Here’s the final version of Jackie Vespertine, a completely digital version of the original pencil drawing which has its strange flaw as described below. I lack deep image editing skills but used newly discovered GIMP freeware to experiment with the original Jackie scan. Basically I only used the smudge tool and airbrush (the latter in great moderation), and the final result felt like a black and white oil pastel, just without benefit of fingers. I used smudge with extreme transparency on the eyes, nose, and mouth, not wishing to blur their definition. The resulting image is compelling, and somehow true to the original pencil drawing, don’t ask me how. But this has to be the final iteration of the Jackie Vespertine image.
I’d drawn Jackie’s original portrait in pencil on rough paper from an ancient (ca. 1999-2000) magazine advertisement which struck me forcefully as what the Jackie Vespertine of Nonprofit Chronowar must look like. But in using grid lines to scale the image up to an 11” x 8.5” sheet, I found out the hard way that erasing the light pencil grid on the rough paper presented some existential problems: the grid lines can be erased but since they’ve left their grooves on the rough paper, and since I made gradients by rubbing my fingers through the pencil, every time I erase the grid lines I erase part of my gradient, and when I re-smooth the gradient the grid lines reappear! I really didn’t have the heart to experiment further with erasure methods, and figured a scan would improve the image. But as you can see it did not. Yet the physical drawing still lives in a frame above my writing desk and, for me, is the most representative Jackie of all images.
Experimenting further with the scan, I found that if I saved it as a purely black and white image and lightened it, the grid lines disappeared. Yay. Now it looks more like a line drawing but retains the Jackie personality well. This became my standard Jackie image for website and blog.
In looking to have some possible images ready for a cover for The SolGrid Rebellion, I printed off two black and white images on the same rough paper–you’d think I’d have learned by now–and made a colored pencil and a watercolor version. The colored pencil version, which went through more edits right before it became the cover of the novel, is a much better image, and still holds the Jackie character, whereas feel the watercolor seems to be slipping into becoming another person.
These alternate Jackies pushed out an urge to deal with the grid line problem on the original pencil drawing. Thus the final GIMP version. I could fool with this endlessly, adjusting the gradient, adjusting the tone, but I’m done with it. What I noticed a long time ago, at least for myself: if you want realism, use pencil. Paint, at least at my level of expertise, always morphs the image into something I’m never quite comfortable with, because paint is inherently messy. Colored pencil, however, is an interesting blend of pencil and paint. In any case it’s better to draw some more character faces in good old pencil. I know how to use smooth paper to avoid the erased gridlines problem!
In this except from the SolGrid Rebellion, newly minted rebel terrorist Jackie winds up revealing way too much about her top secret work with the Committee to the Ywritt: