I was really excited to be asked by Jaiden Micheal to create a front cover for his new kindle/e book on Amy Winehouse. To say I am a massive Amy fan is an understatement. Jaiden is a big fan too and his book is being released in collaboration with The Amy Winehouse Foundation. Hopefully it’s sales will help to raise money for this very worthy cause. The Amy Winehouse Foundation was set up in Amy’s name, after her untimely and tragic death in July 2011. It is a charity that reaches out to schools and young people and educates them on the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction. Amy was a rare unique talent and her originality and authenticity was one of a kind. She was fundamentally a jazz singer, but what made her different was that she not only celebrated jazz but also made it accessible to a new audience by making the lyrics fresh and modern, and also taking on influences of ska and reggae. She was also an excellent lyricist who wrote from the heart; each song was a story of herself, told in her own sometimes brash but always frank and honest style.
I started the Amy Winehouse illustration by doing extensive picture research on Amy Winehouse. I looked at lots of pictures of her in concert and was struck by how stylish and original her sense of fashion was. My background is in fashion design, so I am always interested in someone who has a very individual sense of style. Here are a few examples of the images I collected to use as reference pictures. Most artists at least need to refer back to reference pictures. Not many I would say can draw completely from memory….. It’s important when you create a piece of portrait illustration that you really study the subjects facial features and facial expressions, in order to really get a sense of that person’s looks and personality.
I then began doing a pencil sketch of Amy, using the collection of photographs as a guide. I wanted to use her signature colours, red, black and grey. The book is called Dear Amy and is a collection of poems and tributes to Amy by her fans… Obviously it’s very important to get all the details of a person’s facial features in there accurately. That’s why I end up doing many pencil illustrations before I eventually fill in all of the detail for the finished product. It’s good to roughly fill in main sections of the hair, but you mainly have to fill in all of the strands later on….. Black hair takes a long time to do because of the depth of the colour. I actually used up three black pencil crayons creating this Amy Winehouse illlustration!
After the rough pencil sketch has been done and I am pleased with the facial features, I go over some of it in a more finished darker pencil or pen. I used fine liner pen for Amy’s signature winged eye liner. As I mentioned, I used black pencil crayon for her lustrous raven black hair. Below is how her face looked when I scanned it in to my computer. You can either scan work in or you can photograph it with a really high quality camera in order to get it into whatever computer programme you are working on. Either way, artworks need to be digitalised nowadays just to be able to send the file to someone ! The drawback to a scanner, is they are often only A3, so if you are working on an artwork larger than this, you will have to chop up your original artwork to get it onto the scanner! Also, the scanner picks up pen and ink OK, but I find it really degrades the quality of pencil work. I have started using high quality digital cameras to photograph my artworks lately. For my Amy Winehouse illustration I used a scanner.
As you can see from the final Amy Winehouse illustration below, I worked a lot on it, in Photoshop. I think Photoshop has become more popular over the last few years, as the fashion for illustration demands a more and more organic hand done look. Digital and airbrush illustration work of the mid 2000’s looks more and more outdated now as time goes on. The key thing nowadays is that illustration of course needs to be done somewhat on the computer, as it needs to be in a digital file for practical purposes, but it absolutely must look hand done. It’s really up to the artist how much or how little hand drawing they use, some artists hand draw and colour everything, then photograph the final thing to get it into a digital file. Others just hand draw it , and then colour it digitally. With me it depends on what the project is. I really dislike Adobe Illustrator though for portrait illustration, as I find it really clunky and the opposite of organic.
I hope you like my final Amy Winehouseillustration. I really enjoyed creating it. I love her signature red roses that she wore in her hair and the polka dots on her vintage looking dress.I will never tire of portrait illustration: if you would like, please have a look at my portrait illustrations that I offer on my website. Thanks for reading !