Recently I was approached by my good friend Carrie, about doing a personalized illustration for her husband, Chuck’s, 40th birthday. They love going to Disney World and one of the things they always related to while there, were the Incredibles. The McFarland’s have 3 kids, so it kind of makes sense. And when I started visualizing a scenario of them as superheroes, it easily fell into place.
One of the things I’ve done often is match up living people with characters from movies or tv shows. This takes help from the client if I don’t know the people they want me to caricaturize in the illustration. But there have been times when I do know the client and their family, so it’s always fun for me to take someone I know and match them with characters that have similar traits as they do.
For this illustration, it was pretty obvious. Chuck as Mr. Incredible, Carrie as Elastigirl, and their three children match up the same way as the three children in the movie. Again knowing the client and their family always helps, but in working with a client, I can get that same kind of information from just talking to them. Either way, it adds another dimension to the personalized illustration. I want you to look at it and feel like this is your family you are looking at, not just a drawing done for you.
Carrie and I agreed on a composition with no background, just a focus on the five of them, plus their pug, Ernie. This allowed me to really focus on each of their personalities as well as create a clear dynamic composition, much like what you saw with the movie version’s posters. Because I had such a strong vision of what the illustration would look like, and because I knew what the colour scheme would be (it always makes it a bit easier when I’m drawing from something that pre-exists), I was able to go into the composition with little difficulty figuring out what to draw. This isn’t to say that I don’t try and do multiple rough drawings first. I always find it’s a good idea to try a few different compositions, because it often gives you ideas that you wouldn’t have had to begin with.
In regards to referencing an IP (intellectual property), and with regards to reference in general, I have some rules. I like to use my own skill sets as much as possible before I need to use reference. And I don’t like to copy, but use a photo as inspiration or for details. This is what I believe in, and it isn’t necessarily what every artist follows. It’s whatever you are comfortable with at the end of the day. For this illustration, I wanted to see how the uniforms were designed, and to get the colours correct. Otherwise the actual figures were drawn in my style, and the poses were created before I looked at any reference.
I always show a client a thumbnail of the illustration before I go to final. This allows them to make any changes to the composition or to some of the details. I always try to explain that likenesses become more fleshed out in the finished illustration so it’s a good idea not to focus too much on that aspect, but suggestions, like a reduction of a nose or a nip and a tuck are fine. In this situation, Carrie wanted me to change the uniforms for the girls. She wanted to give both of them skirts, which is something I would never have thought of and added a bit of variety to the illustration. These are the types of ideas I like to get at this stage. It adds another dimension and makes it more personal for the ones receiving the gift.
Since this was a very straightforward illustration, I went right to the finish. Sometimes I will have another step, where I show the client the drawing before it’s done. This stage is called the rough colour composition, and it’s for times when the illustration doesn’t have an IP to refer to and the colours are more guess work. Because this wasn’t the case, it wasn’t necessary this time. It also means the client will be gleefully surprised when they see the finished drawing. Which was the case when I showed the printed copy to Carrie. I take immense pleasure at seeing their reaction when they actually have the illustration in hand. It doesn’t always happen, because I often mail out the personalized illustration, but as the McFarland’s live close by, it was easier for her to pick it up.
Doing a personalized illustration for friends or family are always lots of fun. Because I’m familiar with their personalities and what they look like, I get to put that into the illustration. And because I visit you sometimes, I get to see my artwork hanging in your home. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do!