Back To Illustration

To be fair, I’ve never done packaging design before. When my friend Marie and I were talking about ideas for her fragrance line, she came up with the delightful idea of old Hollywood. If you know me, you know right away what a sucker I am for old movies. Harlan and I hardly watch anything other than TCM, the greatest channel in the world.

Alchemy, the name of Marie’s upcoming fragrance line, brings up visions of chemicals and science, so we decided it would be a fun, whimsical thing to make illustrated scientific diagrams of the people who inspired her fragrance combos. I love to collect old textbooks, so I decided to draw out the actors in a vintage style.


It had been a very, very long time since I actually got out tracing paper and drew an illustration by hand with actual drawing tools. I’ve been so used to drawing and working on a computer, that the pencils almost felt foreign at first. Harlan was generous enough to let me use his drawing table to motor through Old Hollywood.

I’ll confess a secret. I’m really, really lousy at proportion. My eyes are bad and I tend to skew things just enough that it doesn’t satisfy me. Draftsmanship is not one of my strong suits, although I am pretty skilled at detail. So I cheat a little. I will print out an 8×10 picture and trace the outline and basic feature placement so they’re correct, then I take the photo away and draw in the details just from looking at it. I was more concerned with the person looking realistic for this case.


I’m just gonna say, Cary Grant was the most challenging to recreate out of the lot. The portrait I used had some crazy shadows that highlighted his fabulous face, which was a weird combo of chiseled and fleshy, and it took some revisions to get the proper aging as close as I could. James Montgomery Flagg’s knack for getting those shadows with hatching awes me. I can’t do it at this stage. Someday.

In the end, I did Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Lupe Velez, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and Vincent Price. I also did Jimmy Stewart for practice.

Here’s the best portraits I ended up finishing.


Ingrid Bergman


Vincent Price


Errol Flynn

Cary Grant

James Stewart.