I have recently been reading treasure Island to my stepson mason. I have always developed a strong visual sense of characters from their descriptions in books, often after reading a book and watching the film version I have questioned the choice in casting. Long John Silvers descriptions have become pretty much the blueprint for the stereotypical pirate, The wooden leg, the shoulder perched parrot, the round hooped earrings and so on.
The actual facial description is quite thin, even so I have always had a good sense of the characters persona and facial appearance. Jim Hawkins, the books narrater and key character describes him at first site as a pale, plain faced man, his first impression was that of a happy man and very likeable. Later on we find that he is in fact much more than a retired sailor and pub landlord but a pirate. he is proven to be cunning and deceptive. Even though he is described as plain and pale, I tend to think of him as tanned or dirty looking, a nut brown face, being out on deck at see would certainly affect the tan of their skin and produce some weathering, especially around the eyes. I don’t tend to think of him wearing the tricorne hat, that feels to me like a status indicator, or a symbol of leadership, almost like a crown. Long John up until a point keeps his Pirate status and position of leadership hidden, masquerading as the ships cook, waiting for his mutiny to come to fruition. I also Imagine him with a dark beard, although this is not mentioned in the book to my best recollection. I tried to make my portrait of long John Silver, friendly and jovial but deceptive, spritely yet weathered. His smile loud and lively is juxtaposed with sinister plotting eyes. Overall I was happy with my John Silver portrait, If I was illustrating for a book, or graphic novel then I’d probably go more in depth in his clothing, his one legged gait and other defining characteristics. But as an exercise to visualise a person’s character from imagination this has been a deep enough exploration.