Playing with James Madison – The Making of a Character

James Madison fighting with alien aboard spaceship

President James Madison in science fiction

As a hobby, I enjoy writing science fiction graphic novels. I create original plots and use many photographic images and paintings to produce illustrations. This love for science fiction, graphic novels, and history lead me to create a graphic novel in which the 4th president of the United States, James Madison and his wife Dolley Payne Madison travel to the distant future on another planet. The graphic novel itself is not published online; however, some of the images from that effort are posted here. The purpose of this post is to show what one can do with Adobe Photoshop and other imaging applications. They are transformative and for educational purposes only.

When watching historical period pieces and movies the one thing I never like is how the actors and actresses never really look like the real historical figures themselves. Sometimes Hollywood tries, and sometimes they don’t. Yes, I know it can be hard to find actors who look like actual historical figures. My solution is, at least for my graphic novels, to use actual historical paintings or photographs of my characters.

In my story, Madison is kidnapped from his Montpelier plantation in 1825. He is taken by aliens who are the descendants of earth and another race of alien humans. The aliens look like humans, not little green men. The aliens claim they need Madison’s DNA to save their people from a genetic weapon created by an enemy race. They do not disclose their true intentions of which they plan not only take Madison’s DNA but genetically modify Madison himself and make him into one of them. The story tells of how Madison maneuvers his way around in this future alien world with an entertaining view of how he reacts to future technological advancements. Madison also has to deal with more severe issues including the aliens’ tyrannical government, abusive behavior, and slavery.

In my graphic novel, I wanted my Madison character to look, well like the real James Madison. No photographs of Madison exist, so I had to analyze his life mask and find a painting that most closely resembles his likeness.

Creating the Character

Choosing the right Madison

I started by examining Madison’s life mask in the pursuit of finding a painting depicting his exact likeness. I chose Asher Durand’s 1833 portrait of Madison. Using Photoshop, I changed his eyes to blue. Madison had blue eyes, but the Durand painting makes them look brown.

Left: Life Mask of James Madison. Right: Asher Durand’s 1833 painting of Madison

I created two instances of Madison’s life mask placed on a body with overlays from the Durand painting. We are now able to see what Madison looked like.

James Madison
The life mask of James Madison, colorized with an overlay from Asher Durand’s 1833 painting.

Below is an image I created using Asher Durand’s James Madison whose face has been turned and is facing slightly downward. When compared with the life mask, the Asher Durand face of Madison looks closely like the life mask.

James Madison

Transforming Madison

The following set of images are a brief walkthrough of creating the character as well as some scene examples. The tools used were Adobe Photoshop, 3D Face Reconstruction from a Single Image via Direct Volumetric CNN Regression and FaceApp. All instances of Madison’s face are from the same Asher Durand painting.

I started by creating different facial views of Madison. To create the faces I used three different versions of the same Durand painting shown below: the original, one with the eyes looking to the left and one with the eyes looking straight ahead. They eyes were moved using Photoshop transparency layers.

James Madison

I plugged each of these into the 3D Face Reconstruction from a Single Image via Direct Volumetric CNN Regression website. (Links to this free tool are at the bottom of this post.)

Below is a small sample of the Madison faces generated. The tool pretty much shows only the face. The remainder of the head and hair must be created using Photoshop.

James Madison Faces

Image Gallery from the graphic novel

Click to see a larger image.

Special thanks to Kyle Jenks, Professional Interpreter of Pres. James Madison,, for image usage.

See Part II

James Madison – UFO’s over Montpelier

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2 thoughts on “Playing with James Madison – The Making of a Character

    1. Yes. Looking at the popularity of the founding fathers, I sometimes think I should have used Thomas Jefferson instead of Madison. Yes, Jefferson and Dolley kidnapped by aliens. Now that’s the story!

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