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'
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.