All my art commissions are special to me, but the reason this one is particularly special, is because this was the first time I was asked to do one by a member of my own family. My cousin Gaby wanted to give her husband Eduardo an original gift for Father’s Day (which we celebrated on June 21st this year) and asked me to do a portrait of the two of them along with her two daughters, Sarah and Sofy.
You know me: Regular portraits are fine, but they are booooooring, so I suggested we could come up with some interesting theme. Since Gaby and her kids are big fans of Disney’s Pinocchio she came up with the idea of portraying Eduardo as Geppetto on his workshop, working on their two marionette daughters, with her as the Blue Fairy. I loved the concept so I went along with it.
As always I began by doing a lot of research using the Google Image search engine. I found helpful reference pictures on the Internet for the backgrounds, and also a few others which helped me with the characterization and poses of the subjects. The reason for the peculiar ratio of the piece, is because it was meant to be framed and placed inside a wall niche in their country home, so finding the right composition for it, was something of a challenge, but in the end I decided to put Geppetto and the two Pinocchias on the foreground, and the Blue Fairy looming behind them as if ready to add the final details to them with her magic wand.
My cousin requested to see preliminary sketches of the project for approval (part of my new policy, if you’ve read my previous posts) and the first issue that arose was how she felt she couldn’t tell her daughters apart. I explained how the facial design of Pinocchio is very simple, and if I gave the faces a more life-like resemblance they wouldn’t look like wooden dolls anymore. The solution we came up with was to give each Pinocchia a distinct color for their Tyrolean clothes: purple reds for Sofy and pinks for Sarah; she also wanted me to include their moles on the skin.
Once again, I tried my best to create a ‘painterly’ traditional look, so completing the background took a long time. I’m very satisfied with the look I attained on the wall, the wooden workbench the upper shelf and the few props I placed; Cleo’s fish stand and bowl also took a lot of detail, although in retrospect I should have tried to give the brass metal a more ‘weathered’ look (at first it looked too much like gold, so I changed the hue a bit). Also unlike my current approach of erasing most of the ink lines in the main figures, I deliberately left them but made them ‘softer’ by applying slightly darker hues than the main colors; this would not be the approach used in traditional animation because it’s way too labor intensive, but it’s what modern illustrators do when they work with Disney characters.
Thanks to my laptop upgrade is that I could work on a canvas big enough for the print requirements, without having to restrict myself with just a few layers, the way I used to suffer when I worked with Autodesk Sketchbook on my trusty Samsung tablet. Still, I did suffer a few crashes here and there, so I now I’m obsessively saving my files every 10 minutes or so, the way I used to back in my old AutoCAD days. Once finished I sent the large hi-res file to Gaby, who asked for a few final adjustments until she was fully satisfied. She sent me a photo of the framed illustration, which looks very nice on its niche.
If you’re also thinking of giving a special gift to your partner or parent, you don’t need to make a wish upon a star! 😉