James OBrien
October 2011
An Wang portrait

A couple of weeks ago, I was commissioned to do a portrait of An Wang, co-founder of Wang Laboratories and creator (along with Way Dong Woo) of the pulse transfer controlling device in 1949.
For this portrait, I focused on a close-up 3/4 view of Wang in a suit and bow tie with his patented circuitry as a background pattern.
A set of thumbnail sketches allowed me to explore translating his features into line and investigate composition and posture. I used this to create a sketch for the likeness.

Next, I sketched out some circuitry to use as the background pattern.

I combined this with the likeness sketch to create the final rough sketch to show to the client.

For the next step, I painted shapes with gouache for the head, suit, tie, and background. For this step, I was only concerned with the edge quality, the shape, and the texture within the shape from the brush strokes and subtle color value variations. I scanned these gouache shapes in grayscale.

Following the gouache step, I created the line work using a Pentel brush pen. I made an alternative line drawing for some of the facial features. In the first ink drawing, I made three left cheek edge lines intending to choose one of them, but then decided to leave all three.

I used the sketch in Photoshop as a guide for placing the gouache and ink elements.

In Photoshop, I converted the gouache elements to Index Color, limiting them to only two values; a medium gray and a dark gray. I then selected each of these grays and converted them each to a color that matched their value.

Next, I introduced a third value for the face texture and then began replacing the sketch with the scanned ink line work.

I decided to make the darker background and bow tie value match the face texture value.

Up until now, I had been working with a monochromatic red palette. For the final illustration though, I wanted the background to be a second color, and first tried a dull bluish hue…

…but then decided on an acid green…

…and finished by completing the final background circuitry pattern.

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Luke Russert, with UFO.
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