Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Hoodlums!" And something I learned along the way

Theres many different instructional videos out there about process, technique, color and design. Something that I have never really experienced is people giving lessons on developing an actual workflow. Working full time as an artist, making time for personal work on top of drawing for 9 hours day becomes an overwhelming challenge. In order to complete a piece as detailed as this, it required me to come back to my computer night after night, working for just a couple hours at a time until it is finished. As many of you know, finishing pieces that take this many sittings is one of the hardest things to do. Here are a couple tips that I learned about my own personal workflow which may help some of you somewhere along the line.


Every piece of art has at least one false summit. Reaching these summits and pushing forward to the next stage is a crucial part of finishing a complex piece. Most pieces start as a sketch, some might say the most fun part of the piece. Once the sketch is complete, we have our first "false summit" en route to a fully rendered piece. It is very easy to stop work once we have a complete sketch. The product looks good, it portrays the information we wanted to get across, what else is needed? For some this is an OK stopping point. Every once in awhile we need to bring that sketch even more to life with color and rendering. This is where things get tricky.
After completing the sketch the next step is an under painting. Under painting is messy, rough, and undefined. The energetic finished look of the sketch almost always disappears under the underpainting, leaving us with somewhat of a mess that needs to be tidied up. This is the MOST crucial stage of the piece. In my own personal experience, every time I have stopped work on a piece during the stage of underpainting I have never returned to finish it.

Why is this?

The fun part of sketching is that we get satisfaction from seeing our ideas come to life quickly and easily. Starting a new sketch is far less daunting then starting out your drawing session rendering from a clutter of color and shape. When I have worked for 9 hours and I only have 2 hours to draw before bed, would I rather start a new sketch or hack away at something which I probably wont see anything exciting for a couple more days? I sketch, every time.

How to counteract this?

Never stop work with a mess, leave yourself with a visual puzzle to think about, something that looks good and sparks your interest. Never step away from the piece when it is in disrepair or else restarting will be way more difficult.

Set yourself up for success! Something I learned when I worked in the service industry. When getting ready to stop work for the evening, I am always sure to leave myself with something exciting to start out with for my next sitting. This eliminates the issue of needing to wait a couple hours to get an exciting return on your hard work. For example, when working on this piece, My stopping points were just before completion of each individual building. By leaving a small portion of rendering left on a building, it allowed me to start of my next drawing session with a large reward for a small amount of work, inspiring and motivating me quickly. I found that this elevated my level of productivity and accelerated my work speed every night.

By treating the piece as a serious of individual hurdles instead of a massive undertaking, the piece stays fun and exciting no matter how long it takes to complete.

Stopping Point

Hopefully this is helpful, thank you for stopping by my blog!


Chris said...

What a great little article, thank you!

Gillibean said...

Wow! Great illustration! I love everything, the composition, the characters, the car design, the colours, the atmosphere and the uber detailed WANTED poster lol!


Logan Pearsall said...

Great stuff, Isaac! I have often had similar problems, and you're right.... it's VERY tough to throw yourself back into a piece that just isn't working.

Nice tips!

Elise said...

Thanks, Isaac! Great advice, and a beautiful piece!

Tooninator said...

this piece is great! I love the big ol' bad dudes crammed into the car.

Caitlyn Dailey's ArtBlog said...

What a great post! Thanks for that.

Ilona Sula said...

Your illustration is wonderful!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

Tim Heitz said...

Great piece man, and love the words of wisdom!!!

Will Terry said...

So cool to see your process - I love how you think about how you leave your project for the next session.

Taylor Krahenbuhl said...

Fantastic work!

kartoon kid said...

Great backgrounds!!! From CTN :D

Andrea Fernandez said...

Hey great post! It was nice meeting you at the CTN by the way :)

Melody Waller said...

Hi Isaac, I just stumbled on your blog and I love this post. Why don't more people talk about this? There's a plethora of information about technique, but vary rarely does one hear about artist's strategies concerning their day to day struggle to get the project done. One of my strategies is I tend to work at night when the world is asleep so that I am not distracted by "activity". However, this tends to make me lethargic during the day, and I haven't found a way around that yet. lol.

Logan Pearsall said...

I know I've already commented on this before...
But I came across it again, and read the lesson one more time, and it was a great reminder of issues that are still extremely relevant!
Thank you so much!