I have recently become obsessed with the period of Revolutionary France and many of the interesting characters who lived at that time, circa 1789 into the Napoleonic era. I have developed a great interest in the tragic life of the fascinating Josephine Bonaparte, thanks to a highly entertaining, well researched and annotated trilogy of historical fiction by Canadian author, Sandra Gulland. Her books inspired me to read biographies of this interesting woman who has been reduced to a caricature and footnote in history. I am starting with the life of Josephine and have plans for other notable women from that period. I feel that we have much to learn from the French Revolution and that there are many parallels in modern politics and life. I love researching and wish there were more hours in the day to burrow down the many rabbit holes that lead from one to another.
I am not sure what triggered this sudden interest but am compelled to pursue it. Perhaps it comes from my French ancestry. I am working on paintings of Josephine as well as writing and illustration in my linocut technique. This is a spread depicting a Victims' Ball, a social fad that was said to occur following the "Reign of Terror" circa 1794, after the fall of Robespierre. Victims of "The Terror" gathered to dance wildly as a release from the horrors they had experienced under the Jacobins. Some historians from the French Revolutionary era describe these balls in which women and men sheared their hair at the nape of the neck where the guillotine blade would have fallen. The women purportedly wore red chokers for the same reason. The historical accuracy of these accounts is contentious but it makes for an interesting story.
This is the preliminary sketch of a Victims' Ball. I usually do my roughs in felt tip pen but this was so detailed I thought it would be more efficient to use pencil and eraser rather than continually retracing as the drawing develops. I got into the habit of working with pen on tracing paper from my days as a retail layout artist.
This is the scan of a detail of the inked linoleum carving. The image is bigger than my scan bed and in this case I pieced together the black and white print lifted from the linoleum plate. I am so accustomed to thinking in reverse after all these years in printmaking, that I have trouble discerning reality from its mirror image. I can, however, read text backwards with great facility.
This is the scanned and assembled black and white print before I cleaned up some of the unnecessary marks. I sometimes get carried away cleaning up the line and wonder if I'm not removing some of the hand made charm. This dilemma arose when I switched to colouring digitally and was able to zoom in to the nth degree.
I wanted rich detail in this art and added patterns downloaded from a great site, CG Textures (the image link will take you there). You can download many textures for free and if you need a higher res the price is reasonable. You are allowed a certain number of free downloads per day. I also colourized the line brown to give it a more historical feeling by adjusting the sliders in Selective Colour under Image-Adjustments in the Photoshop menu.
Et voila, all the layers get flattened in the final stage. The process may look rather laborious but I have gained speed over the years and still enjoy the combination of hand carving and digital work. La variete est l'epice de la vie. This is a literal translation of "variety is the spice of life," and probably grossly inaccurate as I am a mere novice in the French language department, and mon ordinateur n'a pas des accents:-)
I am an illustrator with many years of experience in publishing, editorial, advertising and corporate. My illustration technique is linocut, printed and scanned with color applied in Photoshop. I love mixing old school and digital technologies and now am learning to paint in oils and with a wacom tablet. I'll post my learning curve here. Variety, the spice of life!