all illustrations, c. Kevin Sprouls
I recently took on a very challenging assignment. A high school pal of mine contacted me about creating a piece of art for him. He told me he wanted an illustration of his family that he could give to his wife, something that his kids might have as a keepsake in the future. Of course, I accepted the job.
My friend, Michael Chiorazzi, is a lawyer in Miami. He is a music maven, and a pretty heavy Grateful Dead fan. I admire his enthusiasm! His love of music has drawn him and his family to many live shows throughout the year.
I told Mike that he merely had to supply me with a good, workable photo of his family, and I would take it from there. I was a little taken aback when the photo-reference arrived via email a short while later. The photo contained all the colors of the rainbow, and then some! Here it is:
I thought it was a great shot, with a lot of expression. The road forward involved many hours and some complex procedures on my part. Fortunately, Mike gave me 2-3 months to complete the artwork, so I could continue working with my other clients while I progressed with this magnum opus!
I calculated the size of the image so that it might be reasonable for my scanning purposes. Having trimmed the board, I transferred the laserprinted photo ( b & w ) onto it, then began the nervous-making work of laying down the watercolors. (I even made a trip to Staples to get a good colored print to use for reference.) It was a daunting task, with lots of color mixing. Next, I used many colored pencils to blend the painting and smooth it out. Once I was satisfied with the colored base, I took up my pens to work on the illustration in my signature style. It was quite a process! Here is a detail…
While working on this piece, I felt I got to know my friend and his family. They seem like an impressive collection of people, in my view. When the art was complete, I confess to being a little nervous as I packed it up for shipping. I wondered if I had successfully captured their likenesses, and if the illustration would measure up to my friend’s expectations, and for that matter, his wife’s. The completed illustration came out like this:
I was very happy to find that Mr. Chiorazzi was thrilled with the portrait of his family, and that his wife was very pleased with this Anniversary surprise! He told me later that he earned many ‘Brownie Points’ for going above and beyond by commissioning this special gift. Mike’s spouse, Vicky, was most pleased to hear that the framer asked him, “Which one is your wife?”