Portrait: Clara Bow

Harlan’s mother gave us a set of Derwent colored pencils, which are like coloring with little sticks of butter.

I hadn’t used colored pencils since college – I had done a William Blake “draw like a master” project in my beginning drawing class years ago, and took to them very quickly, but I got wrapped up in black and white for the past decade.

I don’t know why I hadn’t gone back to colored pencils. I don’t generally like what others do with them: that timid shading annoys me. I think people are generally afraid to really glob in there with bold color. I like to be very deliberate and declarative with my line work, to say “okay, here’s a shape, and I meant for it to be there.” My background is in painting, so I love bright, vivid colors and I definitely use my colored pencils more like pastels. I highly recommend Derwents – they’re so full of pigmenty delight.

It’s also common knowledge that I’m bonkers for old posters and illustrations from the 1910s-30s of movie stars, so I decided to do some stuff in the spirit of those bygone Photoplay illustrators.

Here is a portrait I did of Clara Bow entirely in colored pencil and charcoal. I knew Clara was a redhead, so I decided to really make that the focus of the drawing. She had wonderfully bushy hair and the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen on anyone. Just lovely. So I thought that using charcoal for her eyes would really make the drawing pop. I used yellow in the background because a lot of illustrators for old movie posters did that. I scratched in some shadow bits in blue, and there you have it.

Clara is 8×10 and available for purchase for $100. If you want her framed, she’s $200.

Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 12.50.40 AM




Here is the drawing halfway through completion. As you can see, there is actually more to the portrait than just the immediate head and shoulders. My Vscocam cropped it when I was Instagramming it. I know. I am such a social media camera whore.


Screen shot 2013-08-11 at 1.23.34 PM