finished painting of Mattie’s Whisper by John Foster Dyess

This painting was created using dyes, liquid acrylic paint and gouache paint on cold press illustration board. The size is 15″wide by 22″ high. This illustration was created in 1992 and at this time illustrations were pealed off their backing board and placed on a large drum scanner. The surface of original image you see is distressed from being removed from the backing board. Today a scan would be made on a flat bed scanner with no damage to the original.

fine line marker drawing from photo of Anna.

The process I used in 1992 was to project my drawings with either an opaque projector or a slide projector on bond paper or tracing paper,using a fine line brown marker. The size of this drawing is 7.5″wide by 11″high. At this stage I was focusing on simple outlines and composition. I decided to have Mattie” looking up at the head of Whisper and not his injured leg. I then made a black and white copy on a copy machine and drew a tight pencil using tracing paper over the copy.

Mattie and Whisper drawing with pencil on illustration board.

This bad copy machine copy is the only image I have of the tight drawing. I have either misplaced or trashed my Mattie’s Whisper preliminary thumbnails and drawings.

Detail from Mattie’s Whisper illustration of Mattie.

detail of horse head from Mattie’s Whisper.

The process I use to create an illustration has changed since 1992, but I think some information can be learned from this post by my illustration students. My recent paintings,photos and digital images along with my “older” illustrations can be found on my blog.



  1. Glenn Myers says:

    I appreciate your “how it was done” demos. Your thorough craftsmanship assured accuracy to detail. I ;however, tended to fly by the seat of my pants therefore everything was ‘sketchier”. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that I lasted so long being so “sketchy”. But then, I guess we are what we are. Glad to know you now and wish I had known you when I was getting started.

  2. johndyess says:

    I was also sketchy in the early 1970’s especially at the beginning of my career at Maritz. My illustration class at Meramec is going to be a challenge for me this semester. Here are the names of some of my students that I had to recruit for my class to make the required enrollment of 15.
    Carolyn Dyess,designer,Heb Rose photographer/designer/computer artist,Michael Halbert illustrator,Ed Koelher illustrator,and James Ross recent graduate SCAD who is very talented. What a good group of professionals to help me teach the beginning students.

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