I was thrilled when creative director Kory Kennedy asked me to illustrate the opener for Best Book of Entertainment Weekly’s “All-Time Greatest” issue. The #1 chosen book was Anna Karenina, and to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t read it… yet. Luckily there’s a fantastic little book store, a brief 2 minute walk from my studio, and so I immersed myself immediately in the 817 page tome. I was a little familiar with heavy Russian novels, I read Crime and Punishment when I was 13. I had a wonderful English teacher who ignored the conventions of prescribed reading for our age group and presented us with a list of 100 classic novels and let us chose whatever our hearts desired. I picked the one with the most provocative title to my dark and twisted little 13 year-old mind. Oh, I wish I could read that book report today.
Anna Karenina is a daunting book to portray; there are so many characters, individual stories, and opposing philosophies. I chose to focus on the central theme of expression of individual freedom, and in particular, Anna’s female emancipation. This book was written at a time when women had very little freedom. The idea of a woman having an extra-marital affair was beyond scandalous. After all she was breaking the rules, and the consequences were social ostracism, financial ruin and personal devastation.
Here I’m depicting Count Vronsky creating a tear in the veil of Anna's marriage and social standing, with his hand in a beckoning gesture.
To me the lace veil is a powerful metaphor: it adorns the face, can be construed as a shield from the undesirable aspects of life and superficially conceals one’s desires and primal impulses.
I wanted to suggest an atmosphere of freshly fallen snow without adding snowflakes, but I am still contemplating adding some at a later point to the original painting.
Another direction: incorporating the metaphor of the train about to hit her, to the left her husband Alexei Alexandrovich taking their son away from from Anna. © Jody Hewgill.
The most challenging and thrilling part of this painting was to paint the veil directly on top of the finished face. To help free me up from the fear of ruining the piece, I scanned the image after the face was complete. If I messed up, I could always add the veil digitally.
My work seems to be progressing towards becoming tighter with detail painted with tiny brushes. Logically that seems counter-intuitive in an industry where work needs to be completed quickly and efficiently. But my heart and my hand keep pulling me in this direction.
It’s exciting to see an entire issue of Entertainment Weekly filled with many illustrations, kudos to Kory Kennedy and his creative team for supporting and showcasing illustration. I feel very honored to be included with so many talented illustrators, including Gerard Dubois, Mark Ulriksen, Yuko Shimizu, and Roberto Parada.
- Jan 5, 2017 Hyakki Yagyo: Night Parade of 100 Demons