My first encounter with Ella Fitzgerald’s music happened when I was about 12. My parents were hosting a party, and my dad had charged me with the task of burning a CD of jazzy music, suggesting songs by the Queen of Jazz herself. Having only heard her name through word-of-mouth, I sharpied the title “Elephants Gerald” onto the disc. Let’s just say my innocent mistake earned me a few embarrassing laughs.
Despite my early misunderstanding of Ella’s name, I have grown to adore her music. This is why I jumped at the chance to create today’s doodle!
Ms. Fitzgerald’s songs are soulful, jazzy, and create a very particular mood when played. I wanted to make sure that my doodle captured that essence. I chose to create the doodle out of cut paper because I knew that I could use this technique to imitate real stage-lighting and theatricality.
This was the first time I had ever attempted papercraft illustration, so it was a bit scary for me. I first sketched the entire scene in Photoshop. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly where and what to cut beforehand!
Once I had a tight sketch, I began to cut out pieces of paper. I printed several copies of my digital sketch and used it as a pattern. My desk became a huge mess very quickly!
(this was only the beginning...it got way messier!)
I had a lot of fun depicting the lighting with simple, geometric shapes. In some cases, such as with Ella, I added detail with colored pencils. It really helped bring her to life!
The final doodle was coming together...
I did a few test photo shoots, but it still felt like it was missing something! The colors weren’t nearly as vibrant and blues-y as the photographs I had found of Ms. Fitzgerald singing. I could have altered them in Photoshop, but I felt like that would have defeated the purpose of using traditional media.
It wasn’t until I started to experiment with colored LED lights that I felt like the piece came together. This really helped the illustration feel like it was a lit stage!
I am so honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to pay tribute to one of the greatest (and one of my favorite) singers of all time. Happy 96th, Ella!
Posted by Betsy Bauer, Doodler.
Some words from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation's Executive Director
Never in my wildest, most fantastic dreams did I ever believe that I would work for Ella Fitzgerald. Me, working for the great First Lady of Song? Been doing it since Ella 1996.
How did I end up here? My husband Rich and I have been married since 1980. He’s a lawyer, and when we got married he was practicing business law for a small entertainment firm in L.A. One of the clients was Ella. The first time Rich took me back stage (at the Hollywood Bowl no less) to meet her, I thought I would just keel over and pass out but she was as nice, gracious and warm as my favorite aunt. If you walked into her lovely Beverly Hills home, you were greeted with a huge smile, a big hug and a sandwich.
When Ella died, Rich needed to hire an archivist, and I was the only one he knew. There we were, sitting around telling stories while surrounded by Grammy Awards, Gold Records, Downbeat Awards, Presidential medals and all the tangible items of a life well-sung. I pinched myself a lot.
The summer of 1996 was not an easy one. Ella had just passed away from complications of diabetes and my own mother was ill as well. I would spend mornings at Ella’s, doing archival work, and the afternoons down the street with my Mom. I swear she could hear me scream all the way down the road the day I discovered an original Picasso drawing that Ella had stuck in her bureau drawer. The treasures continued to emerge as I found Ella’s invitation to John F. Kennedy’s inauguration (she performed along with Frank Sinatra among other), a personalized Dodger’s jacket, her director’s chair from the Carol Burnett Show, and the gorgeous red suit and pill box hat she wore for her famous American Express ad (thanks, Annie Leibovitz). History in my hands. These items and more are now shared with the world as her archives now live at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington DC.
So here I am, all these years later, still working for Ella running the Charitable Foundation that she started. And having WAY too much fun.
Fran Morris Rosman, Executive Director, The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation