I’ve been working on a new illustration for the past few days (seriously, I have) and it’s not coming easy. I decided to switch up and do a woman for my next piece. This is harder than the men I’ve been doing so far because generally women have smoother features, and the small details that make up a portrait/caricature are harder to capture with less detail. Especially when my particular style lends itself to insane detail.

Last week, in going through the basement in preparation to paint and clean, I moved my four-drawer file cabinet out of the back corner. It’s held the majority of my output from college to the present day in neatly-filed hanging folders, tagged with client names. I weeded out a lot of stuff (reference photos, old corespondence, duplicate working files) and kept the guts of the folders: hundreds of drawings, scratchboard panels, cutouts, and other debris from the creative process. In reviewing a lot of my previous work, I noticed a few things that may (or may not) help guide me in the near future.

The importance of solid reference. For example, I did a bunch of work for Sylvan Learning Systems years ago (52 illustrations in total), and I’d say that 95% of them are shite. The other 5% are keepers—and one is still in my book. I’d say that 50% of that bad batch are due to bad reference.

The need for a solid pre-sketch. As much as I like the detail and texture of linework, I look at other artists and enjoy their use of black as much as a glass of expensive red wine—smooth, silky, intoxicating black, which often can provide more detail than actual detail can.

Taking more chances. Simply put: More risk, more reward. some of the best stuff I’ve done I never would have figured out if I hadn’t taken a chance.

Subtlety has been the hardest things to master so far—with some pieces I think I nailed the subject, and others I’m left unsatisfied. The subject of the current piece is well-photographed but almost sphinxlike in her range of facial expression. (Warning! egregious use of sound!) I decided to use reference that wasn’t her standard pose, and now I’m left with a piece that’s not working for me. I’ll post version one and re-group to work harder on version two today and tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the latest issue of the New Yorker hit our mailbox yesterday, and there’s a fantastic portrait of Rakim tucked away in the Events section by Coop, which totally humbled me over my baloney and cheese sandwich this afternoon.

I have much work to do.

Date posted: January 18, 2006 | Filed under art/design | Comments Off on Schooled.

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