I have redeemed myself and gotten back on track.

91 Natchez Trace Mother

Vintage Photos #69 – Pickles

I opted to draw the portrait of Mrs Poland – a photo taken by Arthur Rothstein – because she just seemed so proud of her preserved foods. I knew I did not want to draw all of those shelves filled with pickles and preserves because, aside from anything else, I did not have time for it. I decided, however, to surround the figure with a dark wash of Payne’s Grey in place of that background and I almost instantly regretted it. The other thing that went wrong with this drawing was I have made Mrs Poland look stressed. I was especially disappointed by this as I had hoped to capture the warmth of her smile. Maybe it was because I was feeling tired and frazzled that I subconsciously drew her face looking a bit stricken and her smile looking like the “fake it ’til you make it” type. On the positive side, I am pleased with the hands.

90 Pickles

Vintage Photos #68 – Cajun Girl

I wanted to draw another teenage girl next because I wanted that thematic connection between the other drawing on the page, that of the Appalachian girl. I chose a photo of a Cajun girl taken by Marion Post Wolcott because I thought the strong lighting and especially the strong shadows on the face would present me with a challenge. I definitely found handling the range of tones very difficult, as you can see. I went simultaneously too dark and not dark enough when it comes to the shadows across the face and I think it is best I not write anything at all about the awfulness of that raised hand. Oh dear. I am definitely experiencing ups and downs with this series of drawings.

88 Cajun Girl

This is what the teenage pair look like on the sketchbook page.

89 Teenage Girls

Vintage Photos #67 – Appalachian Girl

In search of a portrait with a specific facial expression, I settled on a photo of a girl in Appalachian Kentucky taken by William Gedney. I was familiar with the image but realized I knew nothing about it. I had assumed the portrait dated from the 1940s or ’50s but it was actually taken in the mid-1960s making it one of the most recent, if not the most recent, photos I have used as inspiration in this series of drawings.

I was hoping to capture the girl’s attitude in my illustration. She seems self-assured but defensive, her eyes are engaging the viewer but her crossed arms are distancing. I did not get the set of her jaw right, that somewhat pugilistic expression she has, but I like the drawing nevertheless.

87 Appalachian Girl

Vintage Photos #66 – Three Sisters

Approximately a dozen drawings ago, I chose to draw a Gordon Parks photo of three boys. I was frustrated by and dissatisfied with the outcome and it had been nipping my head ever since that I wanted to attempt a do-over. I did not, however, elect to draw the same photo again. What I determined I should do was select another vintage photo portraying three children. I found a portrait of three sisters wearing identical clothing that presented me with a challenge in terms of composition, just as the Gordon Parks image had. I really enjoyed creating this illustration. Perhaps I was just in a better mood this time and my creative mojo was flowing better as a result. Whatever the cause, I was happy with the final drawing and felt I had redeemed myself.

86 Three Sisters