The Making of a Tallis (part 1): Sketching the 4 Matriarchs.

Day 1: Sketching it out.

It starts with a little brainstorming: I wrote down in a few words the main character traits we associate with each of the ladies and their names.

I like how the names look in Hebrew. I think I will have that incorporated somehow, maybe on each of the 4 corners.

Then I start sketching. I google ideas and use images I find as reference, often piecing together 2 or three photos to get the basic shapes and sensibilities I like.
I started with Sarah:

I found this picture of an old lady, it is really beautiful. I don’t know who the artist is. The lady looks so pleased about something, which is just the right feel for the character. Who wouldn’t be pleased to bear a child after waiting 90 years.

There is much more detail than I am looking for. But I use the sketch as reference anyway… I like this sketch, but there is too much detail in the face… I want the ladies on the tallis to be a little more abstract.

I will use this one on the tallis:

Next I sketch Rebekkah.

I google ladies carrying water jugs and come up with some fantastic images, but this one is most useful. I want a beautiful young woman carrying a water jug on her head. It is how I picture Rebekkah coming and going to the well. I don’t want her facing this way, though…

Photoshop to the rescue: I flip the image… and sketch.

It took a while to get her right, but I like it. A bit Disney cartoonish but I think when it is painted on the silk, that look will go away.

Rachel and Leah took the longest to sketch.

I wanted an image of two sisters who love each other … holding hands…and who are clearly upset with each other… back to back.

I pieced these photos together for reference. Again, I had to flip one of the images in photoshop.

…and here is the sketch of Leah and Rachel.

It might still need a little work. I think Leah looks wounded, rather than pregnant. I tried the image with veils on them, but I just like having the curly hair. Such a Jewish thing, curly hair.

Now comes the fun part.
I scan all my sketches into the computer and manipulate them on a scale drawing of a talit. This way I get an idea of layout… do I want them horizontal across the length of the tallis, or on the corners… where do I want the names or do I get rid of them altogether? I can move the images around and try all kinds of different ways of doing it. I like this layout and especially with the names in Hebrew… I’ll have to check with my more literate friends to be sure I’ve spelled them right!

Here you can see the ladies better:

I’m not thrilled with how they look with the traditional tallit stripes. I think I’ll change that a bit on the silk…something with more movement, like a path or a river… I like the idea of flowing… there is nothing linear about these women.

Stay tuned for the next phase… Sewing the silk for the painting.
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