Portrait of a Suffragette: Carrie Chapman Catt

This month's art assignment for Lilla's Make Art That Sells Bootcamp involved drawing a portrait of a Suffragette. I got Carrie Chapman Catt, who incidentally, I hadn't actually heard of! (I don't feel too bad as she was American and I am not.)

Carrie Chapman Catt, Portrait of a Suffragette, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

Luckily I've been taking the 'Art Recipes' class 'Drawing Faces' which helped me out with this challenge; in the past I've always shied away from portraiture and drawing faces because...eyes are hard and so are mouths and don't get me started on lips.

Here there was no-where to hide.

Portrait of a Lady, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

First off I started drawing lots of lady's faces before zoning in on Carrie. I love working in pencil (my default starting pencil being a 2H), and building up the depth of detail in shadow and shading. 

Once I had reached a certain point with Carrie, there was no way I wanted to risk spoiling my drawing with colour, so instead I decided to add it into the border detail.

I chose lilac, green and off-white to represent the colours of women's suffrage and incorporated some art nouveau details too for femininity and framing.

As part of my research (and recommended as part of the class), I watched the film 'Suffragette' which stars one of my favourite actresses: Carey Mulligan. As the film ended I heard the words I would use in the background of my portrait:

"Never surrender; never give up the fight"

I think for me these words sum up the fight for equality and for women to have the vote, but also the current everyday struggles women face in all areas of life and across all facets of society.

They say 'keep going' when times are hard.
They galvanize the spirit in fine fighting talk.
Carrie Chapman Catt, Portrait of a Suffragette
Lady Portrait, Rebecca Johnstone.jpg

I've not used a lot of my own lettering before, preferring the uniformity of choosing a font or typeface instead, but for this piece I felt hand-lettering would add to the 'rebel vibe' of the Suffragette movement.

I wanted to layer it behind the main portrait of Carrie and was so pleased with myself when I managed to create a clipping mask path in Adobe Illustrator - and it worked!

It always feels good to overcome both technical and art challenges in a project, and this piece definitely did both.

As I looked through all the other submissions from the rest of the group I knew there were so many that were much more accomplished than mine, but I'm not going to say the word 'better' because the more I work on assignments such as this, I realise I have my own style and take on things and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

REBECCA_JOHNSTONE_MARCH.jpg

I know I've created a strong portrait of a formidable female activist, leaving the chiaroscuro of my pencil lines exaggerating the almost masculine features of this celebrated Suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt.

I'm proud of my work and grateful to the Suffragettes for their tenacity, strength and determination #VotesforWomen!

See the full class gallery of Suffragettes.

Sign up for the Processions march happening across the UK on 10th June 2018.