Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ego - A Willingness to Change.


Hello all.  I'm back.  For now.  Like I said, I'll be updating this blog spontaneously rather than on a schedule.  I even (if things went right) changed the title of this blog to reflect my personal feelings on where I am.  I have now created two pieces of art for other people and have been compensated for them.  That feels amazing, and I am comfortable saying that I am an illustrator.  It will feel even better once I create my own portfolio, and maybe my own website, which is in the near future. 
But, let's get to the subject at hand, which is Ego - specifically mineHere are two pieces of art, they are both flowers, poppy flowers to be specific.  



Now, which would you say is better?  Hard to say; I'm sure each has it's detractors and its praisers, and they are fairly different pieces despite them being both the same flower.  One is more natural, aiming for true colors and a closer representation of its look in reality, and the other is takes the idea of a poppy flower and plays with its reality.  One is simpler than the other.  

First, a little background on the job I had to do here. My sister came to me telling me she wanted a tattoo and asked me if I could draw it for her.  Now, I can feel like this is half a job, as in my sister is helping me out in my journey to becoming an illustrator by asking me to make something for her in exchange for x amount of dollars.  You know, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, my sister is doing something nice for me.  It's easy to feel that way and easy for my inner critic to put myself down.  But, this isn't just any commission, I'm not putting this on a paper and having her put it on her wall for a temporary amount of time.  This is a tattoo commission; what I end up on creating will be on her skin forever, this is a big deal and I treated it so. 

I said yes of course and she had a flurry of ideas, pictures, sample tattoos and looks she was going for.  I don't know if this is a new fad, but the style of tattoo she wanted was new to me - the watercolor tattoo. I saw many amazing poppy flower tattoos that looked like an artist painted watercolor on someone's arm or leg, a temporary tattoo that would come off after the first shower.  I saw splatters of tattoo paint, "mistakes" arising from the too wet brush, but no, this was a deliberate style, and a deliberate look.  To make things worse, my sister didn't want a watercolor poppy flower tattoo, she wanted a psychadelic, technicolor, watercolor
poppy tattoo.  Oh yeah, and there had to be a fibonacci spiral in there somewhere.  

I definitely had my work cut out for me.  

I began with research.  First I needed to know what that flower was (my sister had no idea).  Then I looked at actual poppy flowers (on the web).  A simple google search did the job.  I started, as always, on my sketchbook.  Here's what that turned into. 

I started and re-started many times, beginning with that spiral.  It didn't work out.  The spiral wouldn't make for a clean flower look and while I could try to make a flower out of the spiral, it wouldn't really look like anything real.  I gave up.  I instead picked out a few flowers positions I liked and sketched those out.  I'd show them to my sister (client) have her pick out the one she wants, and work my way there.  From the final piece, you can tell which one she picked.  

The hardest thing for me way creating the watercolor effect.  Luckily Photoshop had a watercolor brush but it was tricky and difficult to work with, though eventually I was able to manage.  The more I painted, the more I enjoyed what I was doing.  I liked the colors I chose, the shadows I created, even the stamen (center) of the flower, which is what I was most worried about.  But a problem nagged at me in the back of my head, even as I continued painting. I thought "where is the spiral, where are the crazy colors?  You've only done one out of the three things you're supposed to."  But then I thought, "but this looks so good!"  Eventually, I looked at the piece and it just...felt done. A strange feeling.  Usually I know what the final piece is supposed to look like, at least in my head, but here I didn't.  I did know if I kept working, it would lose its watercolor look, it's rushed, yet elegant style.  I was excited to show my sister thinking "this looks so great, she'll love it anyway."

My sister came over a few days later and I showed it to her. 

I sat down on my computer and she bent over me, and said "wow, that looks good...but..." and I knew I had messed up.  She asked where the different colors were, where the spiral was.  Yeah, the flower looked great but that's not what she wanted.  I weakly spoke out and told her where I was coming from, knowing I was already wrong.  I told her it looked good like this and adding both colors and the spiral would make it look strange.  "But that's the point," she answered, and I knew I was beaten.

Here's where I thought, this isn't going to be the first time this will happen to me.  An illustrator is commissioned to make something for someone.  That someone, will most likely be an art director, either of a magazine, a publication, a newspaper, or anything similar.  And they know what they want to see in the context of everything else.  It is my job to use my creative and technical abilities to create the visual that fits.  I'm not illustrating to please myself, though I should have fun doing it and should feel good once I'm done.  There are going to be times where I will have to change something, and even if I feel it's wrong, even if I feel it looks better the way it is, that's not up to me.  If I wanted to make art strictly for myself, I wouldn't try to be in this industry.

I had no choice but to pick up my pen, my tablet, and start working on the flower again.  I changed each petal a different color, keeping the dark-red center petal the same.  The spiral I still had trouble with, but my sister sent me another reference photo of the spiral doubled, much like a galaxy.  This helped immensely.  I looked at spiral galaxies for references and used that for the spiral at the center, however it was much more detached and didn't look like a compete part of the flower.  I was okay with that, the spiral looked like a foreign object anyway.  

Again I showed the flower to my sister but she still asked for more revisions.  More colors, more petals, and a closer integration of the spiral and the flower.  I was okay with it, feeling much more comfortable with the task.  Even the initial addition of different colors and the spirals didn't look so odd to me and I was still pleased.  I felt confidant in the final piece as I did what I was asked to.  As you can see, here's what I ended up with.

I got the okay from my sister, which felt fantastic but I still kept my opinion.  I still think the original flower looks good, especially for a tattoo, but I'm not the one getting the tattoo and I wasn't the one to come up with the psychadelic watercolor spiral poppy flower tattoo either.  But I was assigned the task, and I think I delivered nicely.  It's good to get a taste of the future - I'm sure other jobs will be easier, some will be harder, what I have to do is keep a level head, keep my ego from sabotaging my career and know when I have to step aside and do as I'm told.

Thanks for reading