A different kind of character development

What I will show is slightly different. This is a character development of a real person. This is from a book that is just being released this month.
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans.

The Poppy Lady
Illustrated by Layne Johnson
Written by Barbara Walsh and published by Calkins Creek

It was an interesting adventure because Moina was well known enough to have her own stamp, and a liberty ship named after her in WWII. But unfortunately, photo reference of her at the time of the narrative (1918) was scant. And for someone who had a quick smile, she’s never seen in photos smiling! Also I would have to paint her when she was 16 for a prologue. The main reference that her relatives wanted to go by was a painting of her done several years after the main story. So here goes. First the prologue.

Photo of Moina at 16

Rough Poser rendering at 16


Sketch of Moina at 16   (Yikes! Her hand is too small!)

Painting of Moina at 16 for book.
 


But the conundrum was showing Moina at the time of the narrative – 1918.






The reference I could locate and was supplied with was earlier by several years and later by several years. So for her body size and weight we had to go by writings.






She basically put on some weight after the war.

And it’s odd in later photos of her with people. Everyone is standing and looking at the camera except her. She's standing at an angle and not smiling or looking at the camera.

A family portrait of Moina



Like the last photo – which btw is what they used as reference for her stamp.
She was posing like her stamp!
Notice no glasses in the portrait and stamp photo.


So my first renderings of her I thought were accurate but the publisher thought she looked a bit “mannish” like Mrs. Doubtfire!

To which I argued, “Well, she was!”



Anyway the decision was made to soften her up so I did. I took the painting and basically regressed her to account for age, weight, and of course glasses. More normal clothing too and less dower expression.
     And they were pleased.




From this...


To this...


To the final painting...



Anyway it was an interesting journey.
And it was a blast working in the Edwardian time period!





www.laynejohnson.com
See my book trailers on YouTube!

1 comment:

Janet said...

Wow, fascinating, Layne. Thanks for sharing! I absolutely love that last painting. She looks so heroic!