Illustration Portraits: Stina Persson & Pablo Lobato

My favourite drawing subject is portraits, to the point where I can’t draw anything else except faces! Illustration allows for the format of portraiture to be explored from various angles and looking through ‘Illustration Now! Portraits’ (Julius Wiedemann, 2011) it demonstrated the sheer variety of styles available. I’ve picked out two of my favourites from the book; Stina Persson and Pablo Lobato.

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Stina Persson’s style could be described as resembling ‘fashion illustration’ but her work has been used on popular magazine covers and adverts for big name brands and clothing companies. Watercolour seems to be her medium of choice but she has also explored handwriting, acrylic and ink, and collage as well as incorporating photography.

This is an poster in Malmo, Sweden advertising tours around the town. It is entitled ‘Find Your Malmo’. The heads of the two lovers make a vague heart-shape with the warm reds, purples and oranges adding to the romance. I love the lack of lines on the faces- the facial features are merely suggested and are clean white compared to the transforming colour elsewhere. This was probably accomplished using precise masking.


The portrait on the left is from Persson’s New York show in 2010, from the Gallery Hanahou, entitled ‘Perfectly Flawed’. The piece is a modern take on Tippi Hedren who was famous for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. It is a combination of cut paper making up the face and watercolour elsewhere. Despite the lack of obvious 3D form, the face and particularly the hairstyle seem to have great depth due to darker shades of colour where shadow should be.

The portrait on the right is of actress Penelope Cruz (done in 2010 for a ‘Latina’ magazine editorial). This is my favourite because of the bare minimalism- all it consists of is eyes, nose, mouth, chin and a strand of hair. The colours here are bright but not overly so; dark browns and purples are used for the shadows while the eyes are given a green/blue sheen. Persson said of her work,”It’s all about the eyes. And as little as possible about smiles and teeth. Sometimes it becomes more a portrait of a hairdo or a sweater. And that’s ok.” This is the URL for her website, giving a more comprehensive look at her work:

Pablo Lobato, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has an altogether bolder style. Using geometric shapes and vivid colours he somehow captures the likeness of the subject as well as the personality. He says, “I use 70% of the time to get to know the person I am portraying. And just 30% to draw them.”

This is a portrait of actor Leonardo DiCaprio from a ‘Flare’ magazine article, 2007. The shapes and colours are created using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to give a polished, slick look. The likeness for me is shown from the shape of the head (a square!) and the half shut eyes. The different shades on the face double as realistic tone and actually make the 2D flats seem three dimensional.


These next two are of the celebrated American rock bands, the White Stripes and the Red Hot Chili Peppers respectively. Reds, blacks and whites are used to keep in line with Jack and Meg White’s traditional aesthetic, which hadn’t changed at all during their thirteen year career. The Chili Peppers’ portrait is split into two halves in the background; Mars on the left and Jupiter on the right. Mars and Jupiter were the names of the two discs that made up the Chili’s 2006 double album ‘Stadium Arcadium’. Both groups are posed to show the unity and energy of their live performances.

Overall, both Persson and Lobato’s approach to illustrative portraiture are something that I’m interested in imitating myself. I might upload the results at some point!