In Depth Process: Black Dahlia
Hello all! Thank you for visiting my website. If you're new here, welcome! This blog is where I go more in depth about the materials, techniques, and processes I use when creating my artwork. This post will be about my portrait of Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. I understand not everyone has an interest in true crime, but if you are interested and are not familiar with her murder I recommend giving it a quick Google search!
This painting measures 9"x15" and is on cold press watercolor paper. I sketched out everything with graphite, and began painting from her face outward with watercolor. When I was satisfied with the watercolor portion, I outlined everything with an india ink pen and painted the remainder of the background with waterproof india ink. After, I added highlights and detail using my white ink pen to add more interest.
Now, I'm going to be honest. I had some issues with value contrast because of how black I wanted this painting to be. One of the reasons that Elizabeth Short was nicknamed the Black Dahlia was because of her black hair. I wanted her hair to be black, but I also wanted the background to be black. This is where I took some creative liberties and added a small amount of brown into her hair. In person, however, the contrast wasn't enough. This is where Photoshop comes in. Again, this is an optional step, but I wanted more contrast for me to consider this complete. So, I lightened up her hair and added a small amount of line work digitally to make it easier to discern her outline.
There you have it! That is how I did my Black Dahlia portrait. I have more pieces that have digital elements (or are completely digital) that I will make blog posts about soon. If you have any questions about tips and materials, or for inquiries about purchasing this piece, please feel free to comment or email me!
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Sarah Bustillo is an illustrator from Los Angeles, CA. Her work delves into themes of femininity, death, and rebirth. She graduated from California State University Northridge in 2018 with a degree in Illustration and Anthropology.