OK, that title wasn’t great. Look, don’t go. It might get better.
This painting stems from a conversation I had with a friend of mine a while back. Sian (for that is her name) and I both seem to have a liking for 1940s and 50s illustration and the general look of the period. The result of the chat was that I would paint a picture of Sian in a 1940s pin-up style.
Here’s the main ref upon which the painting was based:
I had a vague idea that the picture would involve Sian sitting on a vintage car of some type, but I didn’t really have much more than that planned when I started it. I began by sketching a seated figure and studied the photo references of Sian while drawing the face.
This was a very quick sketch just to get the rough proportions rather than being particularly accurate, partly because I tend to refine it later on during the colouring process, and partly because I am very, very lazy.
The next stage was to block in some colours. Again, I tend to do this is in a very rough and slapdash way to begin with, just to get an idea of the lighting. Usually the colours end up being totally different, it’s just the areas of light and dark that are important.
From there, it was basically a case of refining it. This involved lots of painting, adding bits, removing bits and changing bits, and working in smaller and smaller detail. I also redrew parts of the sketch here and there. I mostly concentrated on the face first, as this is the bit that most needs to look right, constantly referring to the reference photos. I would have saved time here if I’d drawn a proper sketch in the first place. There’s probably some sort of lesson there, but I refuse to acknowledge it.
I thought it was probably about time I decided what kind of car Sian should be sitting on. It needed to be something pre-1950, and I’ve always quite liked hot rods, so in the end I decided on a custom ’32 Ford Roadster, like this one:
These tend to come in various colours (black seemingly most common, especially back then) and some have covered engines and some don’t. Initially, I was going to paint mine red…
However, I decided in the end that a red spotty swimsuit might be more “1940s”, in which case a red car probably wouldn’t work. I thought I might as well go for black for the car colour as it tends to allow for nice reflections.
I’ve always loved artwork from back then, but I’ve never really thought about exactly what it is that makes those old pics look the way they do. To get more of an idea, I studied some illustrations from that period to try and figure out what it is about the colours that gives them that ’40s feel. I’m still not quite sure.
After lots more refinement and messing about, changing various things along the way, I arrived at the final image.
I had painted the picture with the idea of a sunny day in mind, and painted the colours with that kind of lighting, but I didn’t decide on the specific background until quite late on. I had been thinking of beaches and so on but in the end I went for a kind of “Bonneville Salt Flats” look, to fit in with both the sunshine and the hot rod.
So, here it is…