Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hegel Experiment on Illustration

About a week ago I read a blog of a Russian professional illustrator. She was talking about what separates a good illustration from a bad one. In a nutshell: 20 hours of work. Or, sometimes, more. Additional hours of work put into a project turn a mediocre work into a great one.

This post impressed me a lot. I decided to make an experiment. Instead of trying to produce as many illustration as possible (good strategy for someone who wants to spur one’s creativity, but not for me – I should actually make an effort to keep my creativity on a leash), I will put the whole week into making one single illustration. And at the end of the week we’ll see if this piece comes out better than usually.

I began from this sketch:

At the end of the day one I had something very typical for me: entire sketch was vectorized, everything was coloured, and I had a strong desire to put this picture on my Flickr and say: “Look, everybody, how amazing I am!” But I suppressed this impulse and went to bed.

When I got up in the morning I looked at the picture and, as usual, got terrified. How is it possible that I was so enthusiastic about this piece of crap 7 hours ago? The color palette was horrific, the pose was stupid, and the face was much more stylised than the figure, so it looked like somebody screwed a puppet head onto a real-life girl.

And right there I suddenly remembered how quite a few years ago one of my friend – a literature major - told me, at that time an aspiring writer: “That things you write are not short stories. They are radio plays. It’s all dialogue – where is everything else? Where is all the background: the scene, the story?” Now I was looking at my illustration and I saw that, again, I got myself a radio-play. Figures floating in nothingness.

So I drew two more figures like this:

After a day of hard work I managed to create something three times more horrific than the first one.

At this moment I honestly wanted to give up, because that was a nightmare. But I bit the bullet and tried to focus my attention on the fact that two new girls had much more animated faces that suited much better to the dynamics of the bodies. Hence, I had some kind of progress (although I still wanted to cry).

I rendered the figures and made a few experiments with composition and realised that it was necessary to make a sacrifice. I removed the first figure and left only two new ones. Now I suddenly had a much better composition.

I decided it was time to put and end to the radio play, so I googled for photographs of roller skaters – because, frankly, I had no idea in what environment the girls like these could exist. And after three or so hours of research, it became very clear to me: Venice beach, California!

I looked at the pictures and created a sort of a generalized landscape of Venice beach. I drew with a felt pen and then scanned the sketch and vectorized it. Then I added the background and removed all the crazy colors, leaving only white, black and the main color of the skin.
This morning I started to re-colour everything. I didn’t hurry anymore, I took my time and I knew that I was moving in the right direction.

I cleaned up the entire palette, and, although it was killing me, I removed the red color of the lips. I decided to limit myself to two additional colors. ONLY TWO COLOURES with a couple of shades – that’s it. I selected the yellowish-green color, which complemented well the skin tone, add a bright yellow and re-coloured the pre-existed pattern (it was originally in the terracotta colours) for the right girl’s tee-shirt. The dark-blue colour of background disappeared for good. I had four different options of green gradient for the background to choose from. That is a transition of quantity to quality to you. I tried out all fonts that I had and uploaded two new. And after that I spent more than one hour on the selection of the best printing mode.

And when I finally obtained the final print, I was convinced experimentally that quantity of time, dedicated to the artwork, really transforms into quality. Click here to see the result. This is something. Maybe being a philosophy majore could help an illustrator, maybe hegel was right.

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