Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Horror Story I Enjoy, and "Of The Scales"

I had another client to do an illustration for recently (for a whopping total of 2). I was excited; not only was this another paying gig, which felt amazing, less so for the money and more so for the feeling that my time and skills are worth something. A business partner put me in touch with my client, who's website I was creating an illustration for. I spoke to the client and asked if there was anything specific or any direction I should take for the image. I was told to use my creativity and start from scratch. Not an easy task as free drawing is very difficult but the content of the site as well as the client gave me some material to work with at least.

So I gave my client a rough sketch, spending a little under half the time allotted (I had an agreement with a developer as to the amount of time I was going to be paid for).  My client's response was "I like it, but..." with the but essentially changing the entire piece.  In addition to that, my client, after being sent the rough, was then giving me a ton of different pictures, poses, and images that I should be aware of as I was creating my image.  This was easily something that could've been sent to me before I even created a rough.  It was frustrating to say the least.  

Before going on too long with what is essentially a horror story, I worked much, much longer than I was paid for (something I'll ensure never happens again) and had to re-do and re-do my illustration many many times.  Even worse, I wasn't even happy with what I ended up with (not to mention, the client chose the sloppy-looking, second rough sketch, rather than a finalized one).  It was actually a horrible experience and I only felt slightly better with the fact that the website developer who was working with me and the client also agreed that it wasn't the easiest job he had taken for similar reasons.
But still, when I tell this story (and believe me, many of my friends have heard it), I try to have a smile on my face.  Why?  Because this is a great problem to have.  I never thought I be able to complain about a client so soon.  The fact that I have a client, a horror story, and something to complain about is something I wouldn't have imagined myself doing for at least another year (6 months at most).  It's a great feeling and if it comes to it, I wouldn't mind having a few more horror stories if it means getting more illustration work.  Speaking of, an illustration dissection is coming right up. 

Of the Scales
This was the first assignment I got for Bushwick Daily.  I was excited, fresh-faced, and eager to make an editorial illustration.  I get an email from my Art Director and I'm to work with a poem.  You can read the poem here.  As you know from my last blog post, I'm very wary when it comes to poetry but I did my best here.  Again, I let the words, specifically nouns direct me in my illustration.  The things that stood out to me most were "scales", and the fact the the person in question was some sort of fisherman.  Then, an image struck up, an angle, and I thought about looking out from under the water.  That way I could have both the fisherman and the scales, which seemed so important, take up the focus of the image.  I sketched and came out with this rough.

As you can see, the majority of the image was already present.  I liked the image but you can see I was a little bit unsure of the the positioning of the fishing line and if I wanted some kind of pillar to hold up the dock.  I decided to go into a bit of color before I was ready to send it to my AD.  Here is what the rough color ended up as.  

I kind of like this image as well, there is a watercolor-kind-of look to it.  My AD gave me great encouraging words and I went to final, adding detail to the sailor, and lightening up the image as a whole.  I also took out the pillar next to the fishing line because it looked awkardly like some kind of strange shadow.  The biggest change, however, between the colored rough and final was that I actually used a Photoshop technique beyond colors and brushing.  The final image, while having some direction in depicting an underwater image, didn't have enough of that push.  So I used the aptly named "Liquify" tool and made pushed around the image, making it wavy and wavering.  I was pretty happy with this image, from start to finish and I was also happy with the color scheme, something I'm always scared of. 

Thanks for reading.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Process: Insight on 'Beauty'

Insight on 'Beauty'

Hello.  Another blog post, another thing changed.  This is going to be a post specifically dealing with the process of one of my illustrations.  No real updates on the things I’m doing (it’s more of the same, with big news hopefully coming soonmaybeperhaps), but I like to see other artists’ processes and sharing my own could help anyone who reads what I write and possibly even give me some new insight.  I will probably be doing this more often - a focus on my illustrations, unless there's some big news I want to share.  

So with that, let’s start with ‘Beauty.’

There it(she) is (Probably because of the name I think of this piece as feminine).  What I remember most about this piece is how hard it was for me to create.  As you remember, I was illustrating for Bushwick Daily, and my art director forwarded to me a poem called 'Beauty' by Jennie Briedis, which you can read here.  

Now, I call myself a writer – but I am a fiction writer and scriptwriter.  I love short stories and I've written scripts.  Poetry is somewhat far from both my personal interests and my personal abilities.  I don’t have confidence in my knowledge or reading of poetry.  I’m sure you can understand my trepidation when I was asked to illustrate based on a poem.  I read it multiple times and it was hard for me to craft an image around it.  I did, however, notice the objects, the nouns, the ‘things’ that stood out to me in the poem.  

'anonymous beer kisses' 
'belly laughter'

But that’s all they were, just things and abstract things for the most part.  I couldn’t create a cohesive illustration out of all of it.  Instead of zooming into the poem, I took a step back.  I started with the title.  Beauty.  I read the whole thing over again.  This was about love, this was about some kind of summer, but this was also sad.  Something was forming.  I picked up my pencil and I started drawing.

To be honest, when I sent this sketch in, I wasn’t very confident in my illustration and I think it shows in the little detail that there is here.  I entertained the possibility that my interpretation of this poem could be completely off and nothing close to what the AD (art director) wanted.  But upon being sent the sketch, I was given many words of encouragement and the go-ahead to take the sketch to final.  

Since I got the go-ahead, I decided to have some fun.  The moon was a large aspect of my illustration once I got to color – circular motifs in general was.  However, the ‘thinginess’ of the poem was still stuck in me and I wanted to find a way to insert that in there.  I thought of putting beer bottles or other objects in the light circles above.  But I didn’t  - it was too distracting and made for an image that was too busy.  I think part of my style/voice is to have an illustration with a lot going on.  Figures, objects, colors.  Many times I look at other artists’ illustrations and admire how they can do so much with so little.  I was trying to exercise restraint and decided to keep things simpler.

But, there was still something off, see if you can note what it is (aside from not being finished).

I don’t know how obvious it is, but when I look at the before and after, they are completely different illustrations to me and the fact that I was able to make that change really marked a change in the way I paint.  The big difference is a consistency in color and mood; when I paint, I usually make the mistake of painting objects in the color I normally see them in, but not necessarily in the color they are in that scene.  Here I have a cliff and this boy with a shirt and blonde hair.  But every color is exactly what it is.  The cliff is this dark brown.  The shirt is green, and the hair is a bright yellow.  That would all be fine if the character was in plain daylight, but he’s not.  He’s staring at the moon in a nighttime setting.  After a long time of staring I realized – these colors are completely off.  I wasn’t 100% sure what colors they should be, but I was sure they were wrong.  So I changed them and made them more “nighttime” and turned it into what you see now.

I was really pleased with the final image even though I had so much hesitation when I first started.  Interestingly enough - and this might not be such a surprise because of the way I see things - even though "happiness" was a large part of the poem and what I picked out, the illustration is actually fairly moody.  I also enjoy how weird and surreal it is – I tend towards paintings that are real or possible; it’s nice to know I can take things a different path if I have to. More importantly, this painting gave me much more confidence with my color use– something I knew I needed the most work on.