Angels & Demons in Red and Blue

Australian Mugshot from 1920’s © as noted above.

Searching the web I came across this archive of mugshots taken by Australian police in the 1920’s. Love this dude’s rockabilly haircut.. I used his likeness for painting demos in my sophomore illustration class.


I drew his likeness twice on gessoed masonite. Then I painted monochromatic studies using blue, black, and white and red, black, and white acrylic paint. The golden rule for painting with acrylics or oils is to paint thick over thin. In other words start with a light wash, top it off with thick paint. My students artwork, below, is better than mine. They had three 3- hour classes, for nine hours of studio time for the project.

prisoner 5
Angel © Jake Woods

Here are my Project instructions: Your Angel or Demon should be largely monochromatic, with red or blue the dominant color. Close up, a telling detail, not full figure. Imagine the light is coming from the upper left. Angels or Demons can be either blue or red. No color code, but largely one or the other. Note how Jake used a bit of red to highlight the rosary in the image above.

prisoner 2
Bat Demon © by Hayden Gregory

Grading criteria: Originality, sense of mass, and consistency of light source. No points for originality if you lift a cherub from Rafael or devil from Bosch. Better to find a baby picture or photo of a wicked-looking person for reference. Even better –take your own reference photo of yourself or a  friend.

prisoner 7
Angel © Olivia Durr.

I used to insist students pick the assignment from a hat: angel or demon. Illustration, after all, is often done in response to someone else’s vision. Nowadays, I let the students decide. We always get a good balance of angels and demons.

prisoner 6
Angel @ Morgan Nadin
prisoner 4
Demon © Mikala Campbell

Mikala Campbell’s demon, above, is based on a photo of actress Lauren Bacall.

prisoner 3
Angel’s Feet © Cassie Bowlen

This is a simple enough assignment. I get the masonite from Lowe’s where it cost $10 for a 4ft by 8ft sheet. They provide 2 free cuts, so it fits in my car. I trim the board into 1-foot squares on a table saw. We use acrylic gesso as a primer. The painting teachers here tell students to paint an X on the backside of their board, so it doesn’t warp. That step isn’t really necessary at this small size. The materials we use are pictured below.

Materials for monochrome illustration project. Photo: Kevin McCloskey

We’ve done this project before, so to see even more angels and demons, lookie here.

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