I made a painting for my friends Kerry and Carrie, who go by “Boy” and “Girl” for convenience. The painting is also dedicated to Ayden, whom Girl wants to nickname “Gibroly” so that each of them can have a nickname represented.
The JK Rowling Portrait isn’t the first stencil portrait I made in the early days of my Jim Public website, but it is the portrait that one of you bought most recently, so Jo is fresh on my mind. This article talks a little about why and how I made this portrait, and it is the second post of my website’s 10th anniversary celebration.
Why Draw JK Rowling?
I once created a chart called “All Art Is Abstract Art,” which I still stand by, but it is equally true that All Art Is Fan Art. Artists are inspired by things that other people make; few of us make artwork as a spontaneous activity, detached from the things that we’ve seen other people make. The history of art is largely the history of artists loving stuff that other artists made and then making new artwork as result.
I love the Harry Potter novels, and this love has abided through:
- reading the books to myself
- listening to the incredible audiobooks read by Jim Dale
- reading the full series aloud to my daughter
- reading the full series aloud to my son
- enduring the first three films
- either walking out of the fourth film or spending the entirety of the fourth film fantasizing about walking out
- watching Jo’s online reputation trend steadily downward in recent years as she weighs in on things beyond the Potterverse
Rowling is still an author I greatly admire, but I’m not planning to write a book that pays homage to Rowling as Philip Pullman honored Blake, Milton and others with His Dark Materials. I opted for creating a portrait instead.
How to Make a Portrait of JK Rowling
In setting out to make an original portrait of Jo, I did not have the traditional, crucial resource at hand: JK Rowling was not around to sit for the portrait. I do not like the idea of plagiarizing someone else’s photos, so I gathered about ten photos of her from the web and started sketching. Ultimately, I created my own amalgamated image of a stylized Jo using all of these images as referents but, in the end, creating something new with pencil and paper.
From Drawing to Stencil
A guiding philosophy of the Jim Public website is the mission to create high-quality, hand-made, affordable artwork that is fun for me to make. I love working with color, and I love spraying paint, so stenciling has become a core technique that I use to fulfill this mission. Stenciling is a way to make multiples (which are affordable) that are more hand-made than digital prints.
So, with a finished graphite drawing in hand, I scanned it into Photoshop and manipulated the image so that I basically had four-color separations. I then experimented with color palettes until I found four colors that looked nice together and worked with the drawing.
From Stencil to Painting
Each color layer of the image actually needs two stencils for me to achieve 100% color coverage, so I cut out those eight stencils and registered them to an 11” x 14” piece of watercolor paper so that the image would line up as I added each layer.
After mixing my acrylic paint to the right colors and consistency, I made an initial run of ten JK Rowling Portraits with a cheap airbrush.
JK Rowling is probably the author whose work I’ve logged the most hours reading, even if you don’t include the audiobooks. The Harry Potter books hardly need any more endorsements, but I am still amazed at how perfectly they achieve what they set out to do: they narrate a hero’s journey with the school-setting charm, humanist ethics and inventive (but somehow not annoying) magic. I am grateful to have Rowling’s work as read-alouds for my kids, and I hope to get to read them to grandkids one day, if my own children don’t call dibs.
The JK Rowling Portrait is a limited edition, hand-made stencil painting that you can buy from the Jim Public shop.
Below are a few digital sketches that represent a snapshot of what has been going on in my painting studio lately. Working digitally like this has the huge benefit of offering infinite flexibility when working with colors. I also love to dig for intuitive geometric compositions in my paintings, and Adobe Illustrator is well suited to this kind of sketching.
This sketch should be a finished painting by now, but I keep revisiting it, tweaking the colors to try to achieve the balance of light/dark and intensity that it needs. I ended up going with the top design with the chain of small rectangles running across the diagonal.
Continuing to play with the red/pink/white/blue palette and simple—bordering on obvious!—geometry.
I am currently making the painting that is depicted in this digital concept photo. I created the palette after spending some time at the collectors’ land in west Texas, home of big skies, cedar, mesquite, and earth. When finished, this painting will be an important piece of the collectors’ newly remodeled home!
This sketch did not make the cut for the above commission, but it has found a place in my painting queue. It uses the west Texas palette, and does some of the things with simple color, light and space that keep my eyeballs coming back to look again.
This is my personal favorite of the Fujikawa-esque fan arts I’ve made. It brings together M.I.A.’s loudness and Gyo’s softness, and I just kind of like how all the pieces came together.
Now I need to take some time to finish coloring a piece with the working title, “Bad Blood.”
My daughter is devoted to Dan and Phil. It wasn’t practical to fly them out last December for a Christmas surprise, so I made a Gyo Fujikawa-inspired fan art as a gift. I owe her friend Ashley a debt of gratitude for consulting with me to ensure that I didn’t mess up any details!
It turns out that Phil’s colorful bed set is available at IKEA, so my daughter’s bed now sports the comforter and pillowcase that you see on the right. Nothing against Dan’s monotones at all—Phil’s palette just works better on her sky blue walls.
Sometimes when you love a thing you have to do something about it. I love Lorde’s music, and too many times I’ve expressed my feelings by listening to her too much. So, to keep me from overdoing it on the tunes, I made some fan art!
I also love Gyo Fujikawa, so I did what I could to channel her line and color, and her light touch:)
I made this illustration during the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. I was never thrilled with the final product: it needed some attention. So, I worked with the color palette and value, and now I am happier with the artwork. Watching little kids play soccer is a unique, crazy joy, and here I give the soccer ball’s perspective on it.
One of the last projects I got to do for the marketing director at Faith Family Academy was to design the new billboards. Under her direction and with some great photography, these are the results.
My latest James Hough: artist • illustrator • designer postcards are in and will today begin going out to art directors everywhere!
A selection of logos I created during a period of painting that was awash in graphic design and branding influences.
TAF is inspired by the UPS shield logo redesign; Koby Teith is an homage to the country singer; Beachfront is a lifestyle brand modeled after toothpaste packaging design; Omoo comes from the Melville novel of South Seas adventure; The Horror is a logo for a would-be garage band; Mississippi is what it is; and, Paint is a treatment of the word if it were a Las Vegas nightclub.
I am working on my current postcard that I mail out to art directors, and it occurs to me that I have not shared my design from April. See? If you need drawings of gardens, furry monsters, or hovering robot artists, I’m your man!
While I worked at Faith Family Charters last year—with an amazing team of electives teachers and many beloved students—the Fine Arts director gave me the opportunity to redesign the school mascot. I’m proud of the results: here they are…
I worked on the set simultaneously, so they make a nice set.
Are you fed up with being stepped on? Kicked around? Left in the mud without so much as a “sorry”? You’re not alone.
It has been likened to a picture of blood vessels or tumbleweeds, but I call it Tumbley. This painting is approximately 12 paintings made on top of each other then collapsed into one very noisy, smooth surface.
Last year I designed the postcards for our annual SCBWI North Texas Chapter Conference, including an illustration of three Texas-shaped kites.
Here are some graphic design pieces I produced for one of the leading benefit auctioneers in Texas, Andrew Bost. I had redesigned his logo a little while before we did these advertisements.
My wife’s ancestors were pioneer farmers, and we are carrying on one of their traditions.
We began this one—our first—about 5 years ago then put it on hold for a while until we got some big quilting frames last Christmas. And now we have completed it.
The design comes from a photo of our daughter cuddling our son when they were about ages 6 and 1. If you back away from the quilt about 50 feet you can see the image, which is hardly practical, so we content ourselves with wrapping ourselves in our new blanket knowing that the design is a picture of our kids, even if we can’t tell up close.
Here’s a tiny picture of it, which shows the image a little better.
Here is a new piece for my illustration portfolio. This soccer ball in the grass began as a drawing on paper, then I painted it digitally.
I give out tickets to students as a reward for good work and good citizenship in my classes. They write their names on the tickets and put them in a bag, from which I occasionally pull one name from each class. The winner gets his or her portrait drawn by me. Here are the portraits I finished last week. They are pencil on 11″ x 14″ paper.
My most recent painting takes a turn toward representation. I used additive and reductive painting techniques to create the image, as I have been doing in my non-objective works, but this time I was evoking a still life by Henri Fantin-Latour, whose intimate paintings are so quiet, yet sculptural, in the way he uses light and shadow to create space.
Plus, finally seeing the Cy Twombly Gallery at the Menil Collection was a huge inspiration as I approached this painting. Looking at Twombly and Fantin-Latour is humbling and uplifting at the same time, and this painting owes its swirling circular shapes and its palette to both painters.
I worked on this painting off and on for a long time. In fact, after my attentions progressively made it worse, I was driven into a brief retirement from painting altogether.
“Who needs paint anyways!” I shouted silently to myself. “It’s just stupid goo!”
But I pulled through and finished it, thanks mostly to my wife for her encouragement and a little bit to myself for remembering that I actually do like paint.
In honor of this most brief of months, a poem, illustrated.
The clouds, a blanket overhead,
Won’t let the sun get out of bed,
And crows among the seagulls fly
Like salt and pepper in the sky.
Here are some studies I made for a project I’m working on. The project is an educational chart that attempts to organize a broad range of abstract art and to portray abstract art in a way that makes sense to people who may not spend as much time as I do staring at it.
Now that I am preparing for the next Jim Public’s Truck exhibition, it is time to post images of the nine paintings that make up the series I showed last month.
The paintings that comprise A Dry Heat are plexiglass panels that I put in watertight vessels full of acrylic paint and water. Before submerging each panel in paint and leaving it in Las Vegas for two years to evaporate fully, I did some mark-making in the white, gessoed underlayer, so each painting has words, pictures, or impressions beneath the color and design left behind by nature’s patient hand.
Fedex Office wants $70 to print 250 of these, whereas I can disseminate them online infinitely for free, or at least for the sunk cost of my internet access. So I post this here and will presently distribute it on some social media sites. Paper business cards are destined for the wastebasket anyways. So you are welcome to drag a copy of this card to your computer or phone or whatever; and, when you’re finished with it, it’s better to trash pixels than papers.
That way we all win. Except Fedex Office, who loses.
I received some commissions to make a few superhero portraits on canvas. I was able to make the colors and characterization a little richer in these paintings than in the works on paper, and to experiment with depth of color and lighting effects by using acrylic glazes. Here is the first one I finished.
While working on new paintings and illustrations in the studio, I have also been working on an upsurge of new portrait commissions lately. There are so many painters who do traditional portraiture better than I do–not to mention photographers–that I prefer the fun energy of transforming people into comic- and cartoon-style heroes.
I have just streamlined this website, and the homepage now features this new illustration of some characters standing in front of one of my paintings with their attention elsewhere.
Sometimes I like to talk out loud
when nobody is there.
My brother calls it craziness,
my mother calls it prayer,
my father calls it poetry,
and all of these are fair;
but I just like to watch the shapes
my words make in the air.