How Echo Chernik created a beautiful chocolate-inspired portrait

Art Noveau-inspired illustrator Echo Chernik has recently completed a portrait of Tara Cadmus, owner of New York luxury chocolate shop Oh Pour L'Amour Du Chocolat. It's now hanging as a 36-inch framed print in the store, as well as being used on posters, tags and stickers.

The painting is a beautiful mix of painting and vectors in Echo's signature style that has made her a much-sought-after artist. We caught up with her to find out how she created it.

The commission was to create poster similar to her piece Eve, which was created for the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas. Both depict a central female figure with elements of stained glass around her.

"I was given minimal art direction," says Echo, "simply requested that the fleur-de-lis -- an element that represents their brand -- could be worked in subtly."

Echo arranged for Oh Pour L'Amour Du Chocolat to send her samples to shoot reference images -- and of course to sample.

"It's not a terrible inconvenience to work with food companies," she notes, "except that inevitably I end up putting on weight 'familiarizing' myself with their product, especially their chocolates. They are simply divine. I was so impressed with their chocolates, I think it came through in the illustration. I wanted to convey their superior quality and richness."

While Echo was exhibiting at a comic show in New York, she held a model shoot with Tara. This took place in a hotel room, using desk lamps as lighting.

"As an illustrator, the photographs are reference only," she says. "Often I will shoot on the spur of the moment, and have become quite adept at lighting a space with what ever is handy."

Before the shoot, Echo had created a sketch to define her concept and mark out the composition. She used this to photograph Tara in the right pose, to make creating an accurate portrait easier.

"I had a vision of a beautiful art nouveau woman, standing with her hip perched impossibly far out," says Echo. "She wears gold decorative belts, to which is attached a steampunk-inspired tray bearing chocolates. I've been sketching a lot of chandelier designs lately, and decided to incorporate this into the tray.  The joy about such a piece is the 'suspension of disbelief' which comes along with enjoying the image. Of course, if she were to move or stand upright, the tray would tumble.  I love this 'living statuary' effect to the woman."

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