This is Part 2 of the making of the Sickle Cell stamp for the U.S. Post Office. Part 1 is here.
Normally I use friends and neighbors as models, but I didn’t know anyone who had the right look for a young African American woman or a baby of the right age. Through a modeling agency, I located excellent models for both characters. Unfortunately, they were no relation to each other and had never met.
That meant the modeling session might be risky because babies of that age often are afraid to be held by strangers. And in this case, the woman posing as the mother was a young dancer who didn’t yet have children of her own. If the baby started crying, the session would be a disaster. To be safe, I scheduled the modeling sessions back to back.
The “mother” posed first, holding a stuffed bear as a stand-in for the baby. Then I photographed the baby being held by a favorite aunt. Finally, we put the baby in the model’s arms. After a moment of wide-eyed consternation, the baby broke into a smile, and the two got along wonderfully.
The resulting photos provided a basis for the final oil painting. I had to change the little girl into a boy, and I changed the pose so that the mother was leaning back more. I also softened the light source to remove the harsh shadows.
Even a photo reference shot from professional models should be regarded as just a starting point, and you should feel free to change anything to make the final result express your initial vision for the pose.
Sickle Cell Conference at the NIH Campus in Bethesda, MD, Nov. 16 and 17
Wikipedia on Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle Cell Stamp, Part 1
Previously on GurneyJourney: Tips on using photo reference.