The Making of "Another Day in Paradise"

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The Making of "Another Day in Paradise"

Back in December of 2014, I was doing a show with zero room behind the tent. I usually have a doorway on my back wall and sit back there facing the art patrons entering my booth. So this particular show I was sitting across from the tent facing into it. After two days, I had decided there needed to be something large and brooding staring down on anyone who entered the space. Since I had been doing a lot of animal scratchboards, the first thing I considered was a bear or a tiger rearing up on its hind legs, threatening everyone.

When I started the sketches, I knew it needed to be a person, not another animal portrait.

I still wanted large, brooding, staring, and menacing, but it needed to be a person. An irate wife/mother/grandmother wielding a rolling pin. I didn't want it to be a pretty picture. I wanted it both humorous and dark.

First thing I needed was a model. At a dive bar in St. Petersburg I ran across a homeless woman who agreed to pose for a bottle of wine. I declined her other offers. She donned one of my wife's old robes - which I let her keep (I hate to run the washing machine with only one item in it anyway.)

I snapped 6 or 7 images, then we heard a siren the next street over. She panicked, grabbed the wine and ran out of the house still wearing the robe. I was glad. That saved me an hour driving and having to listen to her incoherent rambling.

With a reference image under my belt, now I needed a surface on which to draw. 30x40 is about as big as it gets without buying paper on rolls.  I wanted this image to be 30" x 60", so it would rise almost two feet above the top wall of my art show tent. I also wanted a rigid, lightweight surface that I could varnish and frame without glass. I decided to glue a 30x60 matboard onto a double layer of 30x60 foamboards. I ordered a 30x60 frame,  the mat and the foam boards - which the frame supply store cut to size.

The charcoal goes beautifully onto the matboard, however, the matboard did not like being covered with varnish. I had about 10 long skinny bubbles appear, all in the blackest section above and below the rolling pin. I cut them open, worked a little glue inside and pressed closed. At one particularly bad spot, the paper came away completely leaving a 1/2" white circle between the mirror and the rolling pin. Fortunately, it was in a black area as well. I added charcoal, sprayed, then coated again with varnish. Its obvious to me, but no-one else has noticed it. Not even the Mainsail judge who gave me an award!

william underwood charcoal drawing
william underwood charcoal drawing
william underwood charcoal drawing
1. The color photo confirmed what I already knew. The robe was too ugly to draw in color. 2. A dark black and white,  3. an HDR version to bring out the shadow details.

william underwood charcoal drawing
william underwood charcoal drawing
william underwood charcoal drawing
4. The initial sketch, 5. then more detail, 6. followed by the addition of a  background. Yellow cast courtesy of my iPad.

william underwood charcoal drawing


Here is the finished drawing next to the original photograph.

Recently, I saw this woman walking on US19 at 5th Ave. N. She was wearing the robe.