Wild Man Berger

A closeup of a wild-eyed-man's face, surrounded by a tangle of tousled hair.

A closeup of a wild-eyed-man's face, surrounded by a tangle of tousled hair.

Instagram is a glorious thing for artists — both as a forum in which to share our work, and as a source of inspiration and reference photos.

Yesterday, after finishing an illustration I spent several days working on, I found myself perusing my Instagram feed while also feeling like I should make better use of what was left of the day than just screwing around on my phone. Then I saw this photo of Alfie Berger. It made me laugh, and like most things that make me laugh, it also made me want to draw it.

I figured I’d give a new technique a try, so I got out on my Pilot Hi-Tec-C .3mm gel pens and scribbled out the basic drawing. Then I grabbed a fine-tipped Pentel Aquash water brush pen and pushed the ink around on the paper as the water caused it to run. I really love the effect this has, and I think it’ll be even more fun once I get the hang of it.

You can see for yourself that my reproduction of the image missed it by a mile. In the photo Alfie looks handsomely tousled, whereas in my sketch he looks like a wild man. On the other hand, I tried hard to make this a recognizable portrait, and it comes closer than I thought it would. I also didn’t bother with a pencil underdrawing — I just dived right in with ink and had at, leaving myself no room for corrections. Yes, the proportions are all wrong, and yes, it has that slightly creepy look that most amateurish portraits share. But all things considered, not bad.

I should point out that Alfie Berger is a freaking amazing artist, which is how I found him on Instagram to begin with. It was a little crazy of me to try to draw someone who actually knows how to draw for realsies, and then to post the results. But I did, half expecting Mr. Berger to ask me to take it down and probably to give up drawing while I was at it. Instead, he responded with “Although @akirebubar didn’t think I would thank them for some reason, I think it’s awesome you drew me and it looks great! You should draw me every day till you are perfect at faces and feel like a pro at them! I’ve drawn my wife’s face about 20 times so far and she still comes out looking like she has a congenital birth defect.”

Wow. What a great guy!

This is why I love the internet, and Instagram in particular. Yes, there are jerks out there. But I’ve met mostly kind, generous, talented people, and I never cease to be amazed and humbled by how friendly and downright supportive folks are.

Hop on over to Alfie Berger’s Instagram feed and look at his work. In particular, you should really look at this process video he posted of one of his works involving a woman, a kitten, a pair of underpants, and a toilet — it’s both utterly delightful, and a great insight into how he works. Don’t forget to follow him while you’re at it! You can also see the three-minute version on YouTube if you want to see what he’s doing at an easier-to-digest speed. He also tweets a lot of his artwork — find him on Twitter at @AlfieBerger.

At the start of this post, I mentioned that Instagram is a good source of reference photos. Please keep in mind that images there are NOT communal property. In most cases, they are the property of the person in whose feed they appear, and should be treated like any copyrighted material. Artworks created using someone else’s photo as a reference are murky territory where copyright issues are concerned, but in general can be considered an infringement of copyright when used for commercial purposes. Keep this in mind when sketching, folks!

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