The Making of Jonathan

Jonathan’s I Am More portrait is one of the ones that kills me that you can’t see it in person, because the little photo on this blog is a really inadequate representation of the actual portrait. It’s the same with Chris and Friends, Justin, and Sophie. The subject matter in each (five people, a Crossfit gym, a full-body pose) required room for me to maneuver. Jonathan’s was different because his was the journey of a failed game of Twilight Zone pinball.

Back to the beginning…in our discussions, Jonathan and I first talked about capturing him in his recording booth where he does his voiceover work. It took about five seconds for me to see the microphone and grey, bumpy foam wall to see that this was not going to be interesting. Then I happened to see one of his YouTube videos with some colorful art on colorful walls and a mention of an arcade and I told him, discussion over, it must be in the arcade. The goal was to create a video that I could freeze an image from. He tried some self-taping, but in the limited space it was almost impossible to get him and the beloved machine in one shot. So he recruited a friend to capture all angles of the action, and also, helpfully, to taunt him relentlessly into a competitive pinball frenzy.

It was an amusing video, slightly chaotic, and I watched it millisecond by millisecond, taking a file full of screenshots. When it was time to choose one I was stuck, because on their own they didn’t make a lot of sense. It was like taking one image out of a comic book–cool-looking on its own, but not meaningful. But seeing them all lined up in order, something took shape that I couldn’t have predicted, and it resulted in the need to draw a pinball machine 3 times.

The original screenshot images

I plugged each one into a free web service called Grid Drawing Tool by ArtTutor and calculated how big each one needed to be for me to comfortably draw all of the details.

Screenshots with grids

I drew matching grids on my gray paper with a white charcoal pencil and a yardstick, just as I’ve been doing since high school art class. Then came the most important decision: colored pencil or pastel? I had fallen in love with the process I had developed with Prismacolor pencils to draw Sasha, but I had to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to get the intensity of color that I needed with the waxy pencils. Fat pastels would have never have worked for this level of detail so that left pastel pencils. From here on in I would love to tell you that there was a methodical process, but other than starting with black and ending with white, there was a lot of changes of color strategy. You’ll notice all the different changes in lighting from the differences in the weather. Here’s how it went:

Outline was drawn in with white pencil, then started shading with black
After black came red
Red and some magenta for the pinks
Started turquoise, decided that was a mistake
Switched to orange and yellow
Added the very little green I could find
Decided to work during my exhibit at Ocean Alliance so Dad took some photos. This is also my setup at home: wall, music stand, laptop, rug, cold brew, trash can.
Blue, purple and white (all done at the Ocean Alliance exhibit)

After that it was just fine-tuning which involves sitting at a distance and making a list of corrections to make. Taking a decent photo of the finished portrait involves battling with Iain’s fancy camera at different times of the day with every light on in the room.

There is a lot going on in this portrait, so here’s a closer look at each of the three components (taken with my phone):

Thankfully we raised enough money at the Ocean Alliance exhibit to pay for a frame for Jonathan so he will be heading straight to my friend Caleb at Hershey Frame Shop.

You never know where art will take you. You may end up drawing a gumball machine in a Curio Shop in the painted backdrop of a vintage Twilight Zone pinball machine.

I Am More is supported by donations. To make a tax-deductible donation please go to Ocean Alliance’s donation page and choose “I Am More” from the list of programs. Thank you for your support!!

4 thoughts on “The Making of Jonathan

  1. Dear Amy…
    Jonathan is amazing and I am in awe of your talent. And, I love the story that accompanies your work.

    Love and blessings,
    Malva Crothers 🤗


  2. Amy, this portrait(s) is just amazing! I love your work and your talent never ceases to awe me. I was so sorry not to get up there this year to see your display at the Paint Factory, I know we all wish we could have done that.


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