The Making of a King!

The ABC 7 Chicago News did a feature on Anthony Alfano shortly before Halloween.  His parents create very elaborate costumes for him each year and this year he became a Lincoln Memorial snow globe as was shown in the video I shared.

When Larry Broutman saw this feature on the news, he reached out to the news team to see if they could put him in touch with the family, so that he could feature Anthony in one of our illustrations for the book project we are working on.  They agreed and Larry picked the rhyme King Cole as the theme so that we could make Anthony a King.

I received the photos of Anthony last week and began working on the concept.  

The words in the classic rhyme go as follows:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he.

He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl, and he called for his fiddlers three.

To keep this young and fun – we wanted it to be a bubble blowing pipe and Larry had requested the fiddlers be three cats.  And off I went.  

You may recall I had shared some sketches I had been doing of the various characters.

Pencil sketches of cats playing fiddles

Pencil sketches of cats playing fiddles

Pencil sketch of jester with bubble pipe.

Pencil sketch of jester with bubble pipe.

Pencil sketch of chef with bowl.

Pencil sketch of chef with bowl.

Often times now a days I just do all of my drawing/sketching digitally for these scenes.  But this time around I had been working outside of my home office so a lot of the initial sketching was done with a good old pencil and pad of paper.

I then snapped photos of the sketches I liked and brought them into photo shop to work on the sizing/arrangement and layout.

King Cole: scene concept sketch and layout design

King Cole: scene concept sketch and layout design

Once I had the layout sorted (which I changed later on as I was further into the piece).  I had to go do some digital magic in Photoshop to refine a few things within the photo of Anthony.   As you see here in this before/after – the shirt of his costume had bunched up a bit in his chair – so I needed to work on adjusting that to make the crest on his chest read more clearly again.  I also extended the length of his pants to cover over his white sock that was showing and then darkened all the white trim on his shoes so they did not draw your eye in the final illustration piece.  One other subtle detail was adding in hints of blue to the areas of reflection and bounced light on the silver parts of his wheel chair so that it would feel as if it really was in the room with the blue curtains behind it.

Here is a side by side comparison showing the original photo of the King and the updated version after adjusting in Photoshop.

Here is a side by side comparison showing the original photo of the King and the updated version after adjusting in Photoshop.

And from there on it was all painting and detail work. 

Final rendering of Jester with the bubble pipe.

Final rendering of Jester with the bubble pipe.

Final rendering of the chef with the bowl of something war he has prepared for the King.

Final rendering of the chef with the bowl of something war he has prepared for the King.

We went through a few different color scheme iterations trying to find just the right combination to make Anthony pop in the middle of a busy scene -while keeping that royal court feeling.  And eventually adjusted the style of the curtain to simplify the upper part of the scene and add more of that pop of red. 

And I am thrilled with how the final illustration turned out.  

But more importantly to know that it brought some real joy to Anthony and his family was the best of all.  I am very fortunate that I not only get to do the work I love but then have it create such a positive impact.

Finished scene of Young King Cole for Chicago Treasure by Larry Broutman.

Finished scene of Young King Cole for Chicago Treasure by Larry Broutman.

And being on the ABC 7 Chicago news – WOW I still can’t get over how exciting that was.  

For it to air in the middle of Thanksgiving when I was surrounded by my entire family watching it – so unbelievably awesome!

My illustration of Anthony Alfano as King Cole from the Chicago Treasure project by Larry Broutman was featured on the ABC7 Chicago News Thanksgiving Day!