This is about love, man, not hate.
Throughout the summer, I've had the opportunity to share my illustration processes and techniques with my outstanding intern, Becca Johnson -- an illustration student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Savannah, Georgia.
This week, she also serves as the model for this illustration.
Photo shoots are a major part of my process. I find reference to be key. I also find it infinitely easier to photograph the exact reference I need, rather than try to hunt down something similar.
Becca and I had an opportunity to conduct a minor shoot a few weeks ago, but this week, I wanted to conduct something a little more major.
My goal was to create an illustration befitting the series that includes my existing illustrations: Plenty, Good Enough, and Fistful of Steel. All of which are seen elsewhere on this blog.
Their common denominator being a snapshot of love, hate, or any of the complex emotions that result, therein.
In order to create such an emotive illustration, I outlined a few of my goals for the shoot.
An arresting image
Without a powerful visual, I'm already digging myself out of a hole, with little chance of engaging the viewer.
A real and visceral sense of emotion
This can be a tricky task, especially in a potentially manufactured setting of a photo shoot.
Some of the most beautiful poses come from unplanned, split-second moments in time, revealing nuanced complexity that could never be staged.
A sense of symbolism
I'm looking for a visual cue that will speak volumes to the viewer through an inherent, universal language.
I like to go into my shoots with a general outline, like the one above, but leave plenty of room for the unexpected. That's always when the killer shots happen.
And, killer shots I received.
1.5 hours, hundreds of remarkably emotive poses, and 3 beautiful acoustic songs later (she's an amazing singer/songwriter/performer), I was sitting on 842 juicy photographs, all aching to be turned into illustrations.
Examining each, under the criteria outlined above, I weeded my treasure trove down to the top 12.
The spontaneity of this umbrella pose, coupled with the mood, movement, and composition created by the shapes and values gave it the green light.
My next questions: In what context do I place her, and how do I keep the scene from becoming an obvious "woman in love" shot?
I experimented quite a bit, and found, for both composition and mood trickery, the colors should be subdued and mostly cool, allowing the figure to stand out. A gloomy stage would then set up my emotional twist.
The umbrella and rain against a gray, graffiti-riddled brick wall, hopefully, takes the viewer on a ride that takes a turn when the other contextual clues reveal themselves -- the warm glow of the figure, the alluring posture, and, lastly, the "LOVE" logo on the wall.
The right reference and the right model makes all the difference to me. My enormous thanks to Becca for allowing me this illustration and the many more, sure to come, from what was one of the strongest photo shoots I have had the pleasure of conducting.
Check out Becca's work, here.
Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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