Joe O'Reilly

Gay Icon

28 Jan 2010

In London we visited the Gay Icons Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. In one of the gallery halls the space had been filled with portraits of people who where either famous for being gay, or somehow related to homosexuality. The group as a whole felt angry that one man had been left out of the exhibition. This inspired what has become one of my favourite illustrations, and has taken up countless hours.

Stephen Fry

As I'm Sure You Can Imagine I Plan to Show the Steps!

I used Google Image search and found an image in which I believed he'd be both easiest to illustrate but also look best. I chose this particular photograph because unlike the others in has some very strong lines in it as well as the opportunity for some really detailed hair.

Into Illustrator

I opened illustrator and set myself up in the usual fashion. One layer, locked, with the bitmap image in it. A second layer for vectors, and groups of vectors. You can see below The bitmap layer is hidden and locked.

I began by building up the larger layers as block shapes.

fry-illustration-01 fry-illustration-02

I then moved onto the area that would take the most time and be the most fun to create, the hair.

fry-illustration-03 fry-illustration-04 fry-illustration-05 fry-illustration-06 fry-illustration-07 fry-illustration-08

This very quickly became a huge task, with the several hundred objects making all up the hair having been carefully interwoven.

fry-illustration-09 fry-illustration-10 fry-illustration-11 fry-illustration-12 fry-illustration-13 fry-illustration-14

When the hair was completed I moved onto the face.

fry-illustration-15 fry-illustration-16 fry-illustration-17 fry-illustration-18

Delicately adding details to the eyes.

fry-illustration-19 fry-illustration-20

Stephen Tweets while I work.


Nearly there, just need to work on the skin.

fry-illustration-22 fry-illustration-23 fry-illustration-24

The Finished Product

Huge version

Large version

A little self criticism

I'm never 100% satified with an illustration, I always want to improve somewhere so here's a small list with some points I might yet work on.


Hand Study


Audio Recording