SQNews believes art is a universal language, a tool to explore our creativity and inner-self in the quest for betterment and understanding. For some of the artists we have featured, art is, even more, personal — it is part of their family tree.
San Quentin resident David Roybal, 63, exemplifies this. As a little kid, he witnessed his late father recreating human figures before his own eyes. He was amazed, and his father’s art left a lasting impression.
“I didn’t start out drawing people because I was scared to death to draw faces,” said Roybal. “So I started by drawing landscapes from Arizona highway magazines.”
He moved on to drawing horses to help him to developed his abilities, which helped him with drawing people because of the parallels in the muscle structures. Ironically, he notes it is harder to draw a horse than a person because there are more details to capture on a horse.
“Once I got confidence that I could draw, I decided to draw the face of a girl out of a glamorous girl magazine,” said Roybal.
Roybal says his artwork has given him greater self-confidence by helping him to realize he is good at something. As he became more proficient, art helped him with his recovery and personal growth.
Art has also connected him with others, regardless of their background or religious beliefs, including those who love his art and may end up requesting some of his custom artwork.
Roybal pours his heart out through his work, breathing life into the beautiful portraits
that he draws— people of differing back-grounds, personalities, and even eras.
His artistic style was defined in part at the age of 20 with he creation of his first pin-up girl, Trixie, which remains a fan favorite and helped to pave the way to his artistic success.
He learned to appreciate pin-up art at an early age. His father was a gunner in a B-17 bomber during World War II, and his plane sported a painting of a flamboyant pin-up girl. Roybal was entranced when he first saw a picture of the painting on his father’s plane. This led to an eventual infatuation with pin-up girl Betty Page when he saw her pictures in a Bombshell Pin-Ups book.
He feels it is easier to work with black and white through a graphite pencil in order to capture and contour a face. All you have to do is press the pencil downlighter or heavier to achieve the shading, which makes the process faster and more straightforward.
After having perfected this approach, he translated it to colored pencils, and can now quickly replicate his most popular pin-ups — what he calls his “bread and butter” — and earn some snacks and hygiene from fans of his art. He also does portraits on request of people’s family members or even the family dog.
One of his favorite pieces is a black and white pencil portrait he made of a Black woman wearing a veil on her face with a jeweled headdress, whose eyes look alive as if a soul lies behind them.
Another one of his creations, inspired by a tattoo magazine, is “Goldie.” She is a pin-up girl with mischievous blue eyes that gives viewers a sense of appreciation for the mystery and beauty of a woman.
The original, real-life Goldie girl was riddled with tattoos, which he found unattractive. He decided to reform her appearance by removing the tattoos to bring alive her innocence, transforming her into a “nice girl.”
“I feel that by removing the tattoos I enhanced her beauty,” Roybal said.
Goldie stands out for him as one of his greatest achievements. He feels he has transcended the ordinary with such a masterpiece.
Over the years, Roybal says he has come to appreciate the “alluring comfort found in the image of the all-American pin-up girl.”
He said, “It is no wonder that thousands of military men carried pin-up photos with them onto the battlefield — some taking one last look before going to the grave for their country. I know I will always have such a girl pinned to my heart.”