Illustrations of Lesser-Known Black Historical Figures
Posted on 19th April 2017 by Austin Gould

We recently interviewed illustrator, viking, and root beer enthusiast Ingvard the Terrible , about some of his recent work exploring lesser-known black historical figures.

Here's what he had to say:

While many people learn about prominent African American figures associated with the civil rights movement (which is important, granted) I thought it would be beneficial to feature individuals related to other areas, like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics) or the arts. I didn’t label them as “black history MONTH” on purpose so I could return to them later, and have them still be somewhat relevant.

When and where was this body of work created? Who was the client (if anybody)?

I created this series in February in studio, during Black History month. I had some downtime from my regular work schedule, and when that happens, I usually try to work on portfolio pieces, or explore subjects that are of personal interest to me.

What were these images used for?

They were primarily intended as portfolio pieces, but were also an opportunity to explore variations in my style.

What was your initial approach to this subject matter? Was there anything unique in your preparation?

I started by researching a number of “firsts” (the first African American to do this or that), but was also intrigued by a number of men and women who simply accomplish great things in the face of racism and limited civil liberties, people that history may have forgotten.

Can you explain your creative process and the technical aspects behind creating these images?

I first worked out the typography (in Adobe Illustrator), which I wanted to evoke a more old fashioned feel since I was delving back a little further into history than just the Civil Rights Movement. The type was then brought in to Adobe Photoshop, where I added texture, and the portraits were illustrated and painted. One of the things I wanted to experiment with was a new set of watercolor brushes I had purchased from Kyle Webster (and I highly recommend ALL of his PS brushes!) at www.kylebrush.com.

What is the conceptual relevance of this work? Do you have any personal sentiments on the subject matter, or the 4 individuals in the images?

I’ve always been fascinated by space, physics, and cosmology, so NASA’s astronaut program was the first place I went. And, as I mentioned, in an effort to find figures outside of the usual civil rights era, I was drawn to areas like aviation and medicine. Plus, as a vocal advocate for women’s rights, I felt featuring women in this project equally as important. Then, the story of Bass Reeves I actually heard about first on Comedy Central’s series “Drunk History” (which not only a funny show, but an eye-opening one when it comes to the histories we were never taught in school), and I’ve wanted to acknowledge him in some way ever since.

If you had one piece of advice for emerging or aspiring creative professionals what would it be?

Whatever it is you do, do a lot of it. Tons. You may not get hired for several years, but constantly be giving yourself made-up assignments. Make up the kind of jobs you want to work on some day, pretend you have all the budget in the world, and fill your portfolio with the best you can do of that kind of project. And because you should be constantly doing new work, you should constantly be weeding out your portfolio; that never stops. I look back now at my style when I first started trying to be a professional illustrator and think, “Yeah, okay, I don’t know that I would’ve hired me, either.” And even now, I think, “I like what I’m doing, it’s pretty good—but I can do better.”

I really appreciate the opportunity to answer questions and talk about the job I love! Thanks!

Thank YOU Ingvard!

Check out more of Ingvard's work in his Dripbook Portfolios .

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