Let me tell you about Audrey…

By now, many of you are familiar with my Audrey Hepburn portraiture piece. Simply titled, “Audrey,” here is the story of how she came to be.

For many years now, I have become known for a unique caricature illustration style, created with acrylics on illustration board and enhanced with colored pencil. From this style, I’ve created illustrations for many events and publications and of people from Michael Bloomberg to Amelia Earhart.

One of my favorite people has always been Audrey Hepburn. Not only do I admire her charitable heart, but I always considered her one of the most beautiful and graceful people in Hollywood of all time. Thus, I endeavored multiple times to recreate her likeness in my signature style. Each time was a failure.

I was ready to give up, when I was asked to demonstrate my acrylic painting and colored pencil technique as a guest lecturer. I decided I would give it one more try.

Creating caricature is such a unique aspect of illustration. One really has to study and understand what are the core features that give a person that likeness. Can you create recognition with only a few lines like Al Hirschfeld? Can you do so with basic shapes like Maria Picasso? How far do you push the exaggeration? What other visual cues tell us of that person’s character?

For Audrey Hepburn, there were a few things that stuck out to me. First, her big, angled eyes. Second, her black turtleneck. Third, her dainty quality, which I tried showing through her hands. Fourth, her iconic hairdo. From a series of photos, I tried combining all of these things into a single image that brought about her essence.

From there, I demonstrated to the students the following technique.

  • Starting with my illustration board, I tone the entire thing with burnt sienna. This tones everything done to a midtone value, while giving it a warm, reddish underpainting.
  • Then I will premix most of my colors. Here is the secret behind this technique, however. Instead of using WHITE acrylic paint, I substitute it with GESSO. The reason is that acrylic dries plasticky, while gesso allows me to go back on top with colored pencil.
  • Next, I “carve” out the silhouette by painting in the background around the head.
  • For the skin tones, I mix three types of colors. I mix a general saturated midtone. Then I take this color and make a shadow version of it and a light version of it. Then from these main colors, I can add pinks and red for cheeks and noses, and burnt umber for eye shadow.
  • Finally, when I’ve taken the painting as far as I can, I’ll soften everything with colored pencil.

Most of the time, my classroom demos are okay, but not noteworthy. This one, however, became everything I wanted it to be. I knew I hit a home run as I was finishing up. I was very pleased to have finally captured her likeness.

Now, you too can capture her likeness. I’m not selling the original, it’s too much to part with for now, but prints are available. And for the next 30 days, if you use promo code PAINTEDAUDREY, you can get 10 percent off.

1 Comment

  1. James on February 28, 2023 at 3:02 am

    Stunning. Just stunning.

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