Kaiser Wilhelm II Sketch…Analogue & Digital Duke it out!

I continue to flirt with different media for creating a natural looking sketch style that fits the era of WW1 and feels like something that would end up in a soldier’s sketchbook.  I like to use old photos as a resource and have been trying to use a stylus on an ipad to draw, but for me the results many times becomes a “trace job” which is very sterile looking.  I started with this photograph.


And the first attempt looked like this


It was accurate and tedious to do since the stylus has to be encouraged to follow your hand and eye to a point, but feels more like drafting than sketching.  I love using the stylus for loose sketches, and there are many options for colors and lighting effects, you can do a lot of interesting things graphically.  Great for experimentation, but clearly getting further and further away from something that looks like a sketch done late at night in the barracks by candle light.

one more

The upside of using the stylus is if your subject has complicated shapes ( like an airplane) you can rough out the shapes very quickly and accurately.  So I wanted to experiment using digital tools to find the the image, rough out the shapes but finish it with ink in a more authentic 1900’s style.  Here is how I did it.


Regarding the tools and technique, I used the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 for the digital work and two Noodler Konrad Ink Pens for the analogue (one with a flex nib, the other a fat 1.5, with Noodler’s Black Ink all purchased from the good folks at The Goulet Company). Mixing analogue and digital, a blue tooth narrow tipped sylus with pen and ink that smears on your finger tips seems to appeal to how my brain works.  The Blue Max Project at its roots is simulation based art project, so the mix of digital art and analogue sort of fits.


Using Sketchbook Pro on the Ipad, I composed the photo of the Kaiser, added a frame and than did a very loose trace to get the shapes and details in the right place.  After a few tries decided to keep the face empty and deal with that in ink.



I printed the image on card stock and than inked on top of it, using a hard copy of the photo as a reference.  For me it is key that I work from an image but not on top of it as a trace.  The results are less accurate, but the random , searching part of your brain gets put to work and creates its own result.  To get a darker look I used diluted ink and a sponge to do an ink wash.  Still learning the technique, but ended up way too dark.  I scanned the image and in Photoshop Elements lightened it up and used one filter on it that accented the edges ( yes we now have a media sandwich!!….digital, analogue, digital, the geek in me loves that.).


This was trying to be a portrait, but also a statement.  I am in the middle of reading a few histories of the early months of the war.  The loss of life was tremendous and overwhelming.  The leaders of Germany, France and England all made a series of decisions that resulted in incredible losses of life.  Decided to add a background to Kaiser Wilhelm’s portrait that reflected the results of those decisions.


When you place this in Rupp’s Skizzenbuch it looks like it belongs there.   I have ordered brown ink for my next try at this, sepia tones would be better.  It’s up to you to figure out how much below is digital and how much is analogue, but it really doesn’t matter.   The goal is a final image that is engaging and immersive to support the story telling.  This is getting real close to success!

KaiserV2 copy

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