Mabel & Abe
Today I’m finishing off a design where I’m looking at portraits of people who would have lived in the run-down New York tenements. I’ve created Mabel and Abe, a couple from old England. Their house may not be to our liking with its flaking wall paint, damp stained ceilings and questionable colour pallet, but to them their home was perfect; it was better than back in the old country, and they hoped that one day they would move somewhere out in the country once they had made enough money in the city.
On a more historical and factual note, many “new world” immigrants had portraits or small photos taken of themselves to give to family members whom they would never see again. They would dress in their finest and were the typical Victorian style photograph: sullen, black and white and a little bit bleak.
When drawing Mabel and Abe, I didn’t want them to be perfect. I wanted them to look a little bit weathered with the bags under their eyes and slightly unkept hair. Although they’re in their finest, I want it to appear that they have a dark story to tell. Mabel’s angular jaw and pursed lips show her hardened approach to life, maybe she was wronged in the old country, or too many years as a scullery maid gradually wore her down. Abe’s big doe eyes reflect his warm and pleasant personality. Maybe Abe is good for Mabel.
My plan for these two characters are to carry the collection. I’m going to design my last few pieces with them in mind. What did they see? What do they have in their home?