I finally got a project going that I’ve been contemplating for over a year now. It’s actually a sub-project since it’s part of the illustrated version of “The Great Gatsby” that I’ve been working on for about a year and a half. But it’s big enough that it’s a project all on its own.

Chapter Six of “The Great Gatsby” starts with a bunch of names. Nick, the narrator, reads a list of names that he wrote down a couple of years before of the people who went to Gatsby’s parties. It’s a long list that’s supposed to give us an idea of the size and scope of the parties. There are about seventy names on the list but a lot of them are of couples and a few of them are of groups. I counted about a hundred and twenty people on the list.

Last year it came into my head that I wanted to draw a face for everybody on that list. I’m not sure if anyone has ever done that before but I thought it was a cool idea. The problem is that it’s a lot of work to draw a hundred and ten people. And how was I going to do it? I love to draw faces and have drawn a lot of them over the years so I know how much work it is and I didn’t necessarily want to do that much work. So I sat on the idea and thought about it.

The first part of my solution to this problem was to decide to leverage a whole bunch of faces that I have already drawn. My “Drifting and Dreaming” comic strip is made up of two unique faces per strip and I have done over seven hundred strips. That’s fourteen hundred faces at my disposal. The problem is that all of those faces are small, about two inches high, and are drawn in colored marker. I would have to somehow redraw them in ink and at a larger size.

The first idea to redraw the faces was to do them digitally. I picked out about six faces from the cards (I already have them all scanned in) and transferred them to my iPad. I figured I could work on them whenever I got the chance. Maybe on my commute when I was on the train. I only got a couple of them done and then never seemed to work on them. It turns out that I wasn’t that interested in drawing them digitally. There was always something I wanted to work on before them. So the project sat around for a year with no movement forward.

This week (the third week in May 2023) I decided to try and draw those faces on paper with pencil and ink. My first decision was what size to draw them at. I thought five by seven inches would be good but then I realized that I didn’t have a lot of paper that size. I probably have about fifty sheets of five by seven inch watercolor paper but since I wasn’t painting them that paper was better left alone. A six by nine inch size would be bigger but better. I often work that size because I buy a lot of nine by twelve inch pads of Bristol board and cut that paper in half.

Usually when I do something like this I would draw the face in pencil, scan it in, print out the pencil drawing in blue line, ink over that blue line, and then scan the ink drawing in. The blue line drops out if I scan the drawing in with the bitmap setting.

But these drawings on my art cards were already in color. With them I pencil, ink with a black marker, and then color them in with color markers. If I were to print the faces out I had to figure out a way to drop out the color and print the black ink line in blue. I’ve done stuff like this many times before so it wasn’t really hard but it took a little while to figure out the best way to do it. After I solved problem I made the solution into a Photoshop Action (a macro or a script) so I could use it with the press of a button on all the faces that I needed to draw.

Out of my vast archive of “Drifting and Dreaming” faces I picked ten, made them into blue lines, and printed them out to be redrawn. The redrawing process turned out to be fairly easy. I had all of the basic information there in the small drawing already. With the original faces I tried to be creative and vary the faces a lot. So I really only had to add more detail in the larger drawing. It was much less painful than when I tried to draw it digitally.

After I had pencilled a few of them I decided to figure out how I was going to ink them. I’m mostly a brush guy when it comes to ink drawings. It’s my favorite tool. But for these I decided that a brush might be too slow because I knew I would try to make them perfect. Since these were originally drawn in marker mimicking a marker line with a brush would be time consuming and silly. So I decided to use my “Three Marker Technique.”

As you might imagine my three marker technique uses three markers. A thick, thin, and medium point marker. I actually adapted it a little for these faces since I just bout a new type of medium marker. I ended up using that new medium marker to begin and then I went in with the thick one and my original medium marker which is slightly thicker than the new medium marker. I used the thin marker but just a little bit of it. I like the way the first few faces came out so I knew I had my method of doing all a hundred and twenty of them.

In general it went fairly quickly too. I figure I can comfortably get done six faces a day (in about four hours per group of six). That’s with doing some other things too since I can’t always dedicate all of my time to one project. But in ten days I’ll have sixty of them done and in twenty days I’ll have a hundred and twenty of them done. I think I can do that over the length of the summer while still getting other things done.

Of course when I get them all drawn, inked, and scanned in then I’ll have to decide how I’m going to color them. That’s a whole other kettle of fish. I’ll let you know how it goes.