Illustrating Neil Gaiman

By Tristam Rossin

I’ve been an illustrator for the past 30 years and over that period I’ve had the pleasure of creating portraits for many people. The chance to create a portrait for Neil Gaiman, one of my favourite authors is a great privilege. I remember reading Sandman at college in the 1990’s and being amazed at the maturity and complexity of the story compared to the usual tried and tested story-lines offered by mainstream comics. So, hopefully with the same mindset, I’ve endeavoured to create a portrait of Neil, not as a mainstream portrait, not using tried and tested techniques but hopefully something more complex and mature too.

How I create my portraits

My foundation is fine art, I moved over to digital eighteen years ago and have never looked back, digital gives you the confidence to create with a safety net, without the fear of that change you wish to make, damaging the final creation.

My portraits are created in vector, each shape I create is a series of co-ordinates which means it can be scaled without any loss of quality, this allows me to create massive portraits.

The best way to describe my process is to think of it as an extreme version of painting by numbers, but instead of having a series of shapes to colour, you create each shape and there are tens of thousands of them. You then colour those shapes but instead of half a dozen colours you have millions to choose from. The process is painstaking, Neil’s portrait comes in just shy of seventy hours work.