Another Day, Another Doctor Who Commission

13th Doctor Who Commission

This is one of the latest commissions: Andrew, the patron, contacted me by the end of July because he wanted me to create a portrait of his lovely wife as a birthday present. Her birthday was August 7th, which initially gave me pause, because unfortunately I’m not the fastest illustrator out there –in fact, quite the opposite, and it’s something I’m trying to improve. But one of the unspoken rules in Design is that you NEVER say ‘No’ to a client*, so after he explained she is a very big Doctor Who fan, and we agreed that portraying her as the 13th Doctor (played by the beautiful Jodie Whittaker) would be a cool idea. I set myself to work.

Reference image for the Doctor’s pose.

Here I found myself with some unexpected luck, because of the Time lords commission that my friend Paul Kimball commissioned early this year, and the fact I had had the good sense of keeping one of the previous files containing the TARDIS with all of its layers (in Paul’s commission, I decided to ‘flatten’ all those layers, which means it takes more effort to edit the image), so I no longer had to worry myself with painting it from scratch –all I needed to do was to delete some of those blending layers, and add new ones so that it would look as if the TARDIS was being illuminated by the ambient light of my background.

Speaking of the background, because time was of the essence –ironic, considering the subject!– I knew from the start the safest bet would be to draw a “space-y” scene with some cool nebulae and stars. I found an astronomy photograph with just the colors I wanted, and I proceeded to recreate it using mostly airbrush brushes.

Reference image for the background, which I ‘rotated’ 90 degrees so it could work in the vertical format of my illustration.

I was also lucky enough to find a PNG version of the Doctor Who logo, which I could simply paste in my image with minimum alterations.

With each new commission I receive, I always tend to try and experiment with new brushes or techniques in order to improve my skills, but because the deadline for this one was so tight –like I said, I work slow and never rush any element– I chose to stick with what I already know. There’s always a phase in the middle of ANY creative endeavor in which the pieces you are laying down on the board still don’t come into place; this can be very frustrating because, unless your vision is clear or strong enough, you can get easily discouraged and throw everything away because (to your eyes) “everything looks like crap!”.

With this commission it was no different, and I confess that there was a time in which I completely panicked, because I felt I wasn’t capturing the features of my portrait’s model –as you already know, if you’ve read some of my past blog entries, this has happened to me more than once— and I spent a whole day drawing and redrawing the eyes, the nose, the jaw and the mouth, with the reference pic right next to it (for a while I considered just ‘tracing’ the face right on top of the photo, but with caricature portraits I prefer not to, because what I’m selling is NOT a facsimile rendition of the person, but a slightly altered and in some respects ‘idealized’ version of the model.

After many revisions and modifications, I reached a version I felt sufficiently satisfied with, and then proceeded to finish the work and send it to Andrew, who was very happy with it. In retrospect, I admit that I’m still not 100% fully satisfied with my interpretation of Andrew’s wife features; I think that perhaps one of the problems is that with women I’m always more conscious about trying not to offend the person, by emphasizing some attributes more than others because, after all, caricature is all about exaggeration (with men it’s easier because I just don’t give a damn! LOL); when in fact those characteristics are precisely what makes a face recognizable.

Think of it this way: If you try to draw a tree with a perfectly smooth, vertical trunk that is flawless, you don’t end up with a tree –you end up with a telephone pole.

But it’s all about trial and error, and if you wait until you have a perfect command of your drawing skills, a flawless anatomical knowledge and absolute control of your painting techniques, you’ll have a long gray beard until you start your career as an illustrator!

As always, remember that COMMISSIONS ARE WELCOME.


(*) Okay, FULL DISCLOSURE: There are times when one should say ‘NO’ to a client. If it’s an absolutely impossible deadline, or when you realize after several sketch proposals that the client doesn’t really know what he or she wants, that’s a serious red flag. Also, I am particularly not interested in any offensive, X-rated material; I’m no prude, but I prefer to be able to show around my content without the need to pixelate some parts of it 😉

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