Henry David Thoreau Book Cover Illustration: Walden

This is a book cover illustration for Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond.

I am doing a series of cover illustrations on American philosophers and thinkers. These are a continuation of my portraits of the Wyeths but are designed as book covers. The people I am selecting are all highly independent individualists who believe in self determination and independent thought. Very American. I guess I have always been a "secret" transcendentalist at heart. I am looking at Walt Whitman for my next portrait
A detail of the finished portrait. The idea was to stay loose on the portrait and create a moody textural environment behind the subject.
The complete illustration as a book cover design for Walden. I wanted Walden Pond in the background to be mysterious evoking the ambiguity of early evening light. Thoreau was known for his daytime and nightime wanderings across the rural landscape of Concorde.
The original image taken at the prime of his life shows a thoughtful countenance.
The following sequence shows the original image and the steps I recorded in creating this painting. I used the Grisaille technique (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grisaille) which requires painting the subject in black and white and adding color to the grey tones later in the process. Rennaisance painters used this process to produce monotone paintings which I found useful in developing an illustraion that still retained the black and white qualities of the original historical photo.
I start with a warm but neutral color base layer which usually sets the tone for the illustration. Dark for a dark illustration and light for a light piece. I then add a second layer for creating a brushed background in which I use an assortment of large natural style brushes and quick loose fluid strokes.
A second layer of cool blue influenced strokes is added to blend with the warm base layer. With the initial background textures in place I start to rough in the face in grey tones focusing on surfaces that recieve direct light.
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The surfaces of the face, facial hair and the eyes and nose are gradually defined shifting to shadow tones in darker shades of grey.
I like to frame the face by blocking in the hair fairly early in the process. I also revisit the background to further develop a more complex painted environment. A touch of warm neutral grey tones are added on the face.
Details are sharpened on the face and the clothing is defined. My goal is to stay loose as long as possible to create the effect real paint layered progressivley allowing earlier paint layers to show through.
Now the background comes in, and I begin to expand the color range adding more warm tones on the face and in on the pond waters. I also puch up the blue tones in the background.
I thought about letting the trees blend over his face but rejected the idea and pushed forward with refines the structure of his cheeks, chin, and nose.
I am almost there but the pallor of his skin is still too cool and I am not totally happy with his forhead.
Now the color is developed more fully, and the sky is fleshed out adding a low hanging sun. The trees  are refined adding more branches and bark details. I added more warmth to the face with and adjustment layer. I don't use layer maskes or adjustment layers until the end of the process since they get in the way of painting quickly. I paint digitally the way I paint traditionaly, with a very direct method merging layers as I go and collapsing adjustment layers if they are used to achieve a certain effect early on.
 
The final illustration took several more hours of work adjusting color and tone on the face and creating more sharp detail in the branches. The type is a design suggestion using layer effects in Photoshop. Adding the acorn as a vignette was the final touch.
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