The following is a summary of my process in creating my latest illustrative work, a likeness of American President Abraham Lincoln. The final illustration was developed in watercolor, gouache and colored pencil.
The idea began as a rough thumbnail in my sketchbook:
I worked out a few more sketchbook studies to explore composition and likeness:
I sketched out the foundation drawing in graphite onto illustration board. With little deviation from the original idea, I finalized the composition and established the background motif of the painting. The drawing I start with is line, with minor indications of shadow and reflected light. I usually begin a painting with the negative space – the background – because it gives me time to think more about how I want to approach the figure, and also sets the stage for it. I’m working in transparent watercolor alone during this stage.
This shows further development of the likeness and the reference photos I used:
Adding details and starting to refine the distinguishing features.
Further development with gouache and colored pencil:
The finished portrait. Watercolor, gouache and colored pencil on illustration board.