Rosie the Riveter Print…The Process

At heart, I am very nostalgic and fairly patriotic.  Those sentiments don’t often get shared in my work but on occasion, I will take the time to develop a piece that touches on them.   I am much too young ( I don’t get to say that very often) to have experienced WWII except in history books, dramatic films and documentaries but like most people I tend to romanticize the period.

However, if I am going to create a piece of artwork with that theme, I still have to think about my audience and what would most likely appeal to the most people in this post modern era.  I could sit around and draw Uncle Sam all day long but I doubt there is much of an audience for that character these days.  Rosie the Riveter, though, is a character with possibilities.  If done correctly, she could have appeal to both men and women and seem relevant to the current culture.

Here is the first image I came across that exposed me to Rosie.


This is classic Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover from 1943.  This particular depiction is a bit to burly for my tastes but it did get me thinking.

Next, I found this image.


Not wild about the art but love the slogan.  After a little bit of thought, I went to my sketchbook and produced a loose combination of both pieces.  I made Rosie thick and strong but nowhere as big and as imposing as Rockwell’s version.  I threw in some form fitting overalls and BANG!  instant magic.


I really liked a lot about this one but I wasn’t sure her expression conveyed enough attitude and I thought maybe her figure was a bit too relaxed.  So I did another pencil sketch with the changes.


I liked the attitude better in this one as well as the body language but I wasn’t sure it was as appealing as the first one.  I couldn’t decide.  So, like any smart artist would do, I called upon another artist to give me some input.  I sent both pieces to Terry Dodson.  Terry has had a pretty good track record with making smart decisions, while I on the other hand….

Anyway, Terry liked the first version best so I went with that one, trusting his judgement over mine.  I think a wise decision.

I took the piece to a finished pencil with a little adjustment to Rosie’s face.


I then dipped my brush and inked the piece adding the stars on the flag with a pen.


I knew I had to achieve a top notch color job for this piece to work.  I used photoshop and kept it simple for the most part but worked really hard on the shoes and the rivet gun to make them look more realistic.  I colored both elements using a combination of brushes and color gradients.  I found if you put enough layers of color down, eventually it will look like something!

I created the bronze metal effect by using a splatter brush and layering different colors over the top of one another in the same way you would lay down watercolors.  I then brushed in some highlights and I ended up with a fairly decent looking metal effect.

The leather shoes were trial and error as well.  I think if you look closely at the finished product, you can easily deconstruct what I did to get the effect.


You’ll notice I once again went with my standard orange/blue complimentary color scheme.  I went several rounds before finally deciding to color the background design circle like bronze to match the rivet gun.  I soon found out that a solid background color was not going to work nor would a fade.  I wanted sort of an old or aged look to it, so I took a large splatter brush and splotched in the background yellowish tan color.  Finally, I had the look I wanted.

I added the slogan, the copyright info and the signature line and off to the printer it went.


Although not my best selling print, it is one of my most successful as a piece of art.  It is my personal favorite because I learned a lot about coloring while working on it and I just love the final face and figure.  Even the wrinkles in the clothing turned out good.  Sometimes you get lucky and the image on the paper exceeds what you originally had in your mind.  This does that for me.

If you are interested in ordering this print just scroll back up to the top of the page and click on the store button and then the print icon on the store page.