Viego Victory: From Photo to Drawing

  My latest artwork is a colored pencil portrait of two former students, Anthony and Vincent Viego. The idea for this drawing dates back eight years when I attended their high school graduation in 2016. Their grandfather took a snapshot of the boys embracing prior to the ceremony (image 1). I liked the picture very much and felt it would make a terrific portrait. As with so many of my compositions, the source photo languished on my drawing table for years. I finally began work on the drawing mid- January 2024 and completed it six weeks later.

  I decided to document the creative process because the steps from photo to drawing are more involved than many would expect. I had over 200 colored pencils at my disposal from a variety of manufacturers (image 2). I required such a large assortment because some pencil leads are quite hard while others are soft, giving me the ability to render fine lines or shading respectively as the circumstance demanded.

  Initially I sketched out the two figures using a grid (image 3). In this case, the grid consisted of one inch squares because I needed to reproduce the photo in great detail. This resulted in a drawing that measured approximately 16 inches by 20 inches. The length of the nose, lips and eyes and the distances between them needed to be accurate, and many measurements were made to ensure a good likeness. The strong shadows cast by the sun in the photo made this difficult as certain features, such as the pupils of the eyes, were obscured and others, like the size of the noses, were accentuated

  Once the initial pencil sketch was complete, I began work on Anthony's face (image 4). Gradually the features took shape out of many layers of overlapping colored pencil. Once the desired level of color saturation was reached in Anthony's portrait, I began to draw Vincent's face (image 5). I refined the rendering of both faces until I was satisfied that a close resemblance had been achieved (image 6).

  From there, I moved on to the delineation of the graduation gowns (image 7). At this point, I decided to deviate from the photo in my choice of fabric color. Realizing the space between the two boys was cast in dark shadow, I chose a deep shade of blue to allow for a more convincing depiction of depth (image 8). I also felt that the color would provide a richer contrast to the bright yellow gold fabric atop the shoulders of the graduation gowns.

  Next I continued with the rendering of Vincent's draped sleeve (image 9). Here I was forced to improvise the contour of the sleeve because the photo was too dark to discern the folds in the fabric. I chose the V-shape initially to evoke the first letter of the boys' surname: Viego. As I continued delineating the sleeve, however, I became aware that it also transformed their embrace into the shape of a heart. Sometimes aspects latent in the photo become plainly visible as the artwork nears completion.

  Finally, I intended to add a background of blue sky, grass and trees but ultimately decided against it. I felt that such additions would only detract from the graphic impact of the boys' gesture (image 10). When I presented the drawing to the boys' mother on her birthday, she burst into tears. In that moment I knew I had been successful in transforming the photograph into a finished portrait.