A while ago, I was contacted by the Smithsonian magazine to do a cover illustration for their article about the upcoming movie by Steven Spielberg: Lincoln.
After the editorial brief, based on the working title: “Mr. Lincoln goes to Hollywood”, I provided them a series of sketches based on the instructions and guidelines provided to me by the art director ; as always: I did some very simple sketches with enough information to get the idea across, featuring of course Abraham Lincoln.
After viewing a lot of proposal sketches, the editorial selected the sketch above (on the right) that fitted their requirements.
There are a lot of pictures of Abraham Lincoln, lucky for me after a lot of research found a reference that I could use legally. Of course we are all familiar with that photo of Lincoln, I had to use the reference as a base and put an interpretation for the illustration that was not too far from the actual photograph but with enough small variation to make it my own.
I also looked at other pictures of Abraham Lincoln depiction: mostly sculpture, because the reference is rather flat for information, by looking at sculpture of Mr. lincoln, it gave me other interpretations of the man’s face as guidelines.
Because we are all familiar with the existing depictions of Lincoln, little details always come up when one does illustration: what colour were his eyes?
These are small details that always come across the execution of any illustration for an illustrator. I love the internet: the best tool ever for research. Why do I bother being diligent when I do my assignments: probably by my nature and also my many years of doing commercial illustrations. The last thing you want; is to have a phone call from the client after the delivery of the final art and having the client asking you: “are you sure about this or that”. Because I started my carreer painting in oils, I realized then that it was easier to research any project properly, rather then correcting later… in oils.
Time to add skin textures and defining some wrinkles: a bit of humanity!
According to the client’s choice; they opted for the sketch with a film strip to be part of the concept. I also added the idea of using the old sepia photograph look as a support to the concept. Using the film strip as a frame to enhance the idea of an historical figure coming to life.
As it stand at this point: this is how the illustration of Mr. lincoln was delivered to the Smithsonian Magazine. After discussion at the editorial level, as it happens often, a variation from the original approved sketch; was requested. To be fair, they (the client) are the end user of the image, as an illustrator I am aware of that situation having been doing illustration for 30 years: did I agree: not my call at that point!
At the end: on the news stand the viewer will never have seen any previous versions.
So here are the final version and the revised version (right) as requested by the editorial staff.